by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If art is inherently political (it isn’t, but let’s go with it) why would liberals want Donald Trump to control its funding? Why wouldn’t the average free-thinking non-authoritarian want the state’s imprimatur removed from art, especially in a nation where there aren’t any limitations on free expression? What action could possibly undermine control freaks more than removing the state from the art business?
Of course, control is the very reason liberals love the NEA. That’s because the sort of art they fund occasionally “annoys” only a particular kind of person in America. And those people are rarely in charge even when Republicans are in the White House. The concern for free expression is contingent on the ideological message. If the NEA were staffed by social-conservative administrators who subsidized work with inherently political dissenting messages that included “abortion is murder” or “marriage is between a man and a woman” or “Islam is misogynistic,” the Left would be howling about how government shouldn’t be involved in art. And they’d be right.
In any event, though conservatives have traditionally been more annoyed by the NEA for funding hackneyed political statements that pose as art, they should not forget PBS. It takes in $445 million in taxpayer dollars each year so that millions of upper-middle-class Americans can watch “Masterpiece Theatre” without having to pollute their eyeballs with a fast food or car commercial.
At some point in the past, public funding for a culture-heavy network like PBS probably made sense, since there were only three major networks monopolizing the airwaves with their mediocrity. Today, most Americans have an array of affordable cultural and educational programming available on their televisions.
Moreover, forcing an American citizen to pay for speech he finds morally or ideologically offensive is an “authoritarian” act.