Green Room

That Big Ol’ NEA Scandal… Just Déjà Vu-Du

posted at 1:49 am on September 22, 2009 by

Today saw new posts by Power Line and Patterico’s Pontifications on the newest Obamic scandal; in this one, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was nabbed red-handed leaning on “artists” — rather, those who are so unsuccessful that they must suckle at big government’s teat — to promote the partisan agenda of President Barack H. Obama… presumably with the threat of a cut-off of NEA grants as the “stick,” and new, juicy buckets o’ bucks as the “carrot.”

The prime mover in this case is once again Andrew Breitbart, whose site Big Hollywood is breaking the NEA story — just as Breitbart’s Big Government by and large broke the ACORN story by hosting the first videos of James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles earlier this month.

I think there is no question that Breitbart has the goods on the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, its director Valerie Jarrett (a longtime Obamanista), her deputy director Buffy Wicks, and another federal agency, United We Serve. There is no doubt that the Obamacle is misusing and abusing the public trust, peddling propaganda, and using the threat of government power to coerce (and entice) artists into supporting his partisan agenda

And there is every likelihood that members of the Obama administration — and perhaps the president himself — have engaged in criminal behavior that, in a more rational and law-abiding era, might even lead to impeachment.

But such an era would surely not have been the 1930s and 1940s; and therein lies the reason why this particular scandal fills me with ennui: For an earlier president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, pioneered this exact tactic: using literary writers, playwrights, screenwriters, movie directors, producers, actors, radio dramatists, painters and sculptors, songwriters, composers, singers and entire orchestras — and all the trade unions, professional societies, and literary and artistic guilds associated with the arts — to advance his own leftist agenda for America.

And critics were not only called “unpatriotic,” they were subject to arrest… if the mobs fomented by Roosevelt’s New Deal cult didn’t tear them limb from limb first. Let’s see Barack Obama and his puny New Black Panther Party and SEIU unionistas top that.

Throughout the FDR 30s, Hollywood was pressured into making numerous propaganda promos for the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the primary vehicle of New Deal socialism and vicious anti-Capitalism; these promos starred the biggest names in Hollywood and villified the profit motive, competition, individualism, and liberty in practice (while extolling liberty in name only). But there were also a great many major, A-release features that self-consciously pushed Rooseveltianism slyly, as storyline in mere dramas and comedies.

The Communist (read: Stalinist) Left had so taken over Tinseltown that there was a “redlist” long before there was a blacklist. Anti-Communist actors, such as Adolph Menjou, saw their careers severely damaged. By contrast, lefty producers, directors, and screenwriters benefitted tremendously from their Party affiliation.

And not just Hollywood; painters and sculptors were likewise pressed into service to sell the American people on one of the most radical leftist programs ever foisted upon this country. The very reason those Obama posters from last year’s election look so familiar is that the heroic-worker style is copied wholesale from the 1930s New Deal posters.

Songwriters were pressured to sell the NRA and rural electrification and Social Security and all of it. Good Lord, Barack Obama is a pathetic, little wannabe huckster compared to the Master of Evil, he with his mile-wide grin and mile-long cigarette holder.

But the corruption sank even deeper, for it wasn’t just American leftism that the president was pushing, using the arts and farces as his populist bulldozer: Roosevelt himself personally ordered Jack Warner (an anti-Communist studio head) to produce a sickening, fawning, bootlicking paeon to Josef “Uncle Joe” Stalin torn from the pages of the journal kept by Roosevelt’s hand-picked ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies.

The movie was titled Mission to Moscow (1943)… and I rib you not, you cannot possibly believe what I say about it until you actually see it. We learn that peace-loving Uncle Joe has always been a great friend to America; he tried as hard as he could to bring about peace between the allies and the axis. Russia is full of nothing but happy, contented people — well fed, free and independent, able to speak their minds on any subject with no threat from the government. (This is in stark contrast to Germany, where everybody suffers under the bootheel of oppression by the Nazis.)

Factories are run by the workers, who labor solely for the good of all. Eventually, we get to the infamous show trials… wherein we discover that all those Trotskyites were really just — Nazi spies!

The Hitler-Stalin pact goes unremarked in the movie, though it had been signed, sealing the alliance between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and finally abrogated two years before the movie was released; nor does the movie (or book) dwell on the dismemberment of Poland by Germany and — who was that again? — and the Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik.

But the most jaw-hinging aspect of Mission to Moscow is its provenance: It was made from the allegedly nonfiction book written in 1941 by Ambassador Davies when he returned from his posting to the Soviet Union; and Davies, an attorney who chaired the FTC under Woodrow Wilson, was personally selected by FDR for that “mission.” Ye gods, imagine what peril the nation was in, when a man like that could be sent to one of the most delicate, sensitive diplomatic posts in the known universe.

