case. No, you prosecute it.rn8) Cincinnati breaks out in its everybocK’-rnthinks-we’re-rubes rash (defensive),rneven as it continues to struggle with thernissues before it (earnest). The mediarnpicks up on the defensiveness and ignoresrnthe earnestness. The Hick Townrnstories continue; the rash spreads. EvenrnMike Royko is heard from. The legal actionrnagainst the CAC and its director hasrnmade “Cincinnati look like a big ruberntown, which I never thought it was,” saysrnRovko. “It’s always struck me as beingrna medium-sized rube town.” (For me,rnthis is a letdown. I expected better fromrnRovko — which is to say, I expectedrnworse.)rnIf vour source of information on Mapplcthorpernin Cincinnati was the nationalrnmedia, vou saw reported or suggested justrnabout ever’thing on the above list, withrnthe glaring exception of number four: thernqualih’ and character of the local debate,rna debate that was not only an essentialrnpart of the story but a remarkable andrnheartening occurrence in itself, especialh’rnin a time when so much public discoursernis an exercise in rancor and rhetoricalrnexcess. What’s more, the mediarndecided on their Hick Town slant beforernthe hicks themselves had been heardrnfrom, and stayed with that slant even afterrnthe appearance of abundant evidencernthat might have challenged it. Wliy didrnthe’ do that? One possibility is the constraintsrnof daily journalism. So muchrnnews, so little time! Examining assumptionsrntakes effort, therefore stereotypesrnhave tiieir uses. The only other possibilih’rnI can think of is that the national journalisticrnestablishment actually believesrnthat any city that would question the publicrndisplay of sadomasochistic and homoeroticrnphotographs is by definition a hickrntown.rnFor their efforts in debating difficult,rncomplex issues with a measure of dignih’rnand goodwill, Cincinnatians saw themseKesrntrashed on a national scale. ThernNc’H’ York Times labeled Cincinnatirn”[possibly] the most sexually restrictivernbig cit’ in the countr)’.” On its face thatrnstatement is false. Sex is not restricted inrnCincinnati, no matter what the New YorkrnTimes says; in fact, people have sex herernall the time. What is restricted is thernaailability of peep shows, nudic bars,rnmassage parlors, and X-rated movies.rnThe Times also accused Cincinnati, in sornman’ words, of hypocrisy for being locatedrnright across the river from Newport,rnKentucky, which makes available tornCincinnatians the strip joints their ownrncity forbids—the Times’ point being thatrnsome Cincinnatians actually cross thernriver for that reason. (The article was arndoubly cheap shot, in that Newport, itsrnburlesque clubs notwithstanding, hasrnmade great efforts in recent years to rid itsrnstreets and its image of sleaze.)rnFinally, the New York Times reported,rnmore than once, that the Mapplethorpernshow had traveled to cities from Hartfordrnto Berkeley “without incident,” whilernCincinnati had “nearly gone into convulsions”rnover the exhibit. Please. This simplyrnisn’t a convulsion-prone city. The onlyrnevent here that ever came close tornbeing convulsive was Pete Rose’s banishmentrnfrom baseball, and, for better or forrnworse, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe,rnstranger in paradise, are nornmatch for that. Wliat the Mapplethorpernexhibit produced in Cincinnati was arncommunity debate (and a good one), accompaniedrnby a community rash.rnThe exhibit also prompted publicrndemonstrations outside the CAC, thernlargest of which was estimated at 1,000 byrnthe New York Times, 500 by the local papers.rnThe demonstrations went like this.rnThe anticensorship forces, made uprnmostly of students, did what college kidsrn(and those who want to act like collegernkids) sometimes are inclined to do: Theyrnpulled out the rhetorical stops by yellingrn”Fascists!” at the police and carryingrnsigns with warnings about Hitler. Thernanti-pornography group did its ownrnname-dropping in the form of placardsrnreading “God Is Against PornographyrnAnd So Are We.” As public demonstrationsrngo in this country, Cincinnati’srnwere both typical in character and hohumrnin overall effect—hardly “convulsive.”rnIs it any wonder Cincinnatians are defensive?rnI can’t think of another city inrnthe country in which outside observersrnconfuse the absence of sleaze with the absencernof sex. This may be the only city inrnAmerica that gets stigmatized for havingrntoo little commercial vice. Name onernother cit)’ that is expected to answer notrnonly for what it won’t permit, but for whatrnits neighboring cities will. Name onernother city that’s supposed to explain itselfrnfor being dissimilar in attitude to Berkeley.rnBefore it was all over, I expected tornsee a New York Times headline announcingrn”Impossible To Get Seven CoursernMeal in Cincinnati at 3 A.M.”rnSince no one else bothered (and beforernI break out in a rash myself), it’srnworth taking a look at Cincinnati’s debaternover the Mapplethorpe exhibit andrnasking why that debate was so civilized. Irncan think of three reasons.rnFirst, the concepts of “communityrnstandards” and “community values”rnaren’t worth arguing about unless you actuallyrnhave a commimity. And Cincinnatirnis a communit}’. That is, the thingsrnCincinnatians agree on are more bindingrnthan the things they disagree on arerndivisive. Thus there was during the Mapplethorperncontroversy the awareness thatrneven on emotional issues, especially onrnemotional issues, it is a matter of civic asrnwell as intellectual responsibility to thinkrntwice before deciding that one’s neighborsrnare “the enemy.”rnSecond, local politicians pretty muchrnkept silent. This was in part a reflectionrnof the nature of the beast—most politiciansrndon’t risk voluntary plunges intornsticky issues—and in part an example ofrnthe subdued character of Cincinnati politics.rnIn any case, the silence was, in thisrninstance, a help. With public opinionrnsplit and most city leaders lacking thernnerve or the inclination to tr’ exploitingrnthe controversy for political gain, Cincinnatiansrnhad the issue pretty much tornthemselves, and their discussions werernnot limited to or by politics.rnThe published dialogue stimulated byrnthe Mapplethorpe exhibit ran all over thernmap. It touched on all the obvious questionsrnand many that weren’t so obvious.rnIt included the opinion of a local pediatricrnspecialist that it is dangerous tornmake children “the focus of sexual attentionrnor interest” (“Not for a moment,” hernwrote, “not as entertainment; not as art”),rnand the opinion of others who said tiiatrnany sexual interest in Robert Mapplethorpe’srnphotographs of exposed childrenrnis in the mind of the beholder, notrnthe photographer/artist. The debate includedrncomplaints about the hypocrisy ofrncorporate executives whose self-promotionalrnsupport for the arts suddenly becomesrnconditional on their personal artisticrnpreferences, and complaints about thernarrogance of an arts community that interpretsrnas “financial blackmail” any limitsrnto, or conditions on, corporate generosit)’.rnThe view was expressed that ifrnRobert Mapplethorpe had used animalsrnor women instead of men as the subjectsrnof his sadomasochistic pictures, somernfree-expression advocates would instantlyrnbe on the other side, raising outragedrnquestions about the limits of free expression.rnAnd that view was met with the ar-rnJULY 2001/33rnrnrn