Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 01, 2009


Hello Everybody.

"And the beat goes on.............."

I really do not want this blog to become a one-trick pony as it were, and always focus on advocacy / lobbying and our position viz a vis government, but right now we are in the thick of it with the Stimulus Bill inclusion of $50 million for the NEA - and not only is the money important (though it isn't much), but the precedent is even more important as will be the effect of our reaction to supporting it on our momentum going into the year. But this is, I promise, for awhile anyway, my last rant on the subject.


The House version of President Obama's Rescue Stimulus Bill contains $50 million additional funding to the NEA - presumptively to protect existing / create new jobs in the cultural sector. Neo-Con Republicans continue to paint that money as an "earmark" - as pork for far left liberals. Unfortunately, the news media continues to lack any interest in journalistic discovery, and remains talking heads who simply read the teleprompters in front of them, and thus they all simply report the litany of funds the Republicans believe are frill and fluff, continuing the impression with the public of: "here we go again" more government waste of taxpayer money going to the frivilous "arts" and the NEA (which, despite all our good efforts, still remains in much of the public's mind as a waste of money at best and godless Maplethorpe pornography at worst). You all know this to be true.

Now Americans for the Arts and scores of national, regional and local arts organizations are doing the best they can to try to NOT let the Republicans get away with this false characterization, and even the NEA itself is pointing out that this money is EXACTLY designed to do what the Republicans SAY they want - to protect / create jobs. Somehow the Republicans just refuse to accept that a job in the nonprofit sector or the arts is a "real" job. And we - YOU and me, continue to let them get away with it. Yeah, we do.

An example: On the local CBS San Francisco affiliate newcast, they dutifully reported the Republican list of so called "pork" - including, of course, the NEA money. SF is not a bastion of the right wing - but even here the so called 'journalists' basically just copy press releases and they become "news". I was so infuriated I sent them an email pointing out that for them to just automatically parrot the Republican position was both inaccurate and irresponsible journalism - or more accurately a pathetic, false attempt at real journalism. I pointed out (using data from Americans for the Arts) that this funding would help protect jobs in the cultural sector, that the sector was a viable economic engine (more viable than a lot of other sectors)and that museums & performing organizations are inexorably tied to the local tourism / restaurant industries, both of which are critical to the local economy. I don't know if this will help, but I hope they will now not so cavalierly report the NEA funding as a wasteful earmark. I believe that if they got five such emails they might take notice.

The point is this: We can no longer afford to let Americans for the arts and other organizations carry the whole load. We - you, me - every single one of us - has to be vigilant and pay attention to how we are characterized in the media / and to the public, and when we see those who will never "get it" sprewing mischaracterizations and mistruths about funding to the NEA or otherwise, we -- each of us -- need to take the time to call them on it, to call them on the telephone, to send them an email or letter, to provide facts to counter the philosophical babble the other side spreads. It isn't enough to just communicate with our elected officials and urge them to vote in our favor - when we are asked to do so. We need to be more involved than that - we need to monitor the media and work to educate it. If we - each of us - don't do this for at least the next week or two - the Senate may well be persuaded to drop the $50 million from their version of the bill as a compromise measure - and if that happens it will be extremely difficult to re-insert it and we will lose that money at a time we desperately need it. More than that we will have squandered an opportunity to estalish an importnt precedent in our favor, and we will have lost a much needed victory to spur on support for us in the wider public. We will have let momentum die. If you and me wait for somebody else to do it -- you know as well as I do - it won't happen.

And then we can, without any trouble, know exacly who is to blame - all we will have to do is look in the mirror.

So please - just take note of the way television, newspapers, radio and websites characterize the NEA inclusion in the Stimulus Bill, and when you see it characterized falsely as pork for the left wing liberals kooks, I hope you will all become active sentries out there to protect us. Don't let them get away with it. Get angry for once. At least for a week or two.

Have a great week

Don't Quit.