Tyler Green
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Right-wing paper objects to Carnegie Thek show

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Interesting situation in Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the lesser of the city’s two newspapers, is owned by Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire and well-known supporter of right-wing political causes such as the Club for Growth, the American Spectator whose Arkansas Project which bankrolled the Paula Jones-related scandals of the Clinton years and more. Scaife is also a longtime supporter of former Pennsylvania senator and extreme anti-gay conservative Rick Santorum, who is considering a White House run.

Today’s Tribune-Review published an editorial blasting the Carnegie Museum of Art, which is showing a Paul Thek retrospective. In particular, the paper’s editorial board objected to:

[W]hat’s even more tasteless is that for one of the billboards used to promote the retrospective, the Carnegie chose a Thek work that features the phrase “Afflict the Comfortable, Comfort the Afflicted” [ca. 1985 and above, right] in yellow paint surrounded by a sea of purple.

The saying is a variation of one coined by late 19th- and early 20th-century journalist/humorist Finley Peter Dunne, actually part of a much larger cautioning against some newspapers’ proclivity to misuse their power. Since that era, the phrase has been roundly misemployed — interpreted literally — by liberal media types and their oftentimes socialist acolytes.

Thus, the Carnegie’s use of Mr. Thek’s “interpretation” to promote this show is damnable on three fronts. Not only does it promote revisionist history and arrogantly backhand the very benefactors who make the Carnegie Museum of Art possible today, it pillories its very first benefactor and founder, Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

Museum management should feign no surprise if Mr. Carnegie’s philanthropic heirs slap back.

Warning shot fired.

At its Twitter account, the museum is firing back. For example: “The meaning of it, especially when considering AIDS in the 80’s, shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Tonight’s program at CMOA could be pretty entertaining…

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  1. The phrase “by liberal media types and their oftentimes socialist acolytes” sounds like a parody of far-right demagoguery. As Samuel Goldwyn said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

  2. greg.org says:

    I love it when billionaires get slaphappy.

  3. slc says:

    I agree with Stephen Persing… the only thing that was missing was a snide reference to arugula and a nattering nabob of negativism thrown in for good measure.

  4. […] you missed it late last week: A right-wing Pittsburgh newspaper has it out for the Paul Thek retrospective and threatens the Carnegie Museum of Art over it. Wacky […]

  5. dsdm44 says:

    For those familiar with the Carnegie Museum’s layout, some situational irony: the entrance to the Heinz galleries, which houses the Thek show, faces the entrance to the Scaife galleries.

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