Service of Shining a Spotlight on a Wrong by Committing a Wrong: Is that Right?

October 31st, 2022

Categories: Art, Museums, Violence, War

It’s tough when you are passionate about a situation that too many ignore. So how do you draw attention to it? That’s a challenge that marketing people address daily. It also causes some to lose sight of what they stand for.

Here’s an example of someone who got it right. I admired a political commercial featuring New Jersey Representative Tom Malinowski that I saw the day after Nancy Pelosi’s husband was viciously attacked in his home. It featured the representative’s valiant mother and the principles she taught him. He did not join the fray of colleagues who are neck and neck in midterm races on both sides of the aisle who try to whip up supporters’ emotions by verbally assaulting the opponent.

On the other hand, blatant examples of going to extremes while losing the point are wars to defend religion. Aren’t religions supposed to provide a roadmap to guide people to live good and peaceful lives?

Similarly, I am flummoxed by environmental activists who think they shine the right spotlight on the crises by defacing famous pictures in museums and/or pasting their hands on picture frames and walls. International media reported mashed potatoes tossed by members of Last Generation on Claude Monet’s “Grainstacks,” in the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany.

According to The New York Times, “Across Europe, climate protesters have sought to capture headlines in recent months by engaging in similar stunts tied to beloved pieces in the art world. In Britain, activists glued themselves to about a half-dozen masterpieces, including a 16th-century copy of ‘The Last Supper’ at the Royal Academy, a major art museum in London. And in Italy, activists glued themselves to a sculpture held in the Vatican and to works in the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence.”

The group “Just Stop Oil” attacked The Last Supper. Firstpostcom reported: “According to Deutsche Welle, the 500 year-old painting, attributed to Giampietrino, is a full-scale copy of the famous work by Vinci, who is thought to have been Giampietrino’s master. Just Stop Oil defines itself as a ‘coalition of groups working together to ensure the government commits to halting new fossil fuel licensing and production,’ as stated on the initiative’s website.” The group “said that they have been targeting art, as it is ‘part of our collective culture,’ adding, ‘We love our history and culture too much to just allow it all to be destroyed.’”

At London’s National Gallery two from Just Stop Oil covered John Constable’s painting “The Hay Wain” with a replica of the image and pasted their hands to the frame.

Newsweek reported “On October 14, two activists from the campaign Just Stop Oil threw cans of tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers painting before gluing themselves to the wall at London’s National Gallery. Nine days later, two activists from the German group Letze Generation smeared Monet’s Les Meules with mashed potatoes.”

There’s a risk to cockamamie or extreme initiatives and claims even if backed by valid propositions. Hate speech incentivizes the insane to perform violent acts; a religious war is an oxymoron that kills supporters and enemies alike and frustrated environmental activists who attack beloved objects of art claiming that they don’t want the environment to destroy the work–while potentially doing just that–get known but not for the right reasons. Does such behavior baffle and potentially turn off supporters?

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8 Responses to “Service of Shining a Spotlight on a Wrong by Committing a Wrong: Is that Right?”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    Not sure if this will solve anything, but there’s an old rock ‘n’ roll song that says, everybody carrying signs, mostly saying hooray for our side! Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong!

    It’s a very tough question that you propose.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    Perfect lyrics for today’s post.

    If there were an answer, we might not fight each other so viciously these days and folks might not feel that they need to go to extremes to be heard.

  3. Anonymous Said:

    London Times reports this morning that angry motorists tired of Stop Oil activists gluing themselves to major traffic arteries have taken it upon themselves to forcibly remove them. Police have said this is a no-no. But motorists claim police do nothing. And indeed newspaper reports say the cops do not, but simply make sure fights don’t break out…

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Anonymous,

    Golly–an example of irritating the folks you should convince to drive less or to support their initiatives in other ways. Not a good plan.

    We don’t seem to be able to communicate civilly anymore. That’s another crisis of international proportions.

  5. ASK Said:

    Hiding under the cloak of anonymity on social media has made many of us uncivil monsters…

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    Excellent point. Nastiness amplified by angry, prejudiced chickens while the not-so-bright take their aggressive rhetoric seriously. A dangerous mess.

  7. lucrezia Said:

    No one should walk if guilty of crimes. However, consequences should be both severe and fair.

    It doesn’t take much to guess the motive behind the Pelosi attack, but why damage a van Gogh? He’s not my favorite by a long shot, but I remain mystified. One of today’s gaga conspiracy theories, perhaps?

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    No conspiracy theory. Just an attempt to draw attention to their cause by doing something newsworthy, if nasty, to a famous thing so as to generate publicity. It doesn’t impress me when an initiative I might support uses such tactics. I suspect I’m not alone.

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