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Citing 'Public Safety,' University of Kansas Removes Flag Artwork That Made Republicans Upset

"This display has generated public safety concerns for our campus community."

KUNightryder84 / WIkimedia CommonsAdministrators at the University of Kansas took down a controversial work of art—an American flag covered in black ink—after the state's Republican governor and secretary of state demanded action.

"The disrespectful display of a desecrated American flag on the KU campus is absolutely unacceptable," said Gov. Jeff Colyer in a statement. "Men and women have fought and died for that flag and to use it in this manner is beyond disrespectful. I spoke to leadership to demand that it be taken down immediately."

The flag is meant to symbolize "a deeply polarized country," according to the artist, Josephine Meckseper. Now it represents the speed with which craven university administrations bow to the easily offended. In a statement, KU Chancellor David Girod said:

There has been much discussion today about a public art exhibit on our campus featuring an artist's depiction of an American flag. Our Spencer Museum, along with other institutions nationally, have participated in this year-long series of exhibits intended to foster difficult conversations.

Over the course of the day, the conversation around this display has generated public safety concerns for our campus community. While we want to foster difficult dialogue, we cannot allow that dialogue to put our people or property in harm's way.

We have begun the process of relocating the exhibit to the Spencer Museum of Art, where we can continue the important conversation it has generated.

That's right: The university invoked public safety as an excuse to remove a work of art that offended conservatives.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has called on KU to reverse course. KU "should take a strong stand for the First Amendment," FIRE's Peter Bonilla said. "By doing so, KU would stand apart from the numerous institutions that have censored artistic expression—a troubling trend documented in our just-released report, 'One Man's Vulgarity,' drawn from FIRE's many years fighting against art censorship on campus."

Photo Credit: Nightryder84

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  • Jerryskids||

    I don't see why this isn't a public safety concern - if it pisses off conservatives, they're liable to go around beating up gays and women and colored people people of color. You know how those people are, they're simple-minded folk what just can't help themselves and therefore can't be held responsible for their actions. It's like poking a retarded chimpanzee, somebody's going to lose their testicles.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Not to mention they have all the guns.

  • Quixote||

    But of course a public safety concern was posed by this desecrated flag, just as such a concern was posed by criminal "parody" Gmails that risked causing embarrassment to a distinguished New York University department chairman and Vatican envoy of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. See the documentation of America's leading criminal "satire" case at:

    https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    You are a treasure, Jerry Skids.

  • croaker||

    Jerry's Kids. You know, the ones they used to have a Telethon for?

  • BambiB||

    It really shouldn't be seen as a "safety concern", but rather, as an opportunity. If KU isn't going to restrict a display of ink on the US flag, then they can't restrict flying the Stars and Bars either. Or a shredded "rainbow" flag. Or a flag that says, "Grannies - not Trannies". Can't have content discrimination at a public school.

  • jcw||

    Liberals are snowflakes and conservatives are something similarly fragile (I've been trying to think of something for awhile). Any ideas?

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Sugar glass?

  • lap83||

    A sexy leg lamp?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Quail eggs?

  • jcw||

    I think this is the winner.

  • Rat on a train||

    Quayle egges?

  • Reformed Republican||

    I hope they go after the Thin Blue Line flag with equal fervor, if they are so worried about disrespecting the flag.

  • ||

    Technically, the flags I've seen like that are cast in black and white with just a blue line down the middle. The elimination of color renders it 'not a flag'. I'm not a veteran, but my understanding is that this is why the olive and black flags can be worn forward-facing (or backwards of the R,W,&B flags) by special forces operators and such.

  • 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed||

    I don't think "technically is/is not a flag" has anything to do with anything.

  • ||

    I don't think "technically is/is not a flag" has anything to do with anything.

    I think you don't spend much time around veterans and/or devotees of the flag.

    They don't much care about the Mexican flag or the rainbow flag flying next to an American flag. It's when they're flying above it (on US soil) that it becomes a problem.

  • Aladeen||

    As a retired army vet, can't give you a fancy source but can tell you all flag shoulder insignia are placed with the stars forward as the US Military "never retreats, the flag waves with our approach." Or so I was always told and diligently repeat to this day. SF have no unique flag insignia. All deployed soldiers use the IR black and green patch.

