Censorship versus Patronage

20 July 2008

A lot of the behavior that elicits cries of “censorship” is actually nothing of the kind; it’s actually denial of patronage. It is to the advantage of artists — particularly the ones whose oeuvre consists entirely of pretentious, morally outrageous (and sometimes literal) crap — to conflate these two categories. It is very much to the disadvantage of the rest of us to let them get away with it.

Censorship is when someone with a degree of regulatory authority uses that authority against the work. This is the stuff of obscenity laws, book burnings, and so on. It is *not* the same thing as someone in the production/distribution chain refusing to participate, e.g., a gallery refusing to display a painting, a bookstore refusing to sell a book, or a member of the public refusing to buy, or even look at, either one. It is also not the same thing as refusing to give the artist a grant, whether of private or public funds. These are all denial of patronage, not censorship.

When an artist comes to someone with hat in hand, asking for something — a wall to display his work, shelf space to sell it, the purchase price of a sculpture, money to support himself while he works on his next project, etc. — he is asking for patronage. Whether he gets Read the rest of this entry »