Raging Bull

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It would appear that college administrators have lost sight of where artists fit in the world.

At first, the art museum's director, Marilyn Zeitlin, promised that there would be no censorship. She said that no art already selected, despite its anti-Bush slant, would be removed. Instead, she claimed she would scour the nation for anti-Kerry art.

Having unearthed six months' worth of e-mails and correspondence with the legal leverage of a FOIA demand, New Times' Watson made it clear the sort of pressure Zeitlin faced.

"There is no exhibit at this stage," warned Stacey Shaw, Director of Communication, Herberger College of Fine Arts. She concluded, with a sort of Soviet insouciance, "If the show isn't balanced, 'Democracy in America' will not happen."

Leaños felt New Times should not have exposed the administration's heavy-handed attempts to dictate the contents of an art exhibition. He argued that the story should have been suppressed and the controversy ignored until the show was finally mounted. He felt the story egged on administrators to push even harder for fair and balanced.

Rather than stand up to the censoring instinct of Crow and his cohorts, Zeitlin caved and dictated a list of anti-Bush art that had to be removed from the show.

If Professor Leaños did not approve of New Times as reading material, what did he propose that his students examine as they studied Iraq?

The New York Times and the Washington Post were identified by the instructor as "corporate media," or bad guys.

It mattered little that the Times has been so abrasively anti-Bush that the president mocked it in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention; for Professor Leaños and his students, the Times was part of the problem.

His students, admirably, contended that they simply could not find enough content about Iraq in America's two renowned dailies.

So what did the professor steer them to as an antidote?

The reading list assembled by the professor is a mother lode of leftist resistance literature.

Picking up a book from the professor's list, I saw the word "Genocide" in the title and thought, well, at least the students have been exposed to the horrors of Hussein.

But I was mistaken. The collection of articles in the tome refers to the behavior of the United States. Typical is the piece "Fire and Ice," contributed by the book's editor, Ramsey Clark.

Clark, who served as Lyndon Johnson's attorney general, left the federal government and made the unique career decision to build a law practice representing terrorists. In his essay, which covers the run up to the first Gulf War and its aftermath, Clark maintains that Kuwait, like many a rape victim, was asking for it; that Kuwait, in fact, provoked the invasion by Iraq.

Not that Clark's position on Kuwait should have surprised anyone; after all, this is the same man who dismissed Hussein's earlier genocide against the Kurds in the north of Iraq.

Despite graphic photographs of Kurdish villagers who were gassed by Hussein, countless reports by the United Nations and virtually every human rights group in the world, Clark writes: "A major part of the demonization of Saddam Hussein has been based on the false portrayal of Iraqi government policy toward the Kurd."

In a taped address in the late '80s to Baathist supporters of Hussein, General Ali Hassan al-Majid offered an insight on government policy toward the Kurds.

"I will kill them all with chemical weapons," said the military leader dubbed "Chemical Ali." Although he exterminated thousands of Kurds, the general appeared not at all concerned with world opinion: "Who is going to say anything? The international community? Fuck them. The international community and those who listen to them."

Human rights groups counted more than 100,000 Kurds slaughtered by Hussein.

As a result of his reading in this class, Joaquin Lopez said his eyes were opened.

"Before this class, I wasn't concerned about political views or the war in Iraq. If I don't think about it, maybe it's not there," said Lopez. "But I have discovered the power of art. How would I feel if someone came and bombed my neighborhood? The class made me think critically about war. Why are people dying? Why are we forcing our views? I feel like I'm really against the war."

Moshe Novakoff is outraged by what he has read for the class.

"Everyone in class realizes it's a complete degradation of morality," said Novakoff, who feels that their art represents a shot at having a voice.

Violeta Tamayo does not think of herself as an artist, but does feel well-informed. For her, the class was a revelation.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey