MENTAL FLOSS: It's Protest Weekend, So Pick Your Rally

PORN VALLEY—Spring is in the air—at least in Southern California—so what better time to get out in the fresh air (well, Inland Empire air, anyway) and sunshine and protest the people who are dedicated to sending this country down the tubes politically and culturally? Fortunately, no matter which coast they live on or near, activists and free speech supporters will have a choice of two major gatherings this Sunday and Monday.

The first, which this reporter will be attending,will take place on Sunday in Rancho Mirage, California, at a shopping center just opposite the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, where oil barons Charles and David Koch, who personally have donated millions to conservative causes, will be hosting dozens of other millionaires and billionaires in an attempt to garner even more (monetary) support for defeating progressive agendas and promoting failed conservative policies like the ones which resulted in the current recession cum depression.

According to the promotional material the Kochs released regarding their last such get-together, titled "Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity," which occurred in Aspen, Colorado last June, among the meeting's objectives were "Sharing best practices and opportunities to defend our free enterprise system from destructive public policies" (like national health care, legislation to head off global climate change and promote "green power," and reining in Wall Street excesses), "Fashioning the message and building the education channels to reestablish widespread belief in the benefits of the principles of a free and prosperous society"—"principles" like allowing corporations and pressure groups like Dick Armey's Americans for Prosperity to donate unlimited amounts of cash to political campaigns—and "Building principled, effective institutions that identify, educate and mobilize citizens in pursuit of a free and prosperous society." (Those would be institutions like "The Family," which supports the death penalty for gays in Uganda, and Family Research Council, which continues to oppose allowing gays to serve openly in the military.)

As The New York Times noted, "The participants [at the Aspen gathering] included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot... and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III."

Previous speakers at the Koch-sponsored conferences have included Fox "News" commentator Glenn Beck, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Republican Govs. Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal, Republican Sens. Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and (you guessed it) Republican Reps. Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan.

In other words, some of the most vocal advocates for adopting laissez faire attitudes towards corporations, banks, hedge fund managers and stock brokers while also doing their best to thwart citizens' privacy rights to obtain abortions, watch adult material and communicate between themselves without the government tapping their phones and reading their emails.

Sound like people you might want to protest? The rally will be held from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at The River Parking Lot at the intersection of Rancho Las Palmas Dr. and Bob Hope Dr., opposite 41000 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, Ca 92270. Those with further questions can call 213-252-4552. (It's expected to be sunny and warm, so bring lots of water and sunscreen.)

On the other hand, if you're on the "Right Coast," you'll have a chance on Monday to protest one of the most egregious acts of censorship to have taken place in the District of Columbia in recent years (excluding, of course, the trial of Evil Angel owner John Stagliano).

At 1 p.m. on January 31, ART Positive, a New York-based art action group, will be protesting outside the Smithsonian's Board of Regents meeting to demand the dismissal of Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough. The group is outraged over Clough’s refusal to return the David Wojnarowicz video he removed in November from the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek exhibition and his disturbing defense of that act of censorship.  Along with the termination of Clough, ART Positive calls for the Regents to return to the show the video, "A Fire in My Belly," one of whose images was a depiction of Christ's body covered with ants.

Hide/Seek is a ground-breaking exhibition exploring themes of sexuality and gender in mainstream American art over the last 100 years. As AVN readers know, after an anti-gay religious group and conservative politicians charged that the Wojnarowicz video was offensive, Clough summarily removed it from the exhibit.  While the act of censorship sparked outrage across the country, Clough remained silent about it for seven weeks.  He now says the piece never should have been in the show to begin with and denies that removing it was censorship.

According to ART Positive, Clough has lost the confidence of the American art world, which the group says is already pulling art and funding from the Smithsonian.

"His censorship, stonewalling and self-serving justification are a clear threat to the largest cultural institution in the country," the group declared. "The Board of Regents has an opportunity to repair some of the damage by returning the video to Hide/Seek and immediately replacing Clough with a leader who will uphold the Smisthsonian’s ethical standards and its mission."

That rally will be held on Monday beginning at 1 p.m. in front of "The Castle," the Smithsonian's turreted administrative headquarters, 1000 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington, D.C., just opposite the National Mall.

MENTAL FLOSS columns are editorials expressing the opinions of AVN Senior Editor and Legal Analyst Mark Kernes, and should not be taken as necessarily reflective of AVN magazine,, its owners or staff.