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January 12, 2010
PBS Newshour and the art of Obama propaganda
Under the unintentionally funny heading, "Fights for the Arts" PBS's NewsHour states:
Rocco Landesman is known as the producer who brought hits such as "Angels in America," "Big River," and "The Producers" to Broadway. But as the new chair of the National Endowment of the Arts, Landesman has given up the bright lights of the Great White Way for the halls of Washington's bureaucracy.
That's right. A left-first producer "has given up the bright lights" for you, according to PBS.
Why? Obviously because he is a sacrificial saint. In reality, Landesman was a Broadway Bolshevik before he became a Washington bureaucrat, and I wonder if working-class Americans associate his wage with sacrifice. Or even bureaucracy with great art.
Yet, PBS's Jeffrey Brown pontificates:
As head of the National Endowment for the Arts, he manages a federal agency that's seen its share of ups and downs, started by Congress in 1965 to foster and bring the arts to all Americans, but a frequent target of conservatives for funding of controversial works.
But why does Brown paint the NEA as a "frequent target of conservatives" when in reality conservative America is a frequent target of NEA atheists?
Who needs government-first artists to "foster and bring the arts to all Americans," when American artists were leading the world, without the federal agency, prior to 1965? (The Dutch Renaissance flourished because an NEA-like bureaucracy didn't strangle it.) And what to do with people who don't want a federal agency to "bring the arts" to their doorsteps? Or to make a further point about elitism, who says Americans were artless before the NEA?
The city-centric classes tend to sneer at all things provincial. Brown, however, only gently touches on then dusts off this kind of snobbery:
Landesman wasted no time raising eyebrows. He called NEA funding pathetic, and suggested money should go to programs based on merit, not automatically to all congressional districts.
"I don't know if there's a theater in Peoria," he said in an interview, "but I would bet that it's not as good as Steppenwolf or the Goodman," referring to top Chicago companies.
That didn't play well in Peoria, but, recently, Landesman paid a visit, answered questions, and made amends.
But who - besides PBS's Brown, I mean - believes he "made amends"? Continuing with the government-first-bureaucrat-as-victim narrative the new chair is already claiming he needs more money:
They said, you are out of your blankety-blank mind. Don't even think about it, to come down and run a small federal agency, a 170-person bureaucracy...The amount of funding that they can do ultimately doesn't make that big a difference. I didn't feel that was the case. I felt, in this administration, it was going to be something more. You have a president who is himself a writer, who cares about the arts. They go to the theater. They go to museums. They really are engaged with arts. Clearly, this is a president who has a different view of the arts than previous administrations. And I wanted to be a part of that.
So, when Landesman sees "writer" Obama, he sees more moneybags, just around the corner. And - my guess - he also sees the NEA as a victim, fighting the evil "Christian Right" while asking for more of the Christian Right's tax dollars. He sees art through Washington's eyes.
At the end of the propaganda piece presenter Gewn Ifill tellingly acknowledged:
For the record, the National Endowment for the Arts is one of the funders of the "NewsHour"'s arts coverage.