Artistic License Indeed
Last week, George Will observed "the Obama administration's incontinent lust to politicize everything":
"This is just the beginning," said Yosi Sergant to participants in an Aug. 10 conference call that seems to have been organized by the National Endowment for the Arts and certainly was joined by a functionary from the White House Office of Public Engagement. The call was the beginning of the end of Sergant's short tenure as NEA flack -- he has been reassigned. The call also was the beginning of a small scandal that illuminates something gargantuan -- the Obama administration's incontinent lust to politicize everything.
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The NEA is the nation's largest single source of financial support for the arts, and its grants often prompt supplemental private donations. He who pays the piper does indeed call the tune, and in the four months before the conference call, 16 of the participating organizations received a total of nearly $2 million from the NEA. Two days after the call, the 16 and five other organizations issued a plea for the president's health care plan.
The automobile industry and much of the financial sector have been broken to the saddle of the state. Ninety percent of new mortgages and 80 percent of student loans -- the average family's two most important financial transactions -- are financed or guaranteed by the federal government. Now the Obama administration is tightening the cinch on subsidized artists, conscripting them into the crusade to further politicize the 17 percent of the economy that is health care.
Time was, artists were proudly adversarial regarding authority, the established order, etc. "Epater le bourgeois!" and all that. Now they are just another servile interest group seeking morsels from the federal banquet. Are they real artists? Sure, because in this egalitarian era, government reasons circularly: Art is whatever an artist says it is, and an artist is whoever produces art. So, being an artist is a self-validating vocation.
To be fair though, plenty of artists during the 20th century paid lip-service to "Epater le bourgeois!" and appeared to be "proudly adversarial regarding authority" while in reality, were anything but.
Today, such practices aren't limited to the NEA, of course:
MoveOn.org has just released a new ad, featuring several top Hollywood stars, which makes a strong plea for the passage of a public option in national health care reform.
The ad is in the form of a sarcastic public service appeal on behalf of insurance company executives. "Something terrible is happening," Ferrell says at the beginning. "Health insurance executives are getting a bad rap."
Another voice continues: "As the health care debate heats up, we need to remember who the real victims are: health insurance executives. People are saying a lot of mean things about health insurance companies and their executives, and it's got to stop."
"These great businessmen are American heroes," the ad continues. "So why is Obama trying to reform health care when insurance companies are doing just fine, making billions of dollars in profit?" The actors go on to mock-praise insurance companies for having the good sense to deny coverage to the truly needy. "Insurance companies need our support, because they keep our selfish priorities in check when we can't," the ad says. Ferrell continues: "And insurance companies are detail-oriented enough to deny claims for things like typos. If you spell something wrong, do you deserve surgery? I don't think so."
"Eighty percent of the American public support the public plan, because it would give quality care people can actually afford," says Hamm. "The public option would make insurance companies lower their prices and give better service in order to compete." But Ferrell responds, "Insurance company CEO's have a right to their American dream: five houses, a private plane, $500 million in your pocket…"
According to the Internet Movie Database, Ferrell's salaries on some of his recent motion pictures were:
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) $20,000,000
- Bewitched (2005) $20,000,000
- Kicking & Screaming (2005) $20,000,000
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) $7,000,000
As Jim Treacher jokes on Twitter, "Some might say Will Ferrell is wildly overpaid for running around in his underpants. Those people are UN-AMERICAN."