Lori Haigh, owner of the Capobianco Gallery, has been driven out of business by insults, threats, and physical assault for showing a work of art whose subject was the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. servicepeople in the Abu Ghraib prison. I’m not terribly surprised – something not generally talked about is the flood of truly vicious hate directed at anyone who offends the American right. Fortunately, in most cases, it is all hot air – but as this incident demonstrates, it can go a lot further than that.
From the San Francisco Examiner:
The painting, titled “The Abuse” by East Bay artist Guy Colwell, shows Pfc. Lynndie England and another soldier smiling gleefully as they look upon a trio of naked, hooded Iraqi prisoners who are hooked up to electrical wires. In the background, a third American soldier is escorting a Muslim woman in a dress into the torture chamber.
Book publisher Ron Turner, whose company Last Gasp published Colwell’s art, was sympathetic.
“She got threats,” he said. “She is a single woman with two kids trying to be a business woman and there are crazies threatening to roast her children.”
Here’s a link to the image:
and a reworked image posted to the San Francisco Indymedia web site:
But the real concern leading her to shut down the gallery was for the safety of her children, 4 and 14 who hang out with her at the gallery on a regular basis. Quite understandable, from my point of view, as a parent.
My friend Renee Amiri videotaped the gallery’s closing on Saturday, and blogged about it, in response to the limited coverage this has received in the press. Any doubt that this type of violence is the true face of the American right, aided and abetted by the vitriolic demagogues they sponsor, should be erased by the comments following Renee’s posting…
“you richly deserved it”
“I was quite pleased in reading that the traitor Haigh was dealt a blow from a TRUE AMERICAN.”
“you call her a hero, I call her a fuckin dumbass”
“Ahh I just love reading the comments of typical socialist kalifornians. You should all move to north korea.”
note the parroting of Michael Savage’s “islamofascist” meme in this posting:
“What about an art show on the Killing of Mr. Pearl or even the painting of Nick Berg getting his head sawed off by a group of islamofasist’s done in human blood. Now that would be good. Wake up. Do you think that the people you support with your sympathy will allow you to just get away with a black eye? A woman with your ideas would be dragged into the street and stoned to death by the very people you support. (If you were lucky).”
Comments of this sort are not atypical. I get them on a daily basis in response to various websites I run.
It is also interesting to see how the right-wing’s echo chamber tactics play out at the grassroots – on this, and numerous other forums (as a casual search of Google will reveal), wingers are doing their best to suggest that this is all just an opportunistic scam by a psychologically disturbed individual with a failing business, posting all sorts of allegations without any documentation whatsoever (she was behind on her rent, the IRS is after her for back taxes from a lawsuit settlement, etc. etc.). A search for information on Google reveals nothing about either of these items – so where are they getting this information from? A quick scan of Freeper response reveals a flood of speculation about the viability of her gallery business and whether she is faking these incidents in order to break her lease, but no hard evidence whatsoever… and this gets echoed elsewhere as “fact”.
There are also some great comments (note the generally higher level of literacy/spelling ability and coherency), here are my favorites (wish we had more folks like this in the military… hell, running things in Washington):
I am a United States Marine. I was as shocked, disgusted, and angry as I have ever been when I heard about the abuses perpetrated by our own people on those we had come to “liberate”. There is absolutely NO reason to have done what they did. To defend them is to condone their actions. NOT to scrutinize what happened is to allow it to happen again.
Americans DO NOT treat prisoners this way. They are protected by the Geneva Convention. The White House says so. If WE had been the prisoners and this was done to us, you know we would all be howling MAD it happened, and demand retribution.
I served my time in Iraq during the war, and probably will find myself back there sooner or later. I am appreciative of the time I was there for the children, women, and some men that I met. They smiled (the kids loved me), they waved (the women would peek out from the curtains in their house to get a glimpse of me), and they chatted (the men were inscrutable).
And yet I would gladly exchange my next tour of duty in Iraq to post myself at the front door, in uniform, to defend Lori and the artists she hosted.
Americans. It is amazing to me that the very concept of liberty gets so clouded in our minds. The offending piece of art must have really struck a nerve, huh? Personally, I think the ones that are struck the most by it are the ones who look inside themselves and see the potential to do the same thing lying in wait in their own hearts. Indeed, to spit in her face; to physically attack her and damage her – only lives down to the perversion portrayed in the art.
But I am with her. Do not let the obtuse, witless bully prevail. I wish her the best.
Posted by: Joan at May 30, 2004 10:42 AM
I am sorry to hear about the hassling you have been receiving and that you felt you should close your doors.
While I think Colwell’s painting is in incredibly poor taste and I feel it is more fitting as a cartoon on the opinion page of a liberal newspaper, it is his right to create such pieces and it is your right to show them.
Some of my fellow service men and women have let the rest of us down. They have violated principles they were taught in basic training/boot camp. They have forgotten lessons taught to them in their technical schools and every year after that. They have brought shame on those of us who wear or have worn the uniforms of the United States’ military. They will be punished.
The people who are hassling you should direct their attention to the people who caused and committed the abuse. By attacking you, these people have shown that they are as bad or worse than the people who committed the abuse in the first place.
I have men down range and in harm’s way as I write this. The actions of their fellows and consequences thereof already weigh heavily on their minds. The actions of people who threaten or attack you does a great disservice to our men and women in uniform and is even more disheartening to them–it goes against the very principles we have sworn to defend.
Master Sergeant John Bloodgood
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. — Evelyn Beatrice Hall, The Friends of Voltaire, 1906
Posted by: John Bloodgood at May 30, 2004 03:26 PM