Except, of course, when it's a really humorous sort of censorship.
Let this obfuscating oxtail explain.
Last week we heard from Sylvia Mooney, a great-grandmother and budding sculptor who says she is a victim of small-minded people who don't appreciate her artistic vision.
Eight years ago, she explains, she went back to school for a master's degree to develop her artistic skills and to promote a single-minded program.
"My work is about the right to life," she tells the Strip. "It's about what we do when we throw away the unborn."
Well, good for her. We doubt that in the fine-art galleries of the nation's big, urban cities, there's much of a market for that kind of thing, but whatever gets Mooney out of bed in the morning and over to her pottery wheel is just fine with us.
Beginning in 1999, Mooney began submitting her pieces to a juried show called "Cultures Without Borders" put on by the Historic Northeast Cultural Arts Commission. Every year at this time, the commission installs the show at the Kansas City Museum before moving it to two Northeast banks in succession. "We invite a different juror every year," says commission member Rebecca Koop. "We want to bring arts to the Northeast area."
Mooney has good things to say about Koop, who is an artist in her own right. "Rebecca's on the pro-choice side of things. But she supports my art," Mooney says.
In fact, Mooney adds, she has often met pro-choice people who disagree with her point of view, but she says such encounters usually result in an opportunity for discussion and friendly debate. "Usually when I run into people who disagree with me, it turns out to be a useful dialogue," she says.
This year, two of Mooney's mixed-media pieces were chosen for the show.
One is a glazed sort of bowl that resembles an inverted breast, and in it Mooney has placed numerous small clay fetuses. She calls it "Food for Thought." The other work is a bathroom sink. More clay fetuses are attached to the end of curved wires, representing the little embryos swirling down the drain. This work Mooney titled "Away Those Troubles Down the Drain."
Both pieces were on display at the old Kansas City Museum on Gladstone Boulevard in March. In April the show made its traditional move to UMB Bank on Independence Boulevard.
That's when the trouble started.
"LIFE IS GOOD. ABORTION SUCKS. I shall pray that God leads you the right way. Don't put artwork like that in here again," wrote someone who signed his name Ben Grooms on the show's guest book at the bank.
And a person named Christopher Till wrote, "Your pro-abortion stance is not agreed on by everyone, therefore, you should not put that kind of filth in here. You're in the minority and in America, majority rules. So next time, do not put that filth inside the bank."
Juan Huertapadilla was equally miffed. "Tu arte es caca!" he wrote.
Bill Davidson also piled on. "How anyone in their right mind would buy that for $1,500 is ridiculous. It is tasteless, disgusting and offensive and I hated it. Don't push your pro-abortion stance on us life-loving people. It's people like you that make me sick. May God have mercy on you."
In all, six complaints were written in the guest book. Several more were conveyed to the bank's manager. One was from a Catholic priest.
But easily the most colorful comment came from a man who signed his name as Muhammed Karemm Raheed: "I did not like your art. Allah and I found it offensive to the Muslim culture. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your legs and you have too short of arms to scratch. Praise Allah!"
A couple of days after setting up the show at the bank, Koop found that "Food for Thought" had been removed and the clay fetuses from "Away Those Troubles Down the Drain" taken away.
"The bank manager said it disturbed the customers," Koop says. And she says she understands. "This is a bank. It's not an art gallery."
Mooney, however, is unhappy.
"Five or six people were very offended. But they thought the work was pro-abortion," she tells this flank steak. "If they'd read my artist's statement, I don't think they would have thought that."
She was particularly unhappy when she inferred from one of the written diatribes that she should change her views or get out of the country.
"It's a terrible misunderstanding," she says. "They thought I was for abortion, and I'm not."
Well, yes, we can see Mooney's point. It is a shame that several folks with whom Mooney actually agrees would assume the exact opposite upon viewing her judicious use of clay embryos.
But we put it to her -- wasn't there another lesson to take from the reaction?
By Mooney's own admission, her experience with pro-choice advocates had been civil and understanding. But the anti-abortion folks who got crosswise with her artwork cursed her with a flea infestation and hinted that she should get the hell out of the U.S.A.
Uh, Sylvia, you see a pattern here?
"I don't think it says so much about the people that agree with me than it's just a total misunderstanding," she replies.
Koop, however, gets this rib roast's point. "It's those few that make it difficult for the rest of us on this Earth," she says, referring to the writers of the loopy comments in the guest book.
Koop is still supportive of Mooney and her work; she has put images of the two controversial works on the front page of the commission's Web site, www.northeastartskc.org.
We hope they get the attention they deserve.
Tony Ortega talks about this week's Pitch with KRBZ 96.5's Lazlo after 4 p.m. Wednesday.