When I decry Roosevelt defiling the arts by drafting them into his leftist political agenda, I’m not talking about movies made simply to help the war effort; that’s mere patriotism. But even deep into the 1940s, FDR pushed Hollywood to release movies that went far beyond “demonizing” the Nazis (if such a thing is possible) and the Imperial Japanese or even praising our ally, the Soviet Union… movies like:

  • Keeper of the Flame (1942 — written by Communist Donald Ogden Stewart in consultation with the Bureau of Motion Pictures in the U.S. Office of War Information): Katherine Hepburn discovers her husband, in concert with a number of veterans, plans a fascist coup d’état. Damn Republicans… they’re everywhere!
  • Tender Comrade (1943 — written by Dalton Trumbo and directed by Edward Dmytryk, both later members of the “Hollywood Ten”): Ginger Rogers and other wives of servicemen discover the joys of living in communal farms — just like in the Soviet Union! — while their husbands are off fighting the Nazis. Incidentally, in case anyone is interested, Dalton Trumbo joined the Party during the Hitler-Stalin pact… such much for him merely being a “premature anti-fascist.”
  • Song of Russia (1944): An orchestra conductor travels to the USSR shortly before the Nazi invasion — which means during the pact, of course — and sees, as Wikipedia so perfectly puts it, “happy, healthy, smiling, free Soviet citizens, blissfully living the Communist dream.”

Each of these movies, along with others (e.g., the North Star, 1943) sang the praises not of Russia but of Communism, and worse, of Stalinism. And each of these films was made by studios that were in near constant contact with the U.S. Office of War Information. This was Roosevelt’s baby, his conduit to wartime posters, wartime movies, wartime radio, and so on.

It was not used merely to promote patriotism and support for the war; as seen above, it was a powerful federal agency that pushed the graphic arts (fine and pop), literature, movies, drama, and music to support FDR’s political agenda and encourage the hysterical Roosevelt-worship that characterized his entire reign. The OWI was established by executive order in 1942 and lasted through the war — though in 1944, Congress was so disturbed by some of its domestic projects that it defunded, among other elements, the Bureau of Motion Pictures.

But even death did not release the arts community — not the Bureau’s death, nor even FDR’s. After Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945, his skeletal hands reached and clutched at we the living; the project continued, and we got movies like It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) — in which we discover that the banks should simply forgive all their loans and redistribute the wealth — and High Noon (1952) — all the more corrupt and vile for the sheer artistry of its propaganda, and its duping of dim bulb Gary Cooper: Marshal Will Kane must stand alone against Sen. Joseph McCarthy — er, I mean outlaw Frank Miller — and the ravening hordes of HUAC… I mean, his two thugs.

The story of High Noon is set in or about 1900, but it makes not the slightest lick of historical sense; if the town was that worried about Miller, they would simply have formed a committee of vigilance, surrounded the train depot, and either ordered Miller to hop back aboard and ride the iron rail to the end of the line… or just blown him to glory with their own rifles and scatterguns. No need to interrupt the marshal’s honeymoon.

When I gaze upon the awe-inspiring majesty of the New Deal’s corruption of art for political propaganda, not to promote good citizenship and patriotism but specifically to promote the partisan political projects of Franklin Roosevelt, and the joyous brazenness of FDR’s blasphemy and heresy within the chapel of freedom and liberty he inherited — and then I turn my eye to the insignificant insect bites of Obamunism’s own arts project… honest to mercy, I just find that my give-a-damn’s busted.

Sorry, no red meat on this one. I’ll stick with the much more significant and systematic dismantling of ACORN.

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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Comments

So, like I’ve always said, Sen. Joe Mc Carthy was right and a real patriot.

Jeff from WI on September 22, 2009 at 6:23 AM

Dafydd, like you I think Obama’s efforts to coopt the arts have been piss poor. I’ll know we’re in real trouble wwhen the NEA commissions a movie decrying the terrible wrongs with which the Iranian protestors have troubled their overly patient leaders, and cheering on the legitimate efforts of the security services to maintain peace.

MTF on September 22, 2009 at 3:16 PM

Whether your “give-a-damn” is busted or not, that doesn’t change the fact that both FDR and Obama were/are exercising grotesque abuses of the executive office.

Just because FDR got away with it, doesn’t mean Obama should also. That is the point, one that you missed. Although I did appreciate the history lesson and understand your point. Well done.

uknowmorethanme on September 22, 2009 at 8:10 PM