Coronavirus

The Outrage Over Rhode Island's State-Funded Coronavirus Art Is Overblown

The similarities between the image and totalitarian propaganda of old are unmistakable. But we all have bigger things to worry about right now.

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At long last, Rhode Island's state government has art to match its coronavirus response.

On Saturday, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) unveiled the Rhode Island Angel of Hope and Strength, which is intended to inspire people whose lives have been disrupted by the state's COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent shutdowns of most economic and social life.

The image was created by Shepard Fairey—the artist behind the iconic Obama 'Hope' image and an alum of the Rhode Island School of Design—who said in a post on his website that he was solicited by Raimondo to produce an uplifting image that incorporated the state's "working-class roots" and paid homage to its healthcare and public safety workers.

However, the image he produced has irked some folks in the state. As the Providence Journal reports, Rhode Island conservative social media pages were filled with comments about the image's similarity to the iconography of totalitarian regimes. The Journal also noted criticism from the local art community who denounced Raimondo's decision to commission a California-based artist for the work.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a conservative think tank, issued a press release in which it drew similarities between the image and propaganda images of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler.

The image is "a bastardization of the Statue of Liberty wearing a communist China-type cap and tunic, in a layout reminiscent of posters supporting fascist dictatorships of the past," reads the Center's press release.

"Consistent with her authoritarian plans to unilaterally impose harsh dictates on businesses, employees, and individuals during our state's recovery process, the Governor, unbelievably, is asking us to accept such an overtly anti-American symbol of repression," said Mike Stenhouse, the Center's CEO.

The Center has called for businesses to be allowed to reopen, provided appropriate social distancing measures are put in place.

Rhode Island's coronavirus response made headlines last month when the state National Guard began going door to door looking for New Yorkers in violation of a directive requiring travelers from out of state to register with the government and self-quarantine for 14 days, a policy that drew the ire of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Like many other jurisdictions across the U.S., Rhode Island has also ordered all non-essential retail businesses to close and instructed residents to stay home unless they are leaving the house to get food, medicine, gas, or are going to work. This order is currently in effect until May 8.

Given the inordinate number of restrictions placed on people's liberties right now—many of which have lasted past their expiration date, and some of which should never have been implemented in the first place—it's a little difficult to get worked up by the thematic choices in Rhode Island's state-sponsored artwork.

That said, it's hard not to see the Angel of Hope's stark similarities to propaganda images of old. While a different picture or artist might have resulted in less controversy, the state government should probably focus its attention on finding a safe way to restore its economy.

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  1. Next, they’re going to blow out of all proportion the open-palm salute the governor requires of those who meet her.

    /sarc

    1. That’s not a salute, comrade. It’s a social-justice-distancing gesture; to show that we’re all in this together.

      1. Indeed, it’s like the new Michigan slogan: “Isle for Whitmer”.

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      2. I thought it was measuring off 3 feet (my half of distancing).

      3. Reverse image search similar images on yandex says it identifies as a communist propoganda poster. So computers identify it correctly too, it’s not just you.

    2. I am glad this is getting the proper amount of outrage. This is so much worse than the $2 trillion bailout.

      1. The “proper amount of outrage” is pretty subjective. I definitely agree with you though, that the trillions of dollars in government spending is much worse for liberty. Still doesn’t make it wrong to criticize a blatant example of government-funded propaganda.

        Using the budget as an example: just because entitlement spending is by far and away the driver for deficit spending and federal debt, doesn’t make it wrong to criticize federal funding for the National Endowment of Arts, overseas military bases, or extensive border wall construction.

      2. Or the daily “local cop is asshole” story that you gobble up

        1. You are right. Morally speaking, this is no different than a psychopathic cop shooting an innocent citizen.

          1. Yea, what’s 100 million dead bodies compared to some podunk cop roughing up a crack head

            1. Or blackmailing a hooker to give him a blowjob

              1. Or, heaven forbid, speaking rudely to a tranny!

                1. But sure, bitch about the 1 unique article they do because it doesn’t satisfy your shallow addiction to “asshole local cop” or “deficit” outrage porn

  2. Communists gonna communist.
    Britschgi should understand that the art follows the ideology, and is inseparable from the real problems he laments

  3. Angel of Hope and Strength

    ASH, for short. Hmm. Contest! What’s the angel’s name?

    I’ll say … Elvirus.

    1. Needs more cleavage, but I like the cut of your jib!

    2. ASH is perfect. Just need to an an arrow to the touch saying “this is her boom stick”. And paint over Rhode Island and change it to “come get some”

      1. Well hello Mr. Fancy Pants!

      2. “You primitive screwheads!”