  • Azathoth!!||


    I hope they go after the Thin Blue Line flag with equal fervor, if they are so worried about disrespecting the flag.

    Are you retarded?

    The thin blue line flag IS 'the thin blue line flag'. It's not an American flag. Nor are the camo insignia worn on uniforms

  • Ken Shultz||

    If you read the actual story, this flag was being flown from what looks like a school flagpole. See the photo:

    http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2.....ican-flag/

    This made it appear that the university was making a political statement rather than displaying art, and some combat veteran wanted to know why a state school was doing this.

    "We have begun the process of relocating the exhibit to the Spencer Museum of Art, where we can continue the important conversation it has generated."

    They're still displaying the flag. They're just not flying from a flagpole in front of the school or a school building.

    If a private party wants to hold a sign saying "Queers go Home" on public property, they should be free to do so. That's different if they run a flag up the university flag pole and make it appear that the university itself is saying "Queers go Home". A public university is obligated to allow individuals to perpetrate hate speech against LGBTQI+ or combat veterans. The university should not be obligated to make it appear as though the university is making such statements itself. If you want to hold a confederate flag on campus, that's one thing. Running a confederate flag up the university's flagpole is another question entirely.

  • Bubba Jones||

    But muh outrage!

  • ||

    But the "Statement issued by the Governor." kind of snowflake-y outrage, not the violent protests and heckler's vetoing a private donor's meeting kind of snowflake-y outrage.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Seriously. Because what is the governor gonna do, cry?

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    An art piece called Untitled (Flag 2), flies on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday, July 11, 2018. It is part of a series of flag pieces that have flown on the Lawrence campus in the last several months as part of a national art project. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • Ken Shultz||

    Here's the photo to consider:

    http://s3.amazonaws.com/ogden_.....96x840.jpg

    It's no wonder if somebody looks at that flag and doesn't think it's an art installation; rather, they think the university itself is making a political statement that is highly offensive to a lot of people--certain veterans among them.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    That bit that I posted was the annotation under that and other photographs in the article you linked. Anybody thinking that this one particular flag in a months-long exhibit is a political statement by the university is deeply retarded.

  • ||

    Looking at the other pieces I can see how most look more overtly political and less desecration-y.

  • Eddy||

    Well, then, it seems to be political speech. Retarded political speech, and anyway, how much artistic talent does it take to put slogans on flags?

    But speech nonetheless.

  • Eddy||

    And "public safety" as a rationale, i. e., opponents might violently object, is something that could be used against any controversial speech.

    Though so far the violence against controversial speech on campus seems to come from one particular direction, and it's not from the people who oppose desecrating the flag of the country.

  • ||

    Saying, for a moment, that the U.S. Military held a copyright on the flag (and that libertarians generally cling to copyright law), the one in question would seem to violate copyright.

    I thought the white cloud on a sky blue field was pretty good.

  • lap83||

    Because every random person who walks by should be expected to automatically know everything about the exhibit before making a judgment. Not only do you not understand the first thing about people but you don't understand art.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Uh huh. You might want to take another look at the picture.

  • lap83||

    I know there is a sign. It probably says it is part of an art series. The sign is only visible to people right under the flagpole if they look down to read it. They are flying what looks like a desecrated flag to people who can see it well before they can look at the sign. Drivers, people two blocks away, etc. It's not a damn art gallery.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Yes, clearly the outragees in this instance are right because... well, because.

  • lap83||

    I'll take that as an admission that your earlier point about how everyone should read the sign is stupid

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    You can take it however you like. I'm not saying you're retarded, I'm just saying it's retarded to think what you think.

  • swain||

    We know what you're saying, and every part of your point is retarded.

  • Arcxjo||

    It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard."

  • EscherEnigma||

    So only people that don't fact check and jump to conclusions are going to be outraged?

    Sounds reasonable.

  • kcuch||

    a year-long series of exhibits intended to foster difficult conversations.

    And look at us here all having an intelligent conversation on difficult subjects. We can all take a bow.

