Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw |

Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

In recent weeks – to the vast amusement of some – we’ve seen a couple of television news personalities get (very brief) suspensions for the sin of making contributions to political candidates.

Both suspensions were on MSNBC. One was the aggressively liberal Keith Olbermann. The other was the equally egregious conservative Joe Scarborough.

Those who were vastly amused – particularly by the Olbermann suspension – were over on the Fox News side of the field. They were amused, of course, because Fox would never have to suspend a news personality. That’s because they are all “fair and balanced.”

OK. You can stop laughing. In fact, Fox would never suspend a news personality for contributing to a Republican candidate because, first of all, the network itself takes care of the political contributions (something like $1 million from owner Rupert Murdoch to the Republican apparatus).

And, second of all, because Fox doesn’t give major Republican candidates contributions. Fox gives them their own TV shows. Sarah Palin. Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee. Whoever. They’re all “Fox News analysts.”

Sure Keith Olbermann is probably just about as rabid as anyone on Fox, but there is a difference between MSNBC and Fox: MSNBC at least pretends to care.

Is that a good thing? Does it matter?

You can make your own decision about the value of MSNBC’s fig leaf. But it is kind of shameful when a corporation like Fox breaks all the rules and thumbs its nose at the idea that it ought to care what anyone thinks.

“You don’t like what we’re doing? Hah! We don’t care.”

And that (Warning! Sharp turn ahead!) brings us to the Aspen Art Museum.

When I left for Italy a couple of months ago, I expected that the whole Hideous Museum brouhaha would be over by the time I got back. But, to my genuine surprise, touching base with friends after nearly two months out of the country, at two dinners with two completely separate groups, the museum was still a hot topic.

And both times – with groups of well-educated, well-traveled, very longtime locals (yeah, I know, what were people like that doing having dinner with me?) – people were eager to say how much they hate the art museum.

More correctly, how much they hate the planned new museum in the middle of Aspen.

These people love art. They buy art. Some of them make art. They may or may not love the philosophy behind the exhibition choices at the Aspen Art Museum; but that’s a question of taste. It determines whether they go to the shows, not whether they support the idea of the museum itself.

But the new museum … that they pretty much all hated.

They even didn’t hate the idea of building a museum in the middle of town (although there was some serious concern about parking).

What they hated was this museum, this specific building, which they all agreed is all wrong for the middle of Aspen. Too big. Too tall. Just plain wrong.

And they also all agreed that the people behind the new museum project were, almost without exception, arrogant – that was the word people used time and again. Arrogant. (They used a lot of other words that I can’t put in the newspaper.)

A summary of what people said would be this: If the people behind the museum cared at all about Aspen, about the community, they could have designed a new building that would have made a great museum and been a great addition to the town.

And everyone would have happily supported the project.

But apparently they don’t care.

The building’s too big? They want it that way.

It sticks out like a sore thumb? Well, it’s their thumb – and besides, it was designed by a famous architect. So there.

To put the museum’s position in words appropriate to their level of mature discourse: Nyah! Nyah! Pfffft! (Stick out tongue. Raise middle finger.)

Which takes us back to where we began: Fox News.

Many of the people backing the art museum are fierce liberals who consider Rupert Murdoch and his right-wing media empire loathsome. But if you strip away the politics, you’ll find that the attitude is exactly the same.

They can’t be bothered to pretend they care.

Oh sure, they say they care about the community. But that’s really about the same as Fox calling itself “Fair and Balanced.”

It’s an advertising slogan.

Remember, this whole thing began when the developer’s original plan for the building was rejected because it didn’t meet the requirements of the Aspen Area Community Plan – the document created by the town to preserve its character.

That rejection led to a lawsuit. The lawsuit led to a settlement – and the settlement led to this museum. The design may be different, but the building itself still violates the rules designed to protect the character of the community.

The truth is, they don’t give what I believe is referred to in polite society as “a rat’s patootie.”

And that’s something, isn’t it? When someone declares that they’re making a generous gift, creating a glorious benefit for “the community,” you’d think maybe they’d try to actually, you know, care what the community thinks.

These guys don’t care.

They don’t care if you hate their museum and they don’t really care if you hate them.

They love themselves enough to make up for it.

Their attitude, if they even bother to think about it, is, “You fools are too ignorant to recognize a good thing.”

They figure they’ve got what they want – a great big building, a monument to their great big egos (and great big checkbooks), and if they just put their heads down and ignore everyone, the museum will get built and eventually everything will blow over.

And they’re probably right.

As another friend said, at an entirely different gathering, drinking heavily and watching football, “They’re rich. And they want what they want.”

And, as I hardly need to point out (but will anyway), they’re used to getting what they want.

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