Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The overreach meme reaches the arts (perhaps appropriately)

Artists have used Obama, so does he now expect them to return the favor?

On the same far-right site that I discovered the article on Tarantino and torture, I also discover this disturbing account of a conference call between Obama administration apparatchiks at the NEA and a "group of artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, taste-makers, leaders or just plain cool people [looking to] to join together and work together to promote a more civically engaged America and celebrate how the arts can be used for a positive change!”

The money quote came at the end of the call, which was rather obviously designed as an effort at soft recruitment of "artists, et. al." into producing work that favored the administration's priorities:

"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 [sic] with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely . . ."

This is only a single data point, but if accurately rendered, the exchange is troubling. The National Endowment for the Arts was not meant to be, and should not become, a "soft" propaganda arm of the federal government, and Obama supporters (like myself) everywhere should protest any movement in that direction. (Even though the irony is that most artists are only too happy to produce work in consonance with the adminstration's aims.) Of course the temptation to influence the artistic community is great at a time like the present - when the right is in full attack mode against reforms that have long been overdue, and is gaining traction with a malleable and anxious American public. But still that temptation must be resisted.

1 comment:

  1. I'm generally supportive of Obama and would agree that there is no end to the number of artists who would be happy to produce work that advanced his policies, but let us consider what would have happened had George W. Bush had used the NEA to fund his own propaganda as art?

    Hollywood produced torture porn as corporate entertainment during the Bush-Cheney years, would we have wanted to see the same presented as fine art?

    I think that's as strong an argument as can be made why we shouldn't see the NEA used for "soft" propaganda.