There is nothing new about crass provocation being passed off as art. What is new, and perilous, is the notion that it has become government’s place to condemn free expression, and based not on community standards of decency but on the political tastes of government officials. Government’s only proper role here is to protect the right to provoke. When government’s coercive power is put in the service of the heckler’s veto, when it becomes the “ad hoc nullification machine” by which corrupt officials smother constitutional protections that inconvenience their cronies, then that government is no longer legitimate.
It is not enough to reject Obama’s lies. It is essential to reject the premise of his lies. In our society, we get to say unkind things about icons, just as we get to speak vigorously in their defense. It is for us, the sovereign people, to weigh the merits of these competing claims without government’s meddling thumb on the scale. That is a big part of what makes Western civilization civilized.