20 Questions for Clough on Jan. 20

After nearly two months of hiding from the public and the press, Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough is finally answering questions in public… in a Q&A that was already scheduled… that you have to pay $65 to attend… which is happening in LA, 3,000 miles away from DC and its pesky press corps.

But still, bravo, Wayne.

So to celebrate this joyous January 20, we have assembled 20 questions for Wayne Clough that we’d love to ask him. But we have to stay in DC and staff the Museum of Censored Art.


20 Questions for Wayne Clough

Clough’s Two-Month Silence and Hiding Behind Subordinates

1. You ordered National Portrait Gallery Director Martin Sullivan to publicly claim responsibility for your decision to censor, even though the decision was yours alone. Why did you make Martin Sullivan take the blame for your decision?

2. The truth that you – and not National Portrait Gallery Director Martin Sullivan – made the decision to censor was not known until an internal Smithsonian memo was leaked to the press a day later, and widely reported a day after that. Why did you hide behind Martin Sullivan for two days without ever publicly taking responsibility for your decision?

3. Why have you refused to speak publicly for nearly two months?

Capitulation to Special Interests a Chilling Precedent

4. By allowing the Smithsonian to back down in the face of sensational claims you yourself have denounced as false, do you feel you have set an example for other American museums to self-censor rather than risk angering political special interest groups?

5. Do you realize that you have sent a message to all special interest groups that they can force the Smithsonian to censor if they complain to the right people?

6. Do you feel that you have an obligation to sanitize the Smithsonian of exhibits that may challenge or even offend some museum visitors?

7. You said yesterday in the Washington Post that “We probably have to have a little more laser-like focus when we design our exhibitions.” Does this statement signal a new policy of self-censorship at the Smithsonian?

8. You said in the New York Times yesterday that your decision could be viewed in two different “contexts” of either the institution or the art world, as if they were two separate things. Don’t you realize that censoring art to appease special interests also degrades the Smithsonian Institution as a whole?

What Was the Process?

9. Does the Smithsonian have any policy or process for responding to complaints about art on display?

10. What process, if any, did you follow when making the decision to censor?

11. Were there any other Smithsonian staff who thought censoring the video was a good idea, or did you go against the advice of all of your curators?

Clough’s Words vs. His  Actions

12. When anti-gay groups and politicians called the Wojnaorwicz video intentionally insulting and anti-Christian, you said “Neither description could be further from the truth,” yet you caved in to their demands in under 24 hours. How blatantly false must an accusation be before you stand up for the truth?

13. In a Jan. 18 email you announced your intention to begin seeking advice from your senior managers and curators on sensitive matters facing the Institution. Why should the public and the Board of Regents not be deeply concerned that you consider this “Management 101” idea as an innovation?

14. In a Jan. 18 email you called for a “dialog about the role and responsibility of publicly supported museums to educate and inform on complex and sometimes sensitive topics.” The rest of us have been having this dialog for the last two months. Where were you?

15. Do you feel that by caving in to false charges in under 24 hours – charges you yourself denounced as untrue – you upheld the Smithsonian’s mission of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge”?

16. You stated on the Smithsonian web site that “accountability, transparency, and integrity” are “essential to [your] vision for the Smithsonian.” Do you feel you acted with accountability, transparency, and integrity?

17. In an unsigned statement on Dec. 6, the Smithsonian said the Wojnarowicz video was removed because it “distracted from the overall exhibition.” If your continued presence as Secretary becomes similarly “distracting,” will you follow your own example and remove yourself from the Smithsonian?

The Consequences of Backing Down

18. While you were president of Georgia Tech, you dismantled protections for gay and lesbian students after being threatened by an anti-gay special interest group, yet they still sued you. Do you really think that by giving in to anti-gay special interest groups this time, you will somehow keep them from trying to get even more concessions from you?

19. You made your decision to censor after John Boehner and Eric Cantor threatened Smithsonian funding in comments to a special interest group blog without ever having seen the show. Do you really think they still aren’t going to reexamine your funding?

20. You complained in the New York Times yesterday that you haven’t been given enough credit for taking the “risk” of mounting the Hide/Seek exhibition  in the first place. Why do you expect to be praised for your “risk-taking” when you refused to risk standing up for what you yourself knew to be the truth?

5 Responses to “20 Questions for Clough on Jan. 20”
  1. Andy says:

    Excellent questions! I really hope at least some of them get asked.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dont Censor and HideSeek.org, Dont Censor. Dont Censor said: Know anyone going to Clough's Q&A in LA? Give them our "20 Questions for Clough!" http://dontcensor.us/20questions #censoredart […]

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  3. […] to improving communication on important issues. Naturally, it does not touch upon any of the 20 questions that the folks of the Museum of Censored Art have put forth. It’s up to the guests of […]

  4. […] transcript. While some in the audience asked him difficult questions about the decision, all of the Museum of Censored Art’s 20 questions for Clough went unasked. Jon Goodman, the president of Town Hall LA, acted as gatekeeper, since audience […]