  • jcw||

    What about the obvious exhibit markers? What a sugar glass.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Look at the picture I just linked above.

  • jcw||

    I did. What's the dude reading? oh right, those little things that accompany every art piece of all time.

  • gormadoc||

    "We the University put this desecrated flag up because fuck veterans."

  • Bubba Jones||

    Emphasis on "little."

  • damikesc||

    The piece isn't being removed. It is being relocated. To an exhibit inside the school and not on a flagpole.

    I don't see any "no platforming" here. I don't see violent riots tearing anything down. I see people requesting relocation of something offensive.

    Would Reason have preferred they climb the pole and burn it?

  • Rhywun||

    Would Reason have preferred they climb the pole and burn it?

    Are you kidding? Of course they would. They are now as fully invested in culture war as every other media outlet - for the clicks.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    They requested removal

    They being the governor so it's cool.

  • gormadoc||

    We must listen to our betters. Even universities should capitulate.

  • ||

    Well, technically the governor and the secretary of state. Also, it's not entirely clear whether they visited and happened to see the offending flag or if their phones rang off the hook because their constituents wanted it down. My hunch is that the governor and the secretary of state don't share a phone, maybe not even an office.

  • Just Say'n||

    If the governor and the secretary of state spent an iota of time examining this issue they should be voted out of office for wasting the taxpayer's time and money

  • BYODB||


    If the governor and the secretary of state spent an iota of time examining this issue they should be voted out of office for wasting the taxpayer's time and money


    I can get behind that.

  • ||

    If the governor and the secretary of state spent an iota of time examining this issue they should be voted out of office for wasting the taxpayer's time and money

    Do you even live in Kansas? They probably wasted zero time pondering it. I strongly suspect they did exactly what a significant portion of the electorate wanted them to do.

  • gormadoc||

    "this flag was being flown from what looks like a school flagpole"

    Mah Gawd! Somebody call the jackbooted thugs! There be a flagpole!

  • Rhywun||

    So... this post is at best deeply misleading. Just like the one above it.

    Can we get a little research done around here before the writers go flying off the handle?

  • Happy Chandler||

    If the choice of what is allowed an is not allowed is based on viewpoint, that is infringement of speech. If other exhibits are displayed on the pole, this one must be judged on merit and not viewpoint.

    By giving it national attention, it proves the merit. I call it successful art.

  • Just Say'n||

    Imagine it was a confederate flag. Now change your position.

    I think it's hilarious how everyone is pretending like there is a "right" or "wrong" answer here. This is a judgement call.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    And all anyone is pointing out is that the outrage comes from a different direction when the shoe is on the other foot.

  • Just Say'n||

    Some are making that point, which is fair.

    Others, are not, which is comical

  • damikesc||

    Except you aren't seeing the Right tearing the flag down. They requested removal and then allowed it to happen and be relocated elsewhere.

    We were not seeing that done with the Confederate flag.

  • Just Say'n||

    I'm not trying to defend the displaying of the confederate flag or this flag. I'm only saying that Robby's position would be in the complete opposite direction if it were a different type of flag.

    I don't understand why some people push the notion that your cultural sensibilities must align with progressives in order to believe in smaller government. There is nothing in this story that is anymore outrageous than comparable incidences. And every incident, including this one, is STUPID

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    I'm only saying that Robby's position would be in the complete opposite direction if it were a different type of flag.

    You know this because?

  • Just Say'n||

    You're right. Maybe that is inaccurate. I can't recall if he ever commented in support of the removal of confederate statues like other writers. I generally think that Robby does a good job. Sometimes I think he tries too hard to try and shoehorn the "both sides" narrative. I think this might be a good example of this.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Robby has the "assholes on college campuses" beat and writes about when people from either side are being assholes. He does tend to take a neener neener tone when the assholes are from the right. That being said, the bulk is about assholes from the left because they're more often the assholes.

  • TuIpa||

    Oh hey everyone, Sparky is on the rag again.

  • BYODB||

    Thanks for posting a link to a picture of the actual art piece, which was bizarrely missing from this article.

    And, in addition, the story you linked there makes Robby look like he just quickly skimmed some headlines to write this up.

