Barack Obama's Art Brigades Are Coming for You

Matt Drudge is playing up Andrew Breitbart's latest Obama conspiracy theory—that he is enlisting the aid of the all-powerful visual arts cartel in support of healthcare reform. How long before artist thugs are dragging conservatives from their homes?

The diabolical alliance between Obama and his art-gangsters was struck in two shadowy conference calls last month, one allegedly hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the other by the NEA-funded Americans for Arts. Both calls invited artists to discuss ways to "make change happen" and featured representatives from the White House's Office of Public Engagement.

Drudge calls them "propaganda" calls, and hints darkly that someone lied or something about who sponsored them. It's unclear whether these were simply random conference calls hosted by artist-activists and nonprofits at which representatives of the White House and NEA appeared, or whether they were actual White House-directed efforts to get a bunch of artists on the phone. Patrick Courrielche, a blogger at Breitbart's Big Hollywood, thinks it's the latter: "What appears to be emerging is a concerted and deliberate effort by the White House and the NEA to encourage the art community to create issue specific art."

Oh dear. If Obama's way to ram healthcare legislation through is to convince artists—the group of Americans who collectively wield the smallest conceivable quantum of influence over anything, at all—to, um, do art stuff in favor of it, we are all screwed. If his idea of propaganda is a mixed-media show about the insurance industry at a community center in Deerfield, Illinois, then he's the least competent fascist in the history of fascism.

We should say that we are somewhat sympathetic to Courrielche's position. If this is indeed a White House-led effort—and there's no clear evidence that it is—it is wrongheaded. Even the suggestion that NEA money could be doled out to artists based on political criteria should be avoided, and any artist worth the name ought to feel uncomfortable about joining any conference call at all, let alone one that features Kal Penn in his duties as White House liaison to the arts community. Courrielche's initial post on the subject at Big Hollywood is actually thoughtful, well-considered, and largely devoid of hyperbole. His second post claims to uncover a thicket of lies and rants about propaganda. Hey! That's also the one Drudge linked to. What do you know?

Anyway, plenty of artists obviously support Obama's agenda, but because they are just artists and nobody pays any attention to them, they are powerless to do anything about it. Now let's hope they go back to taking pictures of urine-soaked crucifixes and men with whip-handles up their assholes, so crazy wingnuts will have more interesting things to be outraged about.