NEA using your tax dollars to fund left-wing propaganda
Posted by sanityinjection on August 26, 2009
Many Americans have probably never heard of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). It is an “independent” federal agency established in 1965 that gives out grants to support various arts projects. The money for these grants and the administration of the agency comes from your tax dollars, to the tune of about $150 million per year. Admittedly, this is small change in the federal budgetary world.
The NEA briefly appeared on radar screens in the mid-90s due to objections from conservatives over its funding of controversial (sexually explicit and often offensive) works by artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano. After losing a court case when it subsequently tried to refuse funding to four artists over content concerns, the NEA at Congress’ direction subsequently stopped directly funding individual artists, in favor of supporting group projects and collaboratives, arts education and leadership initiatives.
In addition to concerns over offensive content, conservatives often ask why the federal government needs to be funding the arts at all rather than leaving it to the states. But again, at such small dollars the average American probably could care less.
Now, however, there is a new wrinkle. As of this month, the NEA is now using your tax dollars to organize and promote art projects specifically designed to advocate for President Obama’s political initiatives, including health care reform and climate action. Filmmaker Patrick Courrielche reveals the details on the Big Hollywood blog:
Now let me be clear. Most of the artistic community probably needs little urging to support left-wing causes. If they want to make left-wing political art, they have a right to do so. The problem comes when tax dollars are being spent to deliberately promote and encourage left-wing political art specifically. Courrielche describes the content of a conference call for artists held by NEA and the White House together (despite NEA being supposedly an “independent” agency!):
“We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election….We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.“
“…the “nation’s largest annual funder of the arts” is attempting to direct imagery, songs, films, and literature that could create the illusion of a national consensus. This is what Noam Chomsky calls “manufacturing consent….I’m not a “right-wing nut job.” It just goes against my core beliefs to sit quietly while the art community is used by the NEA and the administration to push an agenda other than the one for which it was created….Artists shouldn’t be used as tools of the state to help create a climate amenable to their positions, which is what appears to be happening in this instance. If the art community wants to tackle those issues on its own then fine. But tackling them shouldn’t come as an encouragement from the NEA to those they potentially fund at this coincidental time.
And if you think that my fear regarding the arts becoming a tool of the state is still unfounded, I leave you with a few statements made by the NEA to the art community participants on the conference call. “This is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government. What that looks like legally?…bare with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely… “
Is the hair on your arms standing up yet?”
Let me reiterate that the purpose of the NEA has always been to fund what artists already want to do. It is not to “suggest” what those artists should be doing, or to use them for political purposes. That’s called propaganda. What if the NEA under the Bush Administration had sought to encourage art projects in support of the Iraq War? Not that they would have had much luck, but can you imagine the liberal outrage? Why do I always have to flip it so the right wingers are the bad guy in order for people to understand when something is inappropriate?
Unfortunately, the passing of Senator Kennedy will suck up all the political oxygen for at least the next two weeks. Any legislator attempting to bring attention to the NEA’s abuse of taxpayer funds will be greeted with this headline: “With Kennedy Not Yet Buried, Knives Already Out For His Favorite Programs.” So as usual, they’re going to get away with it, at least for the time being.