Friday, March 27, 2009

BIFFOs defender

By now, the world, his dog and the cat that owns them both knows about the nude portraits of Brian Cowen.

Eoin O'Dell has written an excellent article on the legal matters involved.

John Waters has commented on the scandal and, not surprisingly, has condemned the paintings.

Waters wrote:
The only amusing thing here is Casby’s deluded belief that he has something to say. His response is typical of a public discourse almost fatally degraded by internet auto-eroticism and an obsession with what is called “comedy”. His works are crude, unfunny, vindictive, without intrinsic content and wholly lacking in artistic merit.

He also wrote:
The internet has reduced public debate to the level of a drunken argument, in which no holds are barred, in which deeply unpleasant people get to voice their ignorant opinions in the ugliest terms, in the name of “free speech”. The idea that we all need “a laugh” has allowed the “joke” to become elevated beyond everything. Nobody may object if others have declared something “funny”.

The internet has little or nothing to do with this story, but John Waters can't resist taking a swipe at it. Disturbingly, he doesn't mention that the Gardai are involved. (Are crime levels so low they can afford to investigate this?)

However, John Waters also says:
What is so important about people being enabled to indulge themselves in nervous spasms triggered by, for example, cultural incongruities, that all other criteria – good taste, decency, human dignity – must be jettisoned? Much of what is now called humour is bullying, picking on an individual or group for a cheap guffaw. Anyone who doesn’t think this hilarious has “no sense of humour” – than which no more serious indictment is possible.

Now bullying is a serious matter - but if putting these paintings into an art gallery is bullying, what is having the artist questioned by police?

Waters looks up to Brian Cowen as a father figure.

He cites John LLoyd:
In his 2004 book What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics , author John Lloyd cited David Steel, the former leader of the British Liberal Party, in his belief that his portrayal in the sketches on Spitting Image destroyed the chances of the then alliance between his party and the Social Democrats replacing the Labour Party as the main party of opposition. Spitting Image invariably showed Steel as the fawning puppet of SDP leader David Owen.

Then continues:
Elaborating on the power of such crude stereotypes, Lloyd wrote: “Once again, choices made by electors were being very substantially altered by media; and because of the nature of the culture which assumed a right to intrude ever more decisively into what had been forbidden territory, not only was nothing being done about it, no serious questions were even being asked about it. Politicians became, in a variety of ways, more and more scorned, and could barely object. The media would not allow it, it had been defined as a joke, millions of people liked it . . . and thus its effects – whatever they are – cannot sensibly be discussed.”

It may seem excessive to credit the squalid affair of the Casby paintings with representing a threat to democracy, but undoubtedly such vacuous interventions are becoming increasingly the norm in a culture valuing far above ideas a propensity for “the craic”.

Spitting Image was immensely popular, but what is John Waters really saying here? Is he accusing the show of being a danger to democracy, and if so, what would he suggest doing about it?

What does this imply for journalists?

Maybe I'm reading too much into what he wrote.

Meanwhile a site selling caracatures of Brian Cowen has stopped selling them.

No comments: