Wednesday, January 14, 2009

WARNING! THE LIBERAL ARTS ARE ABOUT TO GET LIBERALLER! There's been a movement afoot to get Obama to appoint a "Secretary of the Arts." Earlier this month ArtNet ran a gossipy item suggesting that "the buzz in art-and-politics precincts has the new administration seriously considering the idea of an official White House Office of the Arts, overseeing all things having to do with the arts and arts education." That's news to me, and as you know I run with a pretty artsy crowd (minces limp-wristedly, rolls eyes). From the item and Adaptistration's discussion of it, the idea seems to be better management of those lucky devils who get government arts grants and such like, and the "creation of an 'artist corps'" which sounds like the New Deal's federal arts projects. Well, if some of us can paint murals instead of three coats of green for our supper, great.

OK, you've heard what I think. Let's bring out our special guest, Warner Todd Huston of RedState. (Band plays "Dueling Banjos"; Huston enters, glares.)
Where is the outrage that a president dares imagine that HE should be telling artists what to do with his little “art czar”? Where is the “artistic integrity” of these purported artists who so often wish to claim they are free of coercion or control by government and should remain so? Why is it that they don’t seem to mind The One taking control of their world of art?

Ah, but that is just it, isn’t it? These so-called artists really HAVE no principles. They love them some Obama and that is all they need to turn around and paradoxically cast their general disdain of government out the proverbial window. Of course, wait until the next Republican gets in office and see them suddenly remember that they want their freedom from oppressive government, eh?

But, for now, the silence from the “art” community is deafening.
Boy, that takes me back. In my copywriting days I often felt then as if I were selling out to The Man, and in fact I was. (Now that I'm a journalist I have no such worries -- second shift at Starbucks would be a step up, socially as well as economically.) The Man was not, in is this case, an elected Democratic official, but I still had to do what he said, at least while at the office.

In truth, anyone holding a bourgeois "job" with its "rules" and "goals" and "sexual harrassment policy" is to some extent putting his talent at the service of he who pays the shilling. That, as we used to say in the warehouse, is why they call it work, and why so many novels are written after hours.

Maybe Huston feels let down that even such creatures of tinsel and glamour are subject to these mundane constraints. (He did contribute to a book called Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture -- actually it just says he "appears," so maybe they used his headshot as a dingbat.) Oh, I'm just being mischievous: Huston is the sort that perpetually seethes about those artists (alternately, "purported artists" or "so-called artists" or "'art'ists" -- the only real ones are Mel Gibson and Dennis Miller) in their berets and leotards who giggle over their absinthe about stupid Republicans. And now they've got the nerve to take hypothetical government money for their so-called purported "art" that could be going to churches!

Where is the outrage? Huston sucked it all up and there's none left for the rest of us, at least until we find out the new Obama Theatre Project wants us to do Cymbeline in an Iowa barn. (And no craft service -- Maw will fix us some vittles, and we can foam our milk straight from the udder.)

If Huston is too upmarket for you, you can go to FreeRepublic and hear them roar about "Obama’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda," "Purveyors of bullwhip in anus and crucifix in urine art," etc. I think it's safe to say their concern that Big Gummint will control the arts is feigned. If jackbooted arts commissars demanded production of a thousand neo-Soviet realist novels it's unlikely they would notice; they've already been told, endlessly, that the arts are all run by a liberal cabal anyway. There's a whole website all about it! As long as Obama doesn't take "Deal or No Deal" off the air, it touches them not.

In other words, they don't yell about the arts and the people who make them because they appreciate them, but because they've been trained to hate them.

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