Art, Schmart

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The other morning I was torturing myself listening to KCRW, traffic reports on the Grapevine and how Schwarzenegger was telling Bobby Jindal that California’d be happy to take Louisiana’s bail out money. Then, on Morning Edition, came a report about the breakdown of the 2010 federal budget President Obama submitted to Congress. The reporter/news reader spent 2-3 minutes talking about how generous the funding for the arts was and evaluating the pros/cons of arts funding.

Yes, after all of the studies, after all of the evidence, after the cultural vacuum left by Jesse Helms and the ants which crawled out of his ranting to reproduce and to perpetuate the non-debate entitled, Should The Arts Get Funded?

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Because the answer to that question is so important (I mean that), I will leave the defense of the artists and art itself first to History and second to some greater mind than my own. The short answer: Yes. Our entire notion of civil society and self conception is reflected in the support artists do, or don’t, get. So this post is not about should we or shouldn’t we fund the arts. No. This post is about the ridiculous editorializing which increasingly shows up in non-biased “liberal” media.

A parallel story: in 2003 or 2004, I was happily driving down Sunset on my way to teach a class somewhere and here was NPR’s All Things Considered interviewing a black preacher about gay marriage. Some black preachers are experts on what does or does not constitute civil rights – apparently. This joker, the preacher, compared queers getting married to marrying dogs. Chihuahuas, in particular.

Now this sort of twisted slander is not news (although there it was, on the news). These sorts of jokers, like white Rick Warren, are dragged out to present “the other side”. What’s terrible is not that people compare sincere relationships to Chihuahua-loving beastialists, no. What’s terrible is that the news presenters or reporters don’t even challenge such assertions. The news anchor just let the comment go by without comment. I couldn’t believe it.

Don’t worry I’m coming back to the artists but that’s how we got into this whole faux marriage debate in the first place. Suddenly, the Right decided that they had to have something really good to go after Clinton in the 1996 elections. So, although it’s a very obvious strategic move, the usually-quick-queer intelligentsia fumbled right into their hands. All the Right had to do was to assert, Do you think homosexuals should get married like a man and woman currently do? The assertion is embedded and implied: gays want to get married “like a man and woman” do. And, there are only two answers to a question formulated with Do.

While many queers would love marriage I’ll bet there’s many more who would appreciate employment protection, housing laws, partner benefits, immigration rights and 1189 other federal laws currently unavailable to un-married Americans. I’ll bet a lot of un-married straight couples would appreciate these benefits as well. But the queer movement and the Right just asserted this thing about marriage and suddenly the entire movement was about Marriage (with a capital M).

Back to the artists: the other morning this news anchor went through all of the wonderful and generous benefits offered to artists and the Arts in President Obama’s Federal Budget. Then, at the end, the reporter editorialized saying that all those artists had better show that they can produce something that’s worth the investment the budget makes in them. My jaw dropped.

The artists need to produce?!! Was that a joke?!! Here’s the cornerstone of our so-called “liberal” media asking artists to justify their grains of rice support. We don’t insist on accountability and regulation of the trillions we can’t hand over fast enough to AIG, Bank of America, GM and the rest of them but the artists are the ones who have to justify the support given them?! Unconscionable.

If the artists are supposed to produce something for the pennies thrown to them, I can’t wait to see what and all the rest of those Credit default swaps and AIG bonuses produce. I suppose to distract listeners from the avalanche of dollars being vomited into the Swiss bank accounts of Wall Streeters, this inept reporter decided that we ought to pay more attention to what the artists are getting.

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I love Canada (I do gripe about it, though, you can ask my partner) because calling queers Chihuahua lovers is hate speech here. As I’ve said before, the US has yet to figure out what the difference is between hate speech and free speech. Go ask a Canadian. And the reporters here do more of their job than any American outlet (save KPFK and Amy Goodman). They hold Jack Layton (Head of NDP) or Jim Flaherty’s (Finance Minister) feet to the fire. Yes, we even have sort of-Socialists here. When politicians and others make an un/founded assertion, reporters insist that they justify it. And for all of the stone-faced Canadian provincialism – Canadians know the difference between getting the whole story and pandering to a bunch of political strategists threatening lack of access.

Oh, Canada!!

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~ by Thom on March 19, 2009.

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