I have been writing these articles for over ten years now and in that time I’ve rarely strayed from the narrow topic of the general nuts and bolts of art but with recent events taking place here in this country and around the world I feel compelled to speak out against what I see as an assault on free speech.
Art does not exist in a vacuum. To flourish it needs certain conditions and to my way of thinking the most important is the free exchange of ideas. Ideas that challenge our comfort zones and push our boundaries and even may offend us are an important part of what goes into making all forms of great art.
In this country free speech is being strangled on college campuses by individuals who only want a platform for their narrow worldviews. They have set themselves up as the overlords of all things right and good and in doing so have destroyed any chance for dialogue between opposing viewpoints. Surprisingly this is coming from the left side of the political spectrum instead of conservatives.
This goes against everything America was built on. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right even when it is distasteful or outright offensive. As an artist I am well acquainted with this kind of fascist control over what people can say or do or write or draw. In my career I have been blocked from showing my art because it had religious overtones, political commentary, nudity, violence or in some cases fantasy elements. I abhor censorship as much when this comes from the left as I do when it comes from the right of the political spectrum.
Stifling free speech leads to an insular worldview and limited thinking which leads to extreme and sometimes violent intolerance of other viewpoints. Reports of students spitting on people listening to speakers they disagree with or locking out and threatening journalists trying to report on news events shows how far they have fallen from American values on our campuses.
Even more disturbing are the recent bombings around the world showing that democracies are being threatened by extreme fundamentalism. Attacks on musicians, writers, journalists and cartoonists some with murderous outcomes for the victims of the aggression, have been increasing around the globe. This type of attack goes against the core beliefs of a free democracy and capitulation to the aggressors is not the answer. No ideology, social or religious, should be exempt from criticism or outright ridicule by anyone in a free society.
Artists of all disciplines have always pushed society’s boundaries. They have always been the forefront of free thought. In my opinion the world is now a better place because of this, do not let a few extremists who fear progress and change alter that.
3 thoughts on “Art and Free Speech”
As you say a very worrying trend even within the art world which is taking up sides and becoming very intolerant of anything but the view of their own school.
I have been so confused by the narrow minded world view of our University art education system, is it not supposed to be the Liberal Arts and Humanities?
Whenever you have to consider the effect of your art on anyone who experiences it it stops being good art in my opinion. People will always have personal opinions about everything and that is well and good but as soon as you codify someone's beliefs it crosses a boundary and those opinions become the enemy of free speech.