The yelping began almost as soon as Jesse Helms proposed his plan for bringing the National Endowment for the Arts under control. Helms’ amendment would forbid the use of federal funds to “Promote, disseminate or produce indecent materials.” There was hardly a respectable newspaper that did not yell “censorship” and decry this attempt to “politicize the arts.” Why is it politicization only when something happens to conflict with their politics? Tom Wicker, as usual, had the best comment. Calling Senator Helms “the Senate’s most persistent yahoo,” he warned that his efforts will have a chilling effect on creativity and arts patronage.
God bless the Yahoos, if it does. Even under a sober and responsible NEA administration—which we have never had and will never have—it would still be hard to justify the expenditure of public funds on the personal hobbies of assorted screwballs, but in the current climate of “the arts” in America, giving grants to painters and sculptors is like subsidizing pushers. If the President or Congress want to play the patron with the public purse, let them go out and buy art for public places where the politicians can be held accountable for their bad taste. (TF)