    I'm all for art that raises hard questions, and this seems like it's right up that alley but I do have to note that if this was a leftist outrage that flag would have probably been forcibly pulled down, burned, and a riot ensued. There is a difference between far left and centrist right outrage given that this piece was left where it was and questions were asked. Now, the horror, it's being moved to the campus art gallery.

    Wow, so outrageous. Those sensitive righties, demanding that the...art be moved to the art gallery.

    Oh, and last point, this is probably the laziest art exhibit I've ever seen. This would have received a failing grade at the art school I briefly attended. Just as my $0.02 art critique.

  • ||

    Oh, and last point, this is probably the laziest art exhibit I've ever seen. This would have received a failing grade at the art school I briefly attended. Just as my $0.02 art critique.

    It's in competition with two others for the bottom as far as I can see. 'Friends (for Ree)' and 'FLINT, 1,462 days and counting man-made water crisis' have probably got it beat though.

  • BYODB||

    I just mean the construction, which seems to consist of buying a three dollar shitty flag from Walmart and spilling some ink on it.

    That can be art, don't get me wrong, but it's hardly high art. More like a sophomoric piece from a kid who probably isn't doing very well in the program.

    Somewhat ironically the outrage over this piece is probably going to mean that whomever put it together is going to get a far better grade than they deserve, but then again who am I to judge?

    Personally I respect artists who have an interesting or unique process that also can be interpreted from many different angles. This does not qualify for me.

  • kcuch||

    between far left and centrist right outrage

    Not sure why you chose apples and oranges. Of course there is a difference between those two, and possibly as much as the difference between far left and centrist left.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Next thing you know Eastern Michigan is going to have to take down their water tower, since it reminds feminists of Duh Patriarchy.

  • Eddy||

    Let's not even get started on the Washington Monument.

  • Just Say'n||

    Next they're going to start demanding that statues be removed because it makes them feel unsafe. Snowflakes

  • jcw||

    You mean Quail eggs.

  • Azathoth!!||

    yeah, that is SO not a thing.

    loser.

  • HGW xx/7||

    Would it be possible to phase out the ACLU and replace it with FIRE? From what I've seen of them, they are much more about defending 1A and not about pushing the proggy narrative. You know, the thing that the ACLU supposedly stands for...

  • EscherEnigma||

    Sure. All you have to do is convince the ACLU's donors that FIRE is better.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Clearly some outrage is more equal than other outrage.

  • Just Say'n||

    I don't think you realize how that statement could bolster your argument and refute it at the same time

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    There is much in this world that I don't realize.

  • Just Say'n||

    How could anyone be upset about that desecrated flag? It's not like they flew the Confederate flag, which would be different, of course.

    That's pretty much the flaw in logic here. Just because someone doesn't or does ascribe to the culture of progressivism does not mean that they are or are not a hypocrite. These are clearly subjective judgement calls that are being made.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Wait, are you trying to say that art is subjective? Get outta town.

  • Just Say'n||

    Outrage is subjective. Art is generally trash

  • Libertymike||

    +1 for wisdom.

  • lap83||

    I don't think the outrage is the main point against it. It's a crappy piece of art because it's done in a way to disguise the fact that it is art as much as possible. If you have to rely on a label to identify something as art and then make it so that only a small percentage of people who see it can read it and tell (because that is what a flagpole is for...for the hundredth time), you suck at art and yeah you're kind of a dick too.

  • Just Say'n||

    All art is trash, but everyone likes some art. We don't have "art central planning". To each his own. Some people like this.

  • lap83||

    I'm not even saying that it is art of low quality (which it is when it is hung in a gallery) I'm saying that if you disguise something enough so that it no longer appears to be art, it's not. I'm not one who is quick to judge crappy art as "not art", but you have to draw the line somewhere with a visual creative medium and I draw it at: do you have to read a sign to tell whether it's art or not

  • lap83||

    Maybe context determines whether some things are art or not, especially in this day and age. So logically, if it's not in the right context...you don't get to fall back on "but it's art!" when most people don't like it.

  • BYODB||


    I'm saying that if you disguise something enough so that it no longer appears to be art, it's not.

    I hate to tell you this, but this is not a widespread belief. As you say, it's subjective, but consider the below link.

