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Nowhere To Fall
Hoodboy on Pakistan
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Zaps - 10-09
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Religious Right Goes After the National Endowment for the Arts, Again
It used to be that the mere mention of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) would quickly draw fire from the right wing. In the 1990s, "Defund the NEA" became a rallying cry that was regularly heard in the halls of Congress. Demonizing the NEA was a fundraising tool that kept giving and giving. Over the past decade, however, in part because the agency appeared to consciously distance itself from funding controversial art projects and in part because the Christian Right moved on to other more buzz-worthy issues (abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration), fighting funding for the NEA was no longer at the top of the right-wing agenda.
However, new concern over President Obama's stimulus money is being used to again focus attention on the NEA. A July Fox News report pointed out that some money from the Recovery and Reinvestment Act earmarked for the NEA wound up stimulating a "pornographic" film project, a long-running pansexual performance series, and a dance production featuring naked dancers.
While the Fox report acknowledged that the bulk of the $80 million in stimulus funds the NEA received was going to "needy artists nationwide, and [that] most of the money [was] being spent to help preserve jobs in museums, orchestras, theaters and dance troupes that have been hit hard by the recession," it pointed out that a small portion of the funds went to support "pornographic" offerings. Fox pointed to "an adult horror film" shown at San Francisco's Frameline Theater, which is a "gay-themed art cinema house that hosts an annual film festival," according to the Edge, a Boston, Massachusetts-based publication. The Edge noted, "the Frameline Theater was given $50,000 of stimulus money," a miniscule portion of the money meant to be distributed by the NEA.
According to the Edge, the Fox piece was unclear about "whether or not the money went toward any screenings of the 'pornographic' film …Thundercrack," which the article described as "the world's only underground kinky art porno horror film, complete with four men, three women and a gorilla." In an e-mail, Frameline director K.C. Price wrote, "The grant is not intended for a specific program; it's to be used for the preservation of jobs at our media arts nonprofit organization over the next year during the economic downturn."
Another San Francisco arts outfit, CounterPULSE, which programs a "long-running pansexual performance series" that is advertised with an invitation to "join your fellow pervs for some explicit, twisted fun," received a $25,000 grant, according to Fox News.
A third grant of $25,000 was given to Jess Curtis/Gravity, which is currently promoting a "Symmetry Project," described as: "Two naked bodies interact through a highly structured improvisational score, constricted in a specific physical habit; that of moving symmetrically, relative to themselves or to each other. In this space of temporary 'habitus,' the two bodies are constantly tuning, reformulating the perception of the self and of the other. In the sharing of a central axis, spine, mouth, genitals, face, and anus reveal their interconnectedness and centrality in embodied experience. Limbs entangle and intertwine creating an inter-corporeal kaleidoscope of flesh. A kind of uber-intimacy develops."
Fox reported that "more than 50 congressmen [sic] sent a letter blasting what they called 'indecent' and 'abhorrent' art projects funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill." Although claiming that their "intent is not to censor artistic freedom," the letter, written by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and sent to NEA acting chair Patrice Powell, expressed concern "that taxpayers are stuck paying for projects that are antithetical to our values and culture.… There is no justification for using tax dollars on the abhorrent projects. As such, the money should be immediately returned."
The National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965 through the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act. Its mission has been "to foster the excellence, diversity and vitality of the arts in the United States, and to broaden public access to the arts." In the early 1990s, for conservatives who had opposed any public funding for the arts—unless those funds were earmarked for a conservative legislator's district—bashing the NEA became a lucrative cottage industry. Not a week would pass without a hefty envelope in the mail from David Horowitz's then Center for the Study of Popular Culture (now the David Horowitz Freedom Center), Martin Mawyer's Christian Action Network, or Donald Wildmon's American Family Association (AFA) that highlighted the NEA.
My favorite direct mail—sent by AFA—contained a small envelope tucked inside a larger envelope warning supporters to look inside at their own risk. The envelope contained a series of bad reproductions of Robert Mapplethorpe photos, which were part of "Mapplethorpe's X Portfolio series [that] sparked national attention in the early 1990s when it was included in The Perfect Moment, a traveling exhibition funded by [the NEA].… Conservative and religious organizations, such as the [AFA]… seized on this exhibition to vocally oppose government support for what they called 'nothing more than the sensational presentation of potentially obscene material'" (Wikipedia).
Controversial artists who were associated with NEA-funded projects—Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano ("Piss Christ"), the "NEA Four" (Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, and Tim Miller), Joel Peter Witkin—were vilified by the religious right. Film festivals, small arts groups, and museum exhibits that may have received NEA funding were scrutinized. The New York Guardian reported that an art project about POW/ MIAs that dealt with U.S.-perpetrated atrocities in Vietnam had received NEA funding. The American Family Association criticized an NEA grant given to the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, which supposedly was used to help support three gay and lesbian film festivals.
Martin Mawyer, the head of the Christian Action Network, and a persistent critic of the NEA, greeted President Bill Clinton's nomination of actress Jane Alexander to head the agency by saying, "We certainly don't think someone who is beholden to the interests of Hollywood should be chairperson of the NEA." Alexander laid out her vision for the agency in remarks to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. "I cannot promise that under my chairmanship the arts will be free of controversy. The very essence of art, after all, is to hold the mirror up to nature; the arts reflect the diversity and variety of human experience. We are, as Hamlet says, 'the abstracts and brief chroniclers of the time,' and as such, the artist often taps into the very issues of society that are most sensitive."
In the Spring of 1995, the Christian Coalition introduced its "Contract with the American Family," which "argue[d] that the nation should 'abolish all major federal welfare programs' and turn them over to 'private and religious organizations.'" One of the Contract's provisions called for Privatizing the Arts: "The National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Legal Services Corporation should become voluntary organizations funded through private contributions."
In the April 2001 issue of the AFA Journal, Wildmon commented on an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art involving photographer Renee Cox's exhibit entitled "Yo Mama's Last Supper," in which Cox portrayed Jesus Christ at the Last Supper as a naked woman. "Even if NEA funds are not specifically targeted for blasphemous art, the monies are fungible," Wildmon said. "That means, for example, they are placed in the Brooklyn Museum's general fund, which then makes other dollars available to give to so-called artists like Cox. Taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for blasphemy."
"The NEA grants for self-identified pornography or an 'inter-corporeal kaleidoscope of flesh' takes the affront to taxpayers to an entirely new level," the New American, the magazine of the John Birch Society, recently maintained. "Pornography is objectionable to most Americans and Thomas Jefferson once correctly observed: 'To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.'"
Acting NEA Chair Patrice Powell pointed out that, according to federal law, the money could only go for salary support for staff positions or fees for "previously engaged artists and/or contractual personnel that are critical to an organization's artistic mission and in jeopardy of being eliminated as a result of the current economic climate."
Powell's denial did not satisfy Stearns who responded by writing to incoming NEA Chair Rocco Landesman: "I still can find no justification for using tax dollars on these distasteful projects. Americans should not have their taxes go to organizations that produce or sponsor art projects that are hostile to their values." Landesman, a Broadway producer of Angels in America, Big River, and The Producers, was confirmed as the new NEA chair in early August. "It's a daunting thing," Landesman said. "This historically has not been a great job...and the challenge will be to make it one and to really accomplish something."
The NEA currently receives about $190 million in annual funding. Arts groups around the country are due to receive some $50 million extra in stimulus money. However, with Congressperson Stearns clearly upset, and with Landesman at the helm, the battle over NEA funding could once again heat up.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.