Are you ready to rumble? The Smithsonian vs. WWE


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The New York-based Catholic League, a self-described civil rights organization that led the fight to censor an exhibition at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery late last month, changed tactics this week. Originally objecting to a video that league President William Donohue described as ‘anti-Christian,’ the organization now says that museums should have all federal funding pulled because they cater to the affluent and well-educated, rather than to the working class.

Yes, class warfare.

Donohue’s earlier claims about the art exhibition at the Smithsonian’s museum have been variously debunked, denounced, proven false and shown to be a case of manufactured outrage. They have also led museums and galleries across the United States and in Europe to hurriedly display the censored video, which is also widely available on the Internet, bringing it to a huge public.


Do the new class-warfare charges hold water? Not even close.

Here is the relevant portion of the Catholic League press release, headed ‘Funding Museums Is Class Discrimination’:

‘In a large survey of museum-going households released in April, it was found that they are significantly better educated and affluent than the U.S. population; they are also overwhelmingly white. The time has come, then, to stop funding the leisure of rich white people: all public monies for the arts should cease. Quite frankly, to make the working class pay for the leisure of the rich amounts to class discrimination. In the spirit of social justice, a better case could be made to fund professional wrestling—it’s what the working class enjoy.’

The source of the data is not identified. But, like earlier claims, it too turns out to be false. Attendance at Smithsonian museums is 15 times larger than attendance at World Wrestling Entertainment shows.

According to a spokesman for WWE, the largest corporation in the pro wrestling field, attendance at 342 live events in 2009 (74 of them international) totaled just over 2 million. During the same time period the Smithsonian, which oversees 19 facilities, had attendance of 30 million.

The cost for museum visitors was far less too: Most Smithsonian museums, including the National Portrait Gallery, are free to the public. Tickets for WWE shows range from $15 to $70, depending on the venue and seating.

--Christopher Knight RELATED:

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Art review: ‘Imagining the Past in France: 1250-1500’ at the Getty