I heard about this yesterday. It pissed me off. A lot.
I remember, way back when, the theatre blogging community was all a-buzz about having an "Arts Czar," a cabinet-level person with the ear of the administration to advocate for the arts as an essential part of the American landscape. And then this happened. And quite a few people in the arts community jumped on the Glenn Beck, "Obama is a-takin' over our lives" bandwagon. I'm not linking to any of them and, honestly, I'm not going to link to any of them again. I know I'm strident sometimes and say ill-advised things often even, while I'm not Don Hall, I can't let this one go. Anyone who got their panties in a bunch about this phone call, without being on it or getting another perspective or opinion, well, you're a useful idiot. I hope you feel good about yourself, because you hurt the field. Good job.
I don't even think of this as hyperbole. The consevative wing of this country and the GOP have made it their life's work to minimize the role of arts in public life. They have spent twenty-five years teeing off on the NEA, gutting it, in an effort to, as Grover Norquist says, make it small enough to drown in a bathtub. They do not have the best interests of artists in mind. Not to mention the fact that, if you read something about govermental overreach by the Obama Administration, double-check those facts. And then triple-check them. You're dealing with a bunch of liars. So there's that, to begin with.
And, as I said here, you're just reinforcing this notion that art shouldn't address real-world issues, shouldn't be involved in advocacy or the public sphere. Which just makes us all the more useless. Again, as I've already said, I'm against the notion of government-sponsored propaganda, but that wasn't what anyone was talking about here, except lunatics. You wanna listen to lunatics?
My third and final outrage is that we bitch and bitch about the commercialism of theatre, about how hard it is to make a living with your art and, if you do, that means serving some corporate master who is going to keep you from writing what you want. Well, the way out of that system? More governmental support. That's how they do it in Britain, and we all want to be more British. We all envy other countries and their vibrant arts communities. Well, they acheive it by having more governmental support, not less. If we're going to do things that make the arts less indispensible or central, then we're going to be thrust into the arms of rich people. We don't have it both ways. Someone is calling the shots and naming the tune. Personally, I think government support, in general, is more likely to be neutral. But that's me.
Which brings me to my third point. We're not all a bunch of dirty hippies out here in the arts world. I know that. There are conservatives, libertarians, LaRouchites in the arts world. So, maybe, your political philosophy is that the government shouldn't be involved in the arts. Maybe when you read this story, or when you were reading Big Hollywood (which I'm also not going to link to again), like you do, because you agree with it, you saw this story. But if that's the case, tell us about it. The thing I hate the most about the conservatives in the arts is their cowardice. I know it seems like you're outnumbered and that's a sucky place to be. Ask any liberal how it feels to be different. But stand up for your fucking selves and speak up. I make no bones about about a dyed-in-the-wool liberal and I know it shows up in my work. I'm okay with that. It drives me crazy that the conservatives in our community hide what they think and believe, hide behind a facade. If you think that government involvement in the arts is bad, then say so. Upfront.
Okay. Rant over. For a more even-handed version, plus someone who was actually on one of the calls, read this.