      3. You’ve already contributed more content than the account you’re parodying. You must shop smart. S-mart.

  4. Reason

    Century-old war privately funded war memorials must be destroyed!

    Contemporary State-funded socialist propaganda posters? Cool!

  5. Visit: http://obeygiant.com/r-i-angel-of-hope-and-strength … for details.

    “Obeygiant”?! No way!

  6. Hmmm….duped by whomever wrote the headlines, because that isn’t at all the tenor of this article. This is the closest that Christian goes towards criticizing the response:

    “Given the inordinate number of restrictions placed on people’s liberties right now—many of which have lasted past their expiration date, and some of which should never have been implemented in the first place—it’s a little difficult to get worked up by the thematic choices in Rhode Island’s state-sponsored artwork.”

    I’ll be the first to get worked up by that nonsense. Think very carefully about what it means that just a few days ago, the government of Rhode Island felt it necessary to start propagandizing the stay at home order (using an artist with the handle OBEYGIANT, no less). That is not the act of a government that thinks the worst is behind it- that we are on our way out of this shit show.

    1. Agreed. We had a big delay in a work project, and shortly thereafter prints started appearing in the hallways with things like, “Climbing the mountain together.” My first thought was, “Damn, I didn’t realize things were THAT bad!”

      1. artist are essential workers to carry the socialist ideal but you can’t plant a vegis because if you got vegis you don’t need socialist

  7. I can’t help but notice that the headline doesn’t quite match Britschgi’s conclusion. A little more “nothing to see here, move along” in the headline than in the actual piece. I wonder who writes the headlines – somebody who just skims the article to catch the drift or somebody who isn’t that concerned about totalitarianism?

    1. Goddammit – should have refreshed again. Overt beat me to it.

      1. You ask a good question. I was thinking ENB.

        1. Yeah, or maybe Welch.

        2. Actually, reading through the headlines of each author, Christian is one of the few who regularly writes two sentence headlines. Kind of interesting that the headline he wrote is so much harsher than his actual article.

  8. 1. “Angel of Hope and Strength” – violation of the establishment clause.
    2. Change the little red cross to a little red star and you have the real picture.
    3. Any art is a waste of tax dollars.
    4. I agree that using a CA artist was a deliberate slap in the face to RI artists.
    5. What did you expect from a democrat?

    1. “3. Any art is a waste of tax dollars.”

      An “artist” makes a living at it. If you need government subsidies, you’re a hobbyist, and tax dollars don’t pay for hobbies.

      1. What about Romney’s wife’s horse?

        1. It shouldn’t be getting government-funded art commissions, either.

          1. Shouldn’t be in the Senate, for that matter.

            Ba-dum, tssh.

            1. Yea, but this one lost its bid for consul

  9. “That said, it’s hard not to see the Angel of Hope’s stark similarities to propaganda images of old. While a different picture or artist might have resulted in less controversy, the state government should probably focus its attention on finding a safe way to restore its economy.”

    It IS inflammatory, by design. Anyone who doesn’t see that is either disingenuous, blind, or ignorant of history. Public art is propogandist by its nature. At least if the Doge or Carnegie are putting up a statue, they can claim “it’s my money, I’ll do with it what I want, and send the message that I want”.

    So very, very glad that I didn’t move to Rogue’s Island when the opportunity arose (not that the People Republic of Taxachusetts is much better).

    BTW, what building is that on? Better be a state owned one, or it’s either vandalism or a seizure.

    1. “a bastardization of the Statue of Liberty wearing a communist China-type cap and tunic, in a layout reminiscent of posters supporting fascist dictatorships of the past”

      Hey, you got it!

  10. Nary an objection to “State Funded Art” at this ‘libertarian’ rag.

    1. Maybe the objection is so obvious it was not worth restating.

    1. That doesn’t sound like social distancing to me.

  11. 1. I actually like the picture.
    It smacks of old-timey propaganda, but there was a lot of good art in those old posters. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    2. Shepherd Fairy is still talented and still obviously an authoritarian tool.

    3. State-funded Coronavirus art should never ever happen.

    1. Strictly aesthetically speaking, I like the socialist-realism style. There’s a lot of similarities with art deco (think the newer cover art for the Rand novels). Obviously, the propaganda aspects aren’t ideal, but that’s the thing about art; it’s open to the interpretation of the viewer.

      1. there is art deco and then there is art deco used as propaganda and thats what this is and all the dam airforce flyovers and all the stupid commercials. its sick how this nation succumbs to such things.

