When this column's name was chosen, I was a little worried that it would sound dated. The "culture war," a term much used in the early '90s by then-washed-up political commentator and presidential gadfly Pat Buchanan, had been widely used, generally in its plural form, to describe the decade-old paroxysms over government support for artists like Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, and court battles involving the NEA four -- Karen Finley being the most prominent of the crew -- who sued the National Endowment for the Arts over losing grants due to their art's naughty subject matter.

But now, here we are at the tail end of the decade, and a mayor is threatening to cut off funding for one of New York's most venerable institutions because of shocking art in a show opening this week, and Pat Buchanan is back in the headlines. Last year's evangelical furor over Terrance McNally's play Corpus Christi, which posited a gay Jesus, is nothing compared to the current environment, where Christians now consider themselves a once-again persecuted sect and are figuratively (and literally, for all I know) arming themselves for the struggle.

It's a bit of a struggle behind my desk as well: a struggle to get excited over the brouhaha around the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which is bringing in Sensation, a show of sensationalistic work by the Young British Art crowd (YBA for short). Featured works include Damien Hirst's bisected pig, Jake and Dinos Chapman's multi-genitaled children, and -- playing the role of Piss Christ -- Chris Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary, which adds pornographic butt shots and lumps of elephant poo to its outsider-art-ish portrayal of the Virgin (whom Ofili always found sexy as a child).

The art fails to engage me, but Mayor Rudy Giuliani's threats -- to terminate the museum's lease with the city, cut off all city funding, and possibly fire the board -- are very ominous. Even when Republican congressmen were threatening to zero-out the NEA's budget, I don't remember them talking about taking over museums. The punishment -- a complete overthrow -- seems way out of line with the crime of booking a silly show by overhyped, overhip artists.

As with last decade's turmoil, the end result will be to elevate second- or third-rate artists like Ofili to the highest levels of notoriety, where they will continue to represent the whole of contemporary art in the mind of the general audience. I can't think of a more famous piece of art produced in the last 20 years than Piss Christ, though I can think of hundreds of better ones. For the low-profile world of contemporary art, it's a no-win situation: The work that's best at drawing attention draws the worst kind of attention, and the causes that must be fought with the most passion involve struggling on the behalf of showboating artists whose careers only gain from the fight.

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Call Ed Murray ineffective, will you? In response to a Stranger article's offhand dis of State Rep. Murray, an orchestrated campaign resulted in three published letters in last week's issue defending his work on behalf of local institutions. Frances McCue of Hugo House told me last Wednesday that she'd been asked by staff at the Seattle non-profit Corporate Council for the Arts to fax us a letter defending Murray, as Murray had landed a large grant for her organization. McCue, who had no idea that Murray had helped them out, faxed us nothing. But when I contacted her for comment on Thursday, she returned a message making her sound like a thoroughly reeducated citizen: "I wonder if I was speaking out of haste.... Ed Murray really did advocate for the [grant].... I'm grateful to Legislator Murray."