Test of Courage or Simply Good Taste? CNN Issues Apology Over Monumental Criticism

filename-img-1649-jpgCNN has issued an apology for a story that ran this week calling the famous “Courage” Monument in Brest, Belarus “the world’s ugliest monument.” Not to be outcome on the stupidity scale, Russian Senator Igor Morozov has proposed a temporary ban on CNN (I guess until their tastes change in conformity with state demands). I do not happen to agree that such memorials should be immune from artistic or architectural criticism. Indeed, I have criticized some of our own memorials. However, I was most struck the harsh critique. I find the memorial to be refreshingly different from the usual flaming torch or sword. CNN however appears to have taken down the story, which raises concerns over withdrawing a piece due to unpopular opinions. I happen to disagree with the author, but what is the standard for post-publication deletion of opinion pieces? This was not racist or sexist or even categorically false. It was an opinion.


CNN’s Iain Aitch listed the stone soldier carving called Courage among others that he called “the world’s ugliest monuments,” suggesting that the face of a dying stone warrior was anger at the West or even “constipation.”

stock-footage-brest-belarus-august-the-courage-monument-at-the-brest-fortress-on-august-in-brestThe monument was designed to commemorate the battle in the summer of 1941 at the start of the German attack under Operation Barbarossa on Russia. The fortress was defended against overwhelming odds by Soviet soldiers against the German Wehrmacht. The face represents the first Soviet soldiers who died in that seemingly hopeless struggle.

CNN released the following statement:

CNN has withdrawn the story “The world’s ugliest monuments” because it was not of the standard we would expect of a CNN report.
The story caused unnecessary upset in Russia and Belarus with its description of the Courage Monument in Brest, Belarus.
CNN apologizes for the unintended offense caused by an article from a contributor that was intended to be a humorous look at monumental architecture worldwide.
We recognize that the Courage Monument carries deep and significant symbolism in honoring the soldiers who gave their lives defending their nation.

I happen to like the monument which captures Soviet art styles and the sense of determined strength of the famed Soviet defenders.

It is far better than the memorial to the Second Division that is located near the White House at a prime location in Washington.

Flaming Sword, The Second Division, World War I Memorial, Washington, DC, USA.

It is unimaginative and offers nothing in terms of its artistic expression. The Second Division deserves better as does the Washington Mall. I have been equally critical of the memorial at the Pentagon. I am also critical of the unimaginative and rather Prussian looking World War II memorial though it does have a good space and flow for visitors.

The point is that memorials are some of the most important public art works. We should not be hesitant to criticize the art, which has nothing to do with our respect or admiration or gratitude for those who are honored. Indeed, such criticism can be magnified by a sense of cheating honored fallen with low-grade art.

My problem with CNN is that Aitch was simply wrong, but of course this is a matter of taste and opinion. CNN could have simply noted that this was an opinion and not meant to insult the memory of the fallen. Free speech of all kinds have found greater limits in Russia. If the Russian senator wants to ban a whole cable network due to an unpopular opinion, it would demonstrate that the problem facing Russia is not about artistic criticism but free speech.

When you search for the World’s Ugliest Monuments segment on CNN, the apology and nothing else comes up.

25 thoughts on “Test of Courage or Simply Good Taste? CNN Issues Apology Over Monumental Criticism

  1. How can a truly ugly event be accurately memorialized unless the memorial itself accurately portrays the ugliness of the actual event?

    Is there any more beautiful way to portray a genuinely ugly event except through the ugliness of the portrayal itself? Art that is deceptively dishonest in its affective portrayal of affect only portrays dishonest deception, and not the courage needed to withstand social pressures of coercive conformity?

  2. Taste in art, music, comedy, etc. is indeed subjective. While I don’t think Mount Rushmore is ugly, I don’t find it all that praiseworthy either. When I walked up to the viewing deck I remember being underwhelmed. I realize I’m in the minority. Arguing about taste is simply wasted energy. I believe we need to preserve our energy for more important endeavors.

  3. Its not about taste or “just” opinion. Some questions cant be asked ever.
    Never. You cant be moral and call war hero monument constipated.
    Y cant be moral and make joke about 911. Its a sacred thing, they not supposed to be discussed in contest of taste .

  4. RE: Anonymously Yours

    “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…. I think its grotesque …. But hey…..”

    ***** *****

    I agree that the monument is grotesque; yet I experience it as being about a millionth of a percent as grotesque as is human warfare itself…..

    Is it a monument to the Beauty of the Beast of Human Destructiveness?

    What Beauty?

    How about the Beauty of the future possibility of learning enough about human destructiveness, including through grotesque human brutality, that a future in which human warfare is found only in historical records becomes the present?

    The “present” meaning: the gift of life itself.

  5. Holy cow. Is that the Swedish Dolph Lundgren, who played a Russian boxer fighting Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa?

  6. I believe there is one aspect that hasn’t been addressed here. The reverence for those who struggled, perished, or fought in defense of the motherland in Russia is profound and exceptional, especially among those who had lived near or within that time. I have been to several of these monuments in Russia in the mid 1980’s and there are very solumn for the Russian people.

    Most people in the west do not really understand how deep wound, and later the acclaim for everyone who struggled and defended in WWII in Russia represents. Profound is a word that does not describe the magnitude.

    The size of the monument seems to be a factor in the desire to convey how great the struggle was; a form of address to how many lives were lost and the courage garnered.

    It is a little difficult for me to convey this in words but here is an analogue that is only partially accurate:

    We in the West believe the monument represents those people honored.
    The Soviets see the monument IS those people honored.

    This is a fundamental difference, it appears subtle, but it an entirely different perspective. That is why we in the rest look at a form of art in a monument and criticize it from an artistic aspect we do not consider it to be a reflection upon those the monument represents. But in the Soviet/Russian culture a critique against the monument is an insult to the indivuduals who are honored by the memorial and, given their reverence, a great outrage beyond what the physical memorial might represent to we in the West.

    To the Soviets/Russians the design of the memorial is important of course, but the true spirit of the memorial is the individual(s) it represents, the artwork is just a shell.

    So when CNN criticized the monument as being “Ugly” the Russian officials most likely interpreted it as personally insulting all of those who had courage during the great war. And that was why it was so upsetting to them.

    While I am for free speech and all, there was more to this than simply a criticism of free speech here.

  7. BarkinDog is complaining to the rest of the dogpac that he is being denied his comments here on this blog on this topic.
    What is up here Turley?
    Inquiring dogs want to know.

  8. How many of our readers are aware of the 100 foot tall “Teardrop” monument gifted to the people of New York by the Russian people honoring the memory of the victims of 9-11? Our media is really on the job.

  9. when they ban the barking I am done. Period. I bought a new set of woofers to augment my laptop’s speakers in order to more fully enjoy the howling.

  10. HumpinDog here. BarkinDog posted a request for Turley to respond to on the comments section of the portion of the blog at the top called Civility Rule.
    Why is he refused comment? Respond there or here. Inquiring dogs want to know.

  11. Yes, its interesting. CNN is just taking down an opinion, not a statement of news events so its not a big deal. I prefer RT (stands for Rusian Television but not a government position) over CNN a lot of the time.

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