Breitbart: NEA Conference Call, Your Tax Dollars, And Artistic Coercion

Here is the explosive tape from the NEA at Brietbart as well as a transcript in full. I’m listening now.

Nick Gillespie, also of Breitbart’s Big Hollywood says:

As Patrick Courrelieche, an L.A.-based arts organizer who participated in the call, reported at Big Hollywood, the people running the call, including the NEA’s director of communications Yosi Sergant and members of the White House Office of Public Engagement and United We Serve, told the assembled crew of “thought leaders” that “we’re going to come at you with some specific asks here” (that’s a direct quote from Buffy Wicks of the Office of Public Engagement).

Chief among the requests from Sergant (who was either “reassigned” from the agency or “reportedly resigned” after denying the full extent of his role in organizing the call) was “to pick something whether it’s health care, education, the environment, you know… [and] apply artistic, you know, your artistic creative communities’ utilities and bring them to the table.” Beyond the specific policy issues above, the call organizers stressed the ideologically loaded concept of “service” as the animating principle of the Obama administration and wanted the artists to do whatever they could to promote that. As Wicks put it, “We really view [our efforts] as an onramp to a lifetime of service. We really want service to be incorporated into people’s daily lives.”

Given that the NEA prides itself on being the single largest funding source for the arts in the country, such arm-twisting by agency officials, however masked in fulsome compliments to creators’ genius, is disturbing on its face. It clearly sets a political agenda for the very people who are likely to be applying for, well, NEA and other government grants. Does anyone think that the organizers were fishing around for projects that might complicate the public option for health care?

The National Endowment for the Arts has always been looked upon with skepticism by many a taxpayer. Taxpayer money has been used to fund such notable pieces of artwork such as the cross in urine jar, etc.

But this affront goes one further. Artists are asked directly to create to support the Obama administration’s agenda ends. By definition, artists should be “independent”, right? But the government is asking artists to play along with a certain perspective.

There are problems for both the taxpayer and the artist. What would happen, for example, if an artist didn’t support the president? What if an artist created art that harmed the President’s objectives? Would funding be pulled? Consider some of the things said in the preamble to the call:

“the role that we played in the campaign”

“the president has a clear ‘arts agenda'”

“all on this phone call were selected for a reason”

So artists might feel honored because they like this president, but when or if their opinion changed, this call could be construed as coercion. It IS coercion.

Now, the American taxpayer has an entirely different concern: The Obama administration is using an arm of the government to pay artists with taxpayer money to create, essentially propaganda. Art will be used to promote the taxpayer’s dime to promote a specific Obama policy.

“Valerie Jarrett is one of our fantastic leaders”

“Bolster civic engagement with this effort”

“We want to connect with labor unions, womens groups”

“It’s going to take all of us working together–progressive groups”–this is the United We Serve, a government program director talking–the Corporation for National Service.

This, obviously, is a problem all the way around.

The government is asking artists to focus on these policies: health care, energy and environment (parks), education (Department of Education), and community renewal.

Listen to the whole thing. It’s an abomination. And listen with this thought in mind: Imagine if President Bush’s surrogates engineered a similar phone call. Yeah. There’d be outrage.

Jim Gerahty says:

Perhaps Andrew Breitbart and friends shouldn’t be surprised when they find the White House staffers making “specific asks” of allegedly independent artists on a conference call organized by the allegedly nonpartisan National Endowment of the Arts. Obama’s appointee to head the endowment, Rocco Landesman, said about 20 days after that conference call, “If the president had wanted a timid NEA, he would have made a different choice.”

No timid NEA. Oh no. The NEA is the new Obama propaganda funder. Thank you, American taxpayer.

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