Do not build it. Not there.

Do not build it. Not there.

: Both The New York Times and the New York Post editorialized on the fight over the International Freedom Center and Drawing Center at Ground Zero. Of course, they don’t agree. But they both show what a mistake it was for Gov. Pataki to put himself — and all of us — in this most uncomfortable position:

When you put these opportunities to speak at such a place you will, of course, have controversy that can offend some. And if you try to stop that controversy, you will be accused of censorship.

That is why it should not be built. Not there. Let the discussion and disagreement and controversy and art occur elsewhere. Let the memorial happen there.

Says The Times:

Gov. George Pataki’s decision to side with increasingly vocal critics of the cultural plans for the World Trade Center site is not surprising, but it is alarming. The governor has been deeply and rightly sensitive to the concerns of the families of the victims of 9/11. Like all of us, he honors their loss and their grief. But by bowing to some of the survivors’ growing hostility to any version of 9/11 except their own, Mr. Pataki is doing a disservice to history and to the very idea of freedom.

That’s practically nasty to the families. It also assumes that this is an issue for the families only. It’s not.

The protesters – and the governor – seem to have little faith in the emotional power of the memorial to the victims, which will be the central focus of ground zero, emotionally, politically and architecturally.

This almost puts them at war: the memorial overshadowing the centers.

But it is meant to remember something more than a day of tragedy. It’s meant to remember the lives of those who died there, lives that were rich, complex and politically and culturally divided.

What those lives stand for now is American freedom, in its full implication and all its contradictions.

Loaded word, “contradictions.” Yes, that’s exactly what the IFC sought to examine. It seeks to probe controversy. Not there. The Times calls that censorship. Not if it is moved elsewhere, it’s not.

The Post says:

Gov. Pataki ó despite his assurances to the contrary Friday, and despite what some newspaper editorialists may choose to believe ó couldn’t keep “Piss Flag” out of the Drawing Center even if he wanted to, even if he were still in office.

Defenders of trash, and compliant judges, would surely block any effort to “censor” works.

Similarly, “scholars” like, say, Ward Churchill ó the nut who compared World Trade Center workers to Nazis ó won’t be easily stopped from gaining a forum at the International Freedom Center (IFC), also planned for the site.

Maybe these cynical showmen deserve that forum.

Click Here!

But not at Ground Zero.

The Post calls for “banning” the groups. No. They should merely be moved. The Post says they should move themselves:

Citing “inevitable tensions,” a statement from the center said: “The dilemmas raised by this juxtaposition are challenging . . . Clearly, the Drawing Center, like any other cultural institution, has a responsibility to its mission.”

Actually, we couldn’t agree more.

Which is why, if these two groups had decency, they’d bow out on their own.

Clearly, they wouldn’t want to compromise their independence. Nor lead the governor, and the public, to think they could meet his requirements and still carry out their missions faithfully.

Again, the only solution is for these groups to locate off-site.


  • Max

    We should have re-built the towers.

  • Tony

    “Not there. The Times calls that censorship. Not if it is moved elsewhere, it’s not.”
    Speech is not free if it is only allowed in certain spaces.

  • jeremy in NYC

    Good point, Tony. Does that mean that since I have the right to paint “f*ck the Republicans” and “f*ck the Democrats” all over the walls of my apartment, I must have the same right to paint them all over the Congressional Rotunda, Fort Bragg and the Smithsonian?

  • Chris Josephson

    “Speech is not free if it is only allowed in certain spaces.”
    This is nonsense. It’s the ability to speak freely that we are granted. We are NOT granted any particular forum for that speech.
    Let the IFC and all the rest get another forum for their speech and let them speak as freely as they want. Just as long as they leave Ground Zero alone.
    Ground Zero should ONLY be a memorial to the 9/11 victims.
    Let people who want to teach about historical struggles do do elsewhere.

  • Tony

    Jeremy in NYC: Of course not, because there are laws against trespass, vandalism, defacing private property, etc. We’re talking here, however, about the state saying that a museum can be built only if certain content is not included. That’s the “contradition” in the “freedom” we are supposedly fighting for.

  • The families groups and I and the Post are fine with the speech but believe it is wrongly placed at the site of this tragedy.
    Should we build a learning center on JFK’s and LBJ’s and RMN’s quagmire at the Vietnam memorial or just let it speak for itself?
    Should we build a center about controveries about Jews through history at Auschwitz or let the place speak for itself?
    No one is saying that the IFC and Drawing Center should not be built. But they should not be built there. It is disrespectful
    When I go, please don’t build a machine spewing out such comments as yours, Tony, on my tombstone. Give me that much.

  • David

    It seems to me that the best place for the anti- American propaganda that these people want to desecrate the memorial with is at the U.N. It might justify the other 10 floors that Bolton says the U.N. would never miss.

  • Ineresting debate. I have an ignorant question: Will the IFC or the Drawing Center be government buildings, built/maintained by government funds (such as the Smithsonian)? Or will these be fully private institutions (such as the Met)?

  • FC

    People who believe X are only allowed to speak in the designated zones, because their views are offensive to the Governor. People who believe Y can speak anywhere because the Govenor agrees with them.
    This is not censorship, because?

  • jeremy in NYC

    Tony: Well no – you said “Speech is not free if it is only allowed in certain spaces.” I assume then you’re revising your statement to admit that in some cases speech can be limited in certain places, at least as to form. And apparently you don’t have the right to do whatever you want, wherever you want, just beacuse it’s “speech.”
    So let’s put that in the context of this museum. Assuming the government is in control (and you do), the next question is: if anyone doesn’t have the right to show up at Ground Zero and put up a museum? If the KKK said they wanted to put up a museum there, is the government required to let them? (Obviously, they couldn’t then do it without govt. permission because of the vandalism/tresspass laws you noted).
    If you say “yes,” then at least you’re consistent. But I don’t think you really think that any person who says “I want to build something at Ground Zero” has a First Amendment right to do so. So the government then chooses what it wants to go there; just like the government chooses what goes on the Mall in DC. That’s a legitimate government function, like choosing what can happen on the Senate floor, and deciding that every citizen can’t just walk onto the Senate floor and start talking.
    So if this is the case, why couldn’t the government choose what will and won’t happen in this site, and le ast in terms of who gets to build a museum there?
    Now, if you you were in the museum and said to someone “I think they should have built anti-war museum here’ and they stopped you from doing that – THAT would be impermissible.

  • Mike

    The debate about free speech is all well and good, but this has nothing to do with censorship and the 1st Amendment. We’re only debating this point now because Pataki doesn’t have the cojones to just come out and say don’t build the damn things on Ground Zero. Why do we need freedom and drawing centers there anyway, it’s not like there are not enough of these museums in Manhattan already.
    Pataki is trying to save face and backpedal out of this mess he has made by dictating what should not be inside these centers. Unfortunately, he misses the point entirely and opens up this new censorship line of attack.

  • Sandy P

    Since the Times is building a new building, why not there?