The NEA’s new mission

One of the striking features of the first months of the Obama administration is the increasing — may I say increasingly total? — politicization of American life. This seems to me the significance of Obama’s nationally televised sermon to the children in school yesterday. Did he mention that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these?
Obama’s sermon to the children followed on the Obama administration’s epistle to the arts community. Yosi Sergant is the communications director of the National Endowment for the Arts. On August 10 Sergant held a conference call with 75 members of the community funded by the NEA. As Abby Wisse Schacter reported, Sergant’s sounded “a lot like an effort to get recipients of government grants to lobby for the Obama agenda.”
Sergant wasted no time getting down to business: “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? We are participating in history as it is being made. . . Bear with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely. . . We can really move the needle and get stuff done.”
Sergant was none too subtle. He reportedly said: “I would encourage you to pick something. Whether it is health-care, education, the environment. . . There’s four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service. And then my ask would be to apply your artistic, creative utilities. Bring them to the table. Again, I’m really, really honored to be working with you.”
Film producer Patrick Courrielche wrote that the call turned out to be an effort to get participants to push the administration’s agenda: “They told us: We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew ‘how to make a stink,’ and were encouraged to do so.”
Courrielche now reports that another conference call along the same lines has taken place. Courrielche reasonably deduces the existence of a concerted effort by the Obama administration to use the arts — not for the sake of art, of course, but rather to promote the agenda of our Dear Leader.
Courrielche points to Artjournal.com blogger Lee Rosenbaum’s account of the August 27 conference call (epistolary invitation linked above). Rosenbaum confesses that she also felt “uneasy” about the government’s arts effort. The meeting invitation went out to all “member local, state, and regional arts agencies, community-based arts organizations, and national partners of Americans for Arts.” Americans for Arts is a non-profit arts organization that has received substantial grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Rosenbaum suffered for our Dear Leader’s sins. In order to listen in on the conference call, she waited a nearly nearly unendurable period on hold as a captive audience for three clunkers from Kenny G’s “Greatest [or Worst] Hits” album. Ah, but this was the arts community’s very own cash for clunkers program.
In his most recent report, Courrielche collects the evidence showing that the NEA is organizing these calls and enlisting the community of government-funded beneficiaries in the agenda of the Obama administration. Courrieleche also collects the evidence showing the untruth of the NEA’s denials that it is doing what it is doing.
The NEA, in short, is working hard to enlist artists in the Obama administration’s agenda. This would be a huge story but for two facts. The mainstream media have already enlisted in the cause that the NEA is peddling to the arts community, and the silence of the media is deeply appreciated by our Dear Leader.
UPDATE: As of this morning when I wrote this post, the link to the “epistle” was still working, but the United We Serve post publishing the invitation has now been removed. A reader kindly writes:

I noticed United We Serve has already taken down your link to their “epistle.” Here’s a link to an archived page if you want to update it.

The reader comments: “It’s incredible to think they still don’t understand that publishing on the web is permanent. Just the act of trying to cover their tracks admits they recognize how unsavory their activities might appear.”

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