Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

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’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.

Courrielche continues:

“…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.


27 Responses to “NEA using your tax dollars to fund left-wing propaganda”

  1. Jess Chapman said

    I can’t really tell whether “we” in that quote means the NEA itself or just “the artistic community,” which is by and large left-wing; right-wing artists would probably feel like they were selling out if they applied for government grants.

    I personally don’t care about the political affiliations of any of these artists, or even if their projects can possibly be construed as offensive. If they can’t demonstrate that their work will have any economic or educational benefit, they shouldn’t expect any public funding. It’s great that the NEA stopped funding indivuduals, though – if only Canadian arts groups did the same. One woman got a grant from a Winnipeg-based arts council for jewelry made out of mouse droppings (seriously). But apparently some people actually bought it.

  2. Ed Darrell said

    You don’t think artists should “speak to the government?” You don’t think art can be persuasive?

    You think artists who are good and have a point of view should be excluded from the discussion? You don’t understand the NEA’s long history of promoting good art regardless of politics?

    I’m not sure of your stand, other than you don’t understand much about NEA and you appear to have just awakened to its existence.

  3. Ed Darrell – Either you didn’t read my post, or you’re being intentionally dense, or you’re setting up straw men to argue with because you can’t defend the NEA’s overreach here.

    • Ed Darrell said

      I also can’t find any corroboration of the story as you present it, and I’m still confused about your views on NEA. I’m not sure what you find objectionable that is in the tradition of the NEA, and I find it difficult to grant credence to your account, since it’s so contrary to what NEA does and suggests a great lack of familiarity with the agency and its work.

      I read your post, and I think you have your excrement detector switched off. Mine started clanging in the first sentence.

      • HHHH said

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  4. Ms. D said

    Oooh let the excrement fly!! I just love a good intelligent debate. I don’t know which way is left and which is right, but I can tell you one thing: I do NOT want my tax payer dollars spent on ANY art that purposely promotes the left OR the right. I want to keep my money and spend it on what I want to spend it on! I’d rather let the artists make their art and then if I like it, I can buy it. It shouldn’t be a political thing. If it is, then it definitely is one big load.

    • Ed Darrell said

      You’re out of luck on this one. Conservatives think anything in art that is good, any promotion of learning and education, any promotion of reading and books, is liberal.

      Conservatives generally adopt ignorance as a religious value, and denigrate all attempts to spread learning and education.

      No, that’s not the cynic in me talking — just observation.

      • Ed – Thanks for illustrating why bipartisanship in this country has failed, thanks to enlightened attitudes like yours. The problem with assuming that you have a monopoly on education and learning is that you then have to explain why with all your education and learning you still can’t run something as simple as a post office without mucking it up.

      • Ms. D said

        I don’t know, I kind of tend to agree, in the sense that I think conservatives are far more likely to jump to the theory that liberals are all out to turn them liberal. I do feel like there is something to be said about why education/arts/music tends to be left and religion/guns/military tends to be right. I mean, can we agree that the left tends to want to spread their ideas and the right tends to want to defend theirs? Why is that?

        Anyway, what Post Office is liberal? I’d like to see that one!

      • Ed Darrell said

        Hey, I’m not the one going after the NEA unfairly for cheap political points.

        Bipartisanship is wonderful. The door is open. Quit trying to slam it shut.

      • Jess Chapman said

        “Conservatives think anything in art that is good, any promotion of learning and education, any promotion of reading and books, is liberal. Conservatives generally adopt ignorance as a religious value, and denigrate all attempts to spread learning and education.”

        Can you not see the absurdity in such a claim, Ed? You’re not going to get anywhere by falsely demonizing Sanity Injection as the sworn enemy of bipartisanship. That in itself is pretty partisan. All in all, you completely missed the point of this post.

        I’m reminded of some idiot implicitly accusing my boyfriend of being a fascist for opposing government arts funding in most of its forms.

      • Ed Darrell said

        I didn’t falsely demonize anyone. I merely state the history of NEA funding. Of course, y’all weren’t paying attention in 1980, nor 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 . . . through 2009. You didn’t get to explain why Jesse Helms thought Big Bird was a communist. You didn’t have to defend conservatives’ claims that Beethoven was evil.

        I accused no one of being fascist. You’re imagining connections that aren’t there, and denying history that is there. That’s not my absurdity.

      • Again, you assume you are the only one who is informed. It’s certainly true that the NEA has been a bogeyman of conservatives for a long time. However, as I pointed out in my initial post, the questions of what kind of art is acceptable for public funding, or whether art should be publicly funded at all, are totally distinct from the issue at hand, which is the subversion of a supposedly independent body for political indoctrination and propaganda. You have consistently sought to duck, ignore, or dismiss this issue as irrelevant, because otherwise you have no defense. You have repeatedly tried to transform the discussion into a simplistic, black-and-white “either you are for the NEA or you are against art.” That’s a childish way of approaching government policy, and it explains why you have not made any headway in convincing folks here.

  5. Ms. D said

    My dad always told me that the person who gets the most heated in an argument is probably trying to defend something that isn’t true. Using words like “absurdity” and “demonizing” is a very strong way to make a point. I’m just saying. . . . is there any truth to it?

    Sanity, where are you? We need a calm mediator!! 🙂

  6. Far from being a fluke, NEA has organized a second conference call, then got caught lying about the extent of its involvement:

  7. Good news. The White House has agreed to take steps to make sure the NEA won’t be overstepping its bounds again. While not admitting they did anything wrong, the White House indicated it wants to avoid the “appearance” of impropriety:

    Chalk this up as a win for the blogging community. It was Patrick Courrielche who documented the evidence, and John Nolte, Andrew Breitbart and the other folks over at Big Hollywood that kept pushing at this and wouldn’t give up. Since the mainstream media won’t hold this Administration accountable for anything, it’s up to the blogosphere to do so. And we will.

  8. […] designed to promote the agenda of President Obama an activity which in other countries we call propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) using government funds and well chosen words to frame debates and […]

  9. […] designed to promote the agenda of President Obama an activity which in other countries we call propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) using government funds and well chosen words to frame debates and […]

  10. […] art designed to promote the agenda of President Obama an activity which in other countries we call propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) using government funds and well chosen words to frame debates and […]

  11. […] art designed to promote the agenda of President Obama an activity which in other countries we call propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) using government funds and well chosen words to frame debates and […]

  12. […] designed to promote the agenda of President Obama an activity which in other countries we call propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) usinggovernment funds and well chosen words to frame debates and shape […]

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  16. Ed Darrell said

    Chemietoilette, good you surfed here. Can you clean this mess up? These guys think NEA shouldn’t fund symphonies, art museums, or anything else that makes America worth defending. Can you clean it up?

  17. Ed Darrell said

    Look out! Creeping communism in Charleston, West Virginia!:

  18. Ed Darrell said

    More communism, in Pennsylvania, at the Westmoreland Museum in Greensburg:

    /sarcasm off, we hope

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