    Marcel Duchamp's 'Fountain'

    Consider that this is from 1917.

  • croaker||

    When the outrage is tied to people who can shit all over next year's budget...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "Today in outrage news..."

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, you pass an equal protection amendment, you get equal protection from every little thing.
    In the sixties we would have just torn down the damn thing.

  • Citizen X||

    Our Spencer Museum, along with other institutions nationally, have participated in this year-long series of exhibits intended to foster difficult conversations.

    "Whoa! Not THAT difficult, please!"

  • Eddy||

    I saw pictures of the flags in the exhibits.

    The conversations would sure be difficult. /sarc

    "Trump sucks. I hate him."

    "Not as much as I hate him."

    "I hate him more!"

  • ||

    (Somebody more well versed in flag etiquette correct me on this but...) If the university put up a taller flag pole to the left (or the flag's right) with an unadulterated American flag at the top, or simply flew the artsy flag below the genuine article, short of flying messages or depictions of personal violence, they'd be entirely in the clear.

    Again, not saying I agree with all the outrage, but there's lots of available solutions.

  • Just Say'n||

    Flag etiquette is overbearing. I'm not even kidding. I have two ripped American flags in my garage because they're plastic and so I don't want to burn them in my grill. I can't throw them in the trash, because of stupid etiquette and I'm afraid of my neighbors judging me. Now I have to take them to the VFW to dispose of them.

    We treat flags with more reverence than we do human beings in this country

  • Eddy||

    One difference is if I broke my leg they wouldn't give me to the VFW to be burned.

    At least I don't *think* so, I haven't asked.

  • ||

    At least I don't *think* so, I haven't asked.

    At first, you'd probably get stuffed in the garage for a few years in lieu of being burned on the grill or dumped in the dumpster at the curb.

    Of course, I've never had to yell at a flag to get off my lawn though, either.

  • Rhywun||

    Of course, that would ruin the "message" they're going for. It seems pretty obvious that flying it like a flag was exactly the intent.

  • majil||

    The ACLU maybe dead and rotting ,but FIRE keeps going strong !

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Men and women have fought and died for that flag

    I have very little respect for this line of argument. I had hoped that they were fighting for our country. If they were fighting for a flag they were morons.

  • target||

    Hear, hear

  • General_Tso||

    'That's right: the university invoked public safety as an excuse to remove a work of art that offended conservatives.'

    Yet the writers here at Reason don't seem to find the weekly shutting down of conservative speakers, almost always as a matter of 'public safety', such a travesty.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Nailed it. Those stupid raisins never post articles about conservatives being attacked on campuses.

  • lap83||

    Modern art with a political message reminds me of "news satire" shows. They want to be taken seriously for their politics, but they're quick to use the "comedy" angle as a shield whenever anyone challenges them on their views. In the same way, many artists love to be applauded for their right-thinking message and then the only defense they can give when someone disagrees is to basically accuse them of being a free speech and art hating yokel. It's cowardly.

  • H. Farnham||

    I think Robby is really ignoring the most important aspect of all this. Regardless of what the issue is with the flag/artwork, or what the Universities official stance is, KU is completely evil, awful, and terrible. Hopefully their football program continues to be the laughing stock of Power 5 programs, and hopefully Bill Self retires unexpectedly and their basketball program takes a nosedive (which means they would probably still be pretty good).

    GO STATE!

  • GeoffB1972||

    My thought is that this is a nice example of making the left live up to its own book of rules. In an America where people winced at the backwardness of people who fly Confederate flags and told their kids both the good and the awful about the people in Confederate war memorials, I'd be digging out my megaphone to demand the flag be put back. But in this America, this is the right's logical response to the left and I'm not sure whether to weep or cackle.

  • Marshal||

    That's right: the university invoked public safety as an excuse to remove a work of art that offended conservatives.

    Revealingly Robby didn't include a criticism of progressives even though progs developed this tactic. On the other hand all instances of prog idiocy are balanced with irrelevant cheap shots at cons.

    This is the Media Career Management Balancing Procedure.

  • aajax||

    The same people, probably, who defend their right to burn Korans.

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