Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NEA Story Gets Second Wind

When I saw a post on Andrew Sullivan's blog this morning, I knew it was only a matter of time.

Andrew's post mentioned that the National Review was hyperventilating about the recent NEA conference call controversey, and Andrew included a helpful reminder that such interactions with government agencies were business as usual during the Bush administration.

Andrew linked to the Anonymous Liberal's blog, where, Andrew claims, "the temperature is being lowered."

I have to admit though, upon clicking through to Anon Liberal, and then through to the post at Breitbart where the selected transcripts and audio files of the notorious NEA conference call are presented, I only grew more depressed.

Before I am attacked for giving any credence to Breitbart, please go and read some of the language that was used on the call. While the post is not helpful by emphasizing the more egregious phrases with bold text, it is clear to me that there was, at least an attempt to make sure the language of what they were "asking" was properly constructed.

In the context of the conference call itself, Anon Liberal's reassurance that this is the political equivalent of "jaywalking," (I guess he is right,) is not all that comforting.

Already today ABC news has posted a story about how the Obama administration is handling these revelations.

Rest assured, the jaws are locked and they are going to keep shaking this meat until they rip off a chunk.

My prediction: (and I predicted this even before Leonard Jacobs. Sorry Leonard, but it's true :) ) the Right will start following the NEA grant money trails to find a connection to something salacious.


Thomas Garvey said...

I'm tempted to call this the Shepard Fairey boomerang - what was bad art is also bad politics, in other words. And while I'm with you on the general tempest-in-a-teapot quality of all this, still - that audio is pretty damning, worse than I thought it was going to be. Clearly, clearly, those NEA apparatchiks were thinking of themselves as the Ministry of Art. I hate Michelle Malkin, Glen Beck, the National Review, etc., etc., etc. as much, or more than the next guy - all the more reason to starve them of real material. Now I'm beginning to feel that maybe demoting the ringleader isn't quite enough. Firing him and a few more of these dimwits may be called for.

Leonard said...

I stand pre-proclaimed! Seriously, thank you for the shout out -- and don't think it isn't going to get even more ugly from here.

isaac butler said...


It seems to me the ABC story does it's own bit of fear mongering by interpreting a quote that, looked at without their own paragraph before is fairly innocuous. To whit:

In the call, Yosi Sergant, then the NEA's communications director, seemed to encourage the listeners to create art to further the president's goals by promoting the United We Serve campaign and create art specific to areas of health care, education and the environment.

"I would encourage you to pick something, whether it’s health care, education, the environment, you know, there’s four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service," Sergant said on the call.

What Sergant was saying-- fairly clearly it seems to me-- is that arts organizations should get involved in one of the four areas of service because the call was specifically about the day of service. But Tapper makes it look like what Sergent is saying is that the call was asking artists to create propaganda pieces to further Obama's health care, education environment etc. agenda. The "as the areas of service" thing makes it pretty clear that that's not what Sergent is saying here. To me, this still smacks of the GOP attacking Obama for telling kids to stay in school and read.

That being said, new guidelines that make the lines on this stuff clearer is probably a good thing, if only for the "optics" of it.

Art said...

Hi Isaac,

You will get no argument from me about the substance of the call. It is apparent, when you read the transcript, that it is about the service areas. Which is why I agree that it is much ado about nothing.

However, THAT being said, it is MUCH ADO. And, almost everybody sees, including the White House it would, how the NEA presence was a blunder.

Thomas Garvey said...

Sorry, I'm unconvinced. "Health care, education and the environment" aren't just "service areas" but political hot spots. The call was inappropriate.

Ian Thal said...

If the NEA wants to subsidize artists and art institutions, make theatres and museums more accessible to the general public, put artists to work making public art as something of a latter-day WPA project, that's wonderful, but the NEA should not be influencing content in any manner.

Yes, it is a tempest in a teapot, but the teapot is too irreplaceable to ruin in a tempest.

The last thing we want is the next Republican administration using the NEA to decide to fund plays that amount to torture-porn and visual art that advances a fundamentalist religious agenda.