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NEA: Preserving Perversion's Heritage

NEA: Preserving Perversion's Heritage
by L. Brent Bozell III
September 18, 1997

The Senate, to no one's surprise, couldn't muster the guts to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. Once again, a worthless and arrogant federal agency can thank its publicists in the national media. A few weeks back, one such propagandist, CBS's Martha Teichner, took to her "Sunday Morning" soap box to denounce the defunding campaign as "an annual congressional blood sport." Even if the Senate voted to save the NEA, conservatives in the House would "take another whack" at NEA funding.

Words have meaning, and Teichner clearly was attempting to package the conservatives as militant, ruthless savages. And to underscore that point, she brought in liberal spokesmen to say exactly that. Obnoxious actor Alec Baldwin (blandly labeled as "President of the advocacy group the Creative Coalition") snarled: "Gingrich can beat the crap out of the artistic community - because they're powerless and they don't defend themselves - and then go back into the valley and go 'Uhh! Uhh! Uhh!' And hold the bloody head in his hand. And they'll all go 'Uhh! Uhh! Uhh! Uhh!' And be happy. That's what it's all about."

With that wholly unchallenged broadside as an introduction, Teichner allowed Newt Gingrich to explain that 140 congressional districts get no NEA grants. (In fact, over the last ten years, one-third of NEA grants have gone to just five cities.) But the Speaker's attempt at rational dialogue went nowhere: a philistine caveman is a philistine caveman.

Teichner raced over allegations of mismanagement and financial sloppiness: "For Representative Peter Hoekstra, wastefulness is an issue." For a rebuttal, she aired a sentence from NEA boss Jane Alexander's House testimony about the NEA spending $21,000 per employee on computers: "This is our whole information management system and our grants management system." If Teichner punted the opportunity to expose Baldwin's radicalism, now she was simply disregarding her responsibility to point out Alexander's distortions.

Like? Like the NEA Inspector General's report from March 1993 found 57 percent of NEA's reported grants projects costs were not reconcilable with accounting records; 74 percent of personnel costs charged to grant projects were not supported by adequate documentation; and 79 percent of required independent audits were not in compliance with Office of Management and Budget guidelines for federal grants. But none of this came out.

The most ridiculous part of Teichner's report was her dismissal of the obscenity issue

which she dismissed as "the all-time favorite, the one that won't go away." Teichner aired another clip of Alexander's testimony: "I think that the National Endowment for the Arts record should speak for itself, Congressman, in that what is little known is that out of the 112,000 grants that we've made in our 32-year history only about 45 have caused some problems for people. Now that is if you look at the ratio, that's a pretty good success ratio."

Again, not true. Any reporter following both sides of this story would know that. Teichner could have pointed out conservatives have piled up hundreds of individual examples, almost all of which have been ignored by the media. And they can't be stopped: last November, a federal court ruled guidelines calling for "general standards of decency" in grantmaking was "unconstitutional."

Nor are these grants an accident. Jane Alexander told the gay-left magazine The Advocate she intended to use the NEA to "introduce people gently to gay themes across the country." When asked "What sorts of grants would you reject out of hand," Alexander answered: "It's hard to say at this point if there is any grant that I might reject."

NEA critic Laurence Jarvik has his own favorite recent example: a recent New York Times report on the Franklin Furnace, the notorious New York "avant-garde center" frequented by porn star Annie Sprinkle and other pornographic performance artists. The center is selling its real estate for $500,000 to match a half-million dollar challenge grant from the NEA. With that load of money, they plan to create a video archive of all the notorious Franklin Furnace routines and post it on the Internet. It will include hundreds of performances like Tim Miller discussing his sex life naked on stage, and Karen Finley smearing her bare breasts with chocolate, all carefully catalogued and placed upon the World Wide Web, for the world to see.

Oh, the irony of it all, which Teichner could have seen were she not so blinded by ideology: While Bill Clinton earnestly claims his opposition to cyberpron, Jane Alexander's NEA is funding it.