        1. To be clear, I’m opposed to facilitating or employing art through means of coerced collectivism (taxation, regulation, gov’t censorship, etc.) in any circumstance.

        2. The dark side of capitalism – mass marketing

  12. Any and all outrage over this is justified.

  13. Can’t wait for Raimondo’s glorious 5 year plan.

    1. We’re the Kulaks.

  14. I live in RI. Providence and its surrounding areas are, of course, very liberal. But large swaths of RI are fairly rural. In my neck of the woods, about 3/4 of the town doesn’t have city water or sewer service, and only about half the town has natural gas lines. My postal route is considered rural. Go two towns over, and it’s even more in the woods.

    Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been noticing more and more people just quietly ignoring the Wu Flu rules, and I would imagine it’s pretty much the same in most other places. You always have the big-mouth quislings shrieking about THE RULES, but my observation is that most people don’t really give a fuck. Lowes was wall to wall people this past weekend, with no one counting at the door. Traffic is getting closer to normal levels every day. Three weeks ago, it was a ghost town. Yesterday, there were some illegal gatherings of more than 5 people in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot.

    Raimondo just announced that all 4th of July celebrations of more than 50 people are prohibited, as well as concerts and festivals. When half your state is beaches that rely on summer tourism to stay afloat, that’s a HUGE problem. The 4th of July Parade in Bristol, RI, has been going on for 234 years, and it’s going to be canceled this year. Then she unveiled her commie poster and proudly announced she secured $1.5 billion dollars from the federal government.

    RI has a total of 251 fatalities from the China Flu, most of them in Providence and the surrounding area.

    Maybe she plans on using part of that 1.5 billion to hire additional cops to quell the MASSIVE amounts of civil disobedience that’s going to happen when they try and keep people off the beaches this summer.

    1. Raimondo citizens should just parade anyway no floats just people with flags. Maybe I’ll do that in my home town just walk down the street on the 4th

      1. My family and neighbors are planning our own fireworks display. We’re pooling money and getting good ones muled in from NH. We figure if we start acquiring now, we should have enough for a pretty good amatuer show. I’m sure we’re not the only ones planning the same thing or something similar.

        I think she is going to have a hard time enforcing this. There are already people discussing just showing up at beaches en masse, taking the fine, and daring them to kick them off or arrest them. I’m not so sure small town cops want to mess with that.

        1. Good and good luck.

    2. Very sad to hear that the Bristol parade is cancelled

  15. At the very least the RI gov should have commissioned a local artist. Figures they would pick one from Kalifornia for the full fascist propaganda effect

    1. Particularly ironic given Raimondo’s attempted rounding-up of non-residents.

  16. `I thought the states were broke and need a bailout. And yet, RI has money to blow on this?

  17. You know, one simple solution would be to not have the state subsidize art at all. Too soon and/ or insensitive? Hope so!

  18. Oh great, now we have two Shikhas.

    TLDR:

    LiBeRtArIaN wEbSiTe condemns people for criticizing state-funded “art”, socialist propaganda.

  19. all outrage is overblown.

  20. “We all have bigger things to worry about right now” applies to 99.99% of all news.

  21. Oh goody — Nazi art is back

  22. Hero worship of any kind is creepy and for the weak minded. I know three people personally on the front lines (including my cousin) and they don’t like it. They understand they’re doing their jobs. A person who gets off on this nonsense has an ego the size of Rhode Island.

  23. Remember when art mattered? We went from the Sistine Chapel to commie junk.

  24. Looks like newest Dragon Lady, Kim Yo-OhOh.

  25. Is Britschgi working as an advisor to that female Himmler, Gretchen Whitmer? You know, no seeds but lotto tickets are OK? Since the art is a direct outgrowth and representation of the totalitarian response of all dhimmicrat governors and mayors, what “bigger thing” should we be worrying about? A little totalitarianism is OK with ‘reason’? Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about that.

  26. If art can be funded by the government, then what can’t be? I realize it’s crossed that slope a long time ago, but it’s worse when it’s pro government political art.

    Beyond that, it’s a striking illustration of how quickly totalitarianism can not just be accepted, but be embraced by a population. Just say “It’s for your own good” and “Because Science!”

    1. Beautifully said.

  27. Just shows we should be more careful about whom we vote into those down ballot offices. Someone who doesn’t know about propaganda art picked this poster. Looks like something out of the 1930’s Soviet Union. Lest I forget, most of the people never heard of the Soviet Union because history before Obama does not exist.

    1. Someone who doesn’t know about propaganda art, or someone who loves Stalinism?

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