In a must-read article on Big Hollywood, Patrick Courrielche relates his musing related to conference call on August 10th hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve. The call was aimed at "a group of artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, taste-makers, leaders or just plain cool people 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!"
During the call, the artists were thanked for their enthusiasm for the Obama campaign, reminded that they have the power to "shape the lives" of the people around them, and urged to create art and art initiatives that bring awareness to "core areas of the recovery agenda - health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal."
Even more key is this passage:
Discussed throughout the conference call was a hope that this group would be one that would carry on past the United We Serve campaign to support the President’s initiatives and those issues for which the group was passionate. The making of a machine appeared to be in its infancy, initiated by the NEA, to corral artists to address specific issues. This function was not the original intention for creating the National Endowment for the Arts.
A machine that the NEA helped to create could potentially be wielded by the state to push policy. Through providing guidelines to the art community on what topics to discuss and providing them a step-by-step instruction to apply their art form to these issues, 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 with Mr. Courrielchein his recognition of a huge conflict of interest when an taxpayer-funded arts organization joins up with the government that funds it to collaborate on an agenda. Moreover, he's right to recognize the potential danger of the White House using the NEA to direct art campaigns as a kind of propaganda to sway the masses. If you need further proof, Courrielche provides it with this quote from the 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…
Political activism and collaboration with the government in disseminating a message doesn't fit the mandate of a taxpayer-funded arts organization, and to see such a movement in its infancy is disturbing. It goes beyond a conflict of interest and becomes an dangerous game of propaganda, paid for by your tax dollars.
Cross-posted at Wellsy's World.