Right wing talk show host Glenn Beck has found a way to irritate the left again. First some background.
In 1987, Andres Serrano staged a photograph of a small plastic crucifix immersed in what appeared to be the artist’s own urine. As you can imagine, the controversial photograph that the National Endowment for the Arts funded, in part with taxpayers’ money, created quite a fuss, although it must be said that Christians did not burn down Serrano’s house, target him for assassination or stop eating Serrano ham when they could afford it. Some on the left defended the photograph as representing artistic freedom and freedom of speech. At the time, my take on the whole thing was my liberal brethren should beware of embracing government funding for art because it would inevitably result in the censorship of said art. Enter Beck.
Beck has fallen from the high perch he once held when he threatened to rival the Bloviator-in-Chief, Rush Limbaugh. The only way to regain his popularity was to out-Limbaugh Rush Limbaugh. He put out a video in which he feigns outrage at a Michael D’Antuono painting of President Barack Obama wearing a crown of thorns with outstretched arms in a crucifixion pose. The painting is currently hanging in a Boston art gallery (the main redeeming feature being that taxpayers did not subsidize it).
Wearing a beret and speaking with a faux French accent, Beck claims that though he hates the painting, he defends it as an expression of artistic freedom. Why the French accent? You know how the right hates everything French, except maybe French fries, and when they are not claiming that Obama was born in Kenya, they think of him as French for reasons that only can be determined by subjecting them to psychoanalysis. And then Beck stages the coup de grace, if you’ll pardon my French.
In the video, Beck unveils a Mason jar of yellow liquid he claims is his own urine. Internet rumors abound that the liquid is actually Country Time lemonade or Dos Equis beer, which some would say is as close to urine as one can get. If it is Dos Equis, it doesn’t make Beck the most interesting man in the world, only the most desperate. Beck then takes an Obama bobblehead doll (maybe he got one as a giveaway at a Washington Nationals game) and plunges it into the jar with his “urine.” Just another form of artistic freedom, wink, wink. Beck announces that he will auction off his work of “art”, which he calls Obama in Pee Pee, for $25,000 on eBay. I’m not sure, but isn’t one “pee” in the title enough?
It turns out that the high bid for Beck’s work of satire is $11,000, which either shows you that tough times have set in on the right since Mitt Romney’s defeat or the Koch Brothers were out of the country. Cayman Islands, perhaps? And what happens next, you ask? Acting no doubt out of fear of wrath from the rabid left, eBay pulled the item citing an arcane requirement in its bylaws. At this point, libertarians everywhere might want to boycott eBay, but I would wait until after the Christmas season out of self-interest, a concept that libertarians understand all too well.
The controversy rages. Is Beck a satirical genius, just a guy trying to make a buck selling fake urine, or just a schmuck? I know which way I am leaning. Beck claims the larger point he is trying to make is that there are those in this country who would deny Christ, but defend the desecration of Christian themes. Some would say he also is making the point that there are Americans who would deify Obama, the false messiah.
What Beck and his loyalists can’t figure out is that freedom of expression means that in America there is no right to censor something just because you are offended. We don’t issue a fatwa around here. What some on the left don’t get is that many taxpayers get pissed (if you’ll pardon the expression) when you use their money to fund a photo of a crucifix floating in some idiot’s urine. Also memo to Beck and his fans: If they want to criticize folks who deify a president, maybe you ought to start with those who genuflect every time Ronald Reagan’s name is mentioned.
Finally, Beck is about as funny as a heart attack, and as the guy on the TV ad keeps saying, heart attacks aren’t funny. He is a jerk who willfully distorts history and has a messianic complex (there’s a bit of irony for you, Glenn). But he also heads up the charitable organization Mercury One, which is doing a lot of good helping victims of Hurricane Sandy. The $11,000 he raised for the sale of his Obamain Pee Pee is being donated to that charitable organization, Beck said. So all’s well that ends well, as the Bard once wrote.
Now if only the politicians from both parties can come up with a reasonable budget deal, maybe we can get our country out of deep doo-doo.
Contact the South Philly Review at firstname.lastname@example.org.