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Is Mitt Romney America’s homegrown Taliban?

Reactions to the Republican candidate’s pledge to abolish publish funding for public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts have aimed at the small-mindedness of the proposal, its failure to save much money and its fundamental stupidity.

That strikes me as misguided. Governor Romney is not a stupid man. He knows the move will save no money, but he also senses that it will appeal to millions of Americans who think their money is being handed out to cultural ‘elites’ rather than to local amenities. Kill the NEA is a popular slogan in Kansas and points west. It’s a vote-winner.

What the voters can’t see is the sinister parallels for such policies. In their occupation of Poland in the Second World War, the Nazi plan was to eradicate Polish culture and not to allow the populace access to education and literacy, beyond learning to read numbers up to 100. Under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, education was based on a strict interpretation of the Koran and confined to boys. All relics of previous, non-Islamic culture were scandalously eradicated.

The Buddhas of Bamiyan were blown up in 2001.

What Mitt Romney promises America is a comparable demolition of its culture and the reduction of broadcasting to the celebby inanities of commercial channels and internet sites. The phoney dogma of market forces will rule America. Mitt Romney will be its Taliban liberator. That’s the real danger that looms in November.

 

 

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Comments

  1. another orchestra musician says:

    The comparison with Ahmadinejad would be more apt. In the present context, Mitt Romney is a mouthpiece. He says what he has been instructed his handlers and his target audience want him to say, in exchange for allowing him to continue talking.

  2. Emil Archambault says:

    Taliban, really? You of course know that the Talibanss are known for murdering people, right? Like, murdering and torturing large numbers of people for ideological reasons. There is no plan by anyone in the US to prevent children to learn to read.

    Really, this is nothing more than abject name-calling. I fail to see how calling anyone a Taliban or a Nazi helps prove your point.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      - I agree that Romney is a mouthpiece.

      - I agree with Emil’s arguments.

      - I am sure Romney believes he should be the next US president and that deeply believes in avoiding to pay his own taxes. Otherwise I don’t believe Romney’s words but I do believe that he would not support arts and education.

      - Maybe Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies should be expanded to included contemporary extremist analogies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

    • another orchestra musician says:

      The Taliban certainly are crude and brutal in a way that makes their comparison with Rove Republicans problematic. But these two optically very differing groups do share an underlying current of tribalism and intolerance. Tribalism and intolerance are cornerstones of most extremist ideologies, and are common motivators of murderous violence.

      Here, several extracts from the 2012 Texas GOP platform:

      Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

      American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism.

      Sex Education – We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage.

      U.S. Department of Education – Since education is not an enumerated power of the federal government, we believe the Department of Education (DOE) should be abolished.

      • Emil Archambault says:

        The Taliban or Nazi denomination is forever associated with mass murder and torture. There has been many narrow-minded, retrograde, nationalist, ideological groups. However, you have to take the immense difference in method between Talibans and other groups.

        Besides, labeling people/groups brings nothing new; some will call Romney a Nazi/Taliban, others will call Obama a Marxist fascist Islamist, and the result is nothing more than a general hatred.

        Tell me that Romney is planning on severely harming the Arts, fine.
        Tell me he does not believe in the value of higher education, in sexual education, in science, etc. Tell me his program is based on restrictive nationalism. That’s all fact-based. But there is no logical reason for calling him a Taliban.

        @Petros
        I was thinking of the Godwin Law as well. A well deserved Godwin point here.

  3. harold braun says:

    He definitely is.

  4. Norman, as much as I despise Romney (his abuse of his dog alone disqualifies him from my vote), I think your analogy is a bit of a stretch.

    The sad fact is, there has long been a distrust of high culture among large stretches of the American populace. Unless they are commercially successful, artists of all kinds are seen as slackers, effete, and anti-Religion. The time when Classical music was seen as something for the general populace to appreciate peaked in the 1930s and has been in decline since the 1960s.

    Romney represents that mentality to a T.

  5. I’m voting for Obama, but this kind of name-calling is exactly the kind of talk we don’t need. Romney is a lot of things, but he is not Hitler, or Mullah Omar, or anyone of that ilk. Give me a break.

  6. Romney and his kind (and there are more of them around than anyone reading would want to count) don’t care about music, art, expression, literature, or even philosophy. They think only about money and power. That’s the way they are wired. He and his kind don’t like PBS’s, liberally-slanted (non-partisan, actually) news, and its informative programs about the kind of science that the people who would profit from a Romney presidency don’t want the public knowing about. I doubt that anyone in the Romney family has ever watched “Live from Lincoln Center,” or, for that matter, ever listened to music on an NPR station. These things just don’t matter in their world. Taliban? That’s a bit of a leap. I don’t think that Mitt would go so far as to ban musical instruments, because they are commercial goods, and as long as people buy them, someone makes a profit.

    The biggest problem for people involved with music, either as a “maker” or as a listener, with this mindset is that it values the salesman (and I deliberately didn’t add the other gender to that profession) as the greatest exponent of American culture, and the sales pitch as its greatest medium for artistic expression. When I look at America through his eyes (and I spent a year working at Bain as a typist, so I have some experience) I see a country devoid of everything I grew up believing was of cultural value.

  7. The targeting of the NEA as an unwilling pawn in the culture wars has been going on for nearly thirty years . Right wing Republicans have been exploiting the NEA as a convenient scapegoat with which they can consistently energize their base. It’s a profoundly hypocritical and damaging line of attack, and they clearly know it, but it has worked so well for them they don’t seem to care.

    Romney maintained the arts funding status quo in Massachusetts, then tried to throw a bone to the right wing by cutting the NEA budget in half, but when his campaign started getting desperate we suddenly heard he’d Etch a Sketched that out, and he’d get rid of it altogether. So it’s now clear the NEA is just a political pawn for him as well.

    On another point, for anyone accusing Norman of going too far, you should watch this, a series of pretty compelling BBC films that “compare the rise of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the radical Islamist movement”:

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-power-of-nightmares/

    • Just been reading some of the other posts.

      Really, I mean it. Before anyone accuses Norman of exaggeration (or worse), watch this film. Norman is not the only one who feels that there are forces in the right wing and the neo-cons that need to be checked, and they won’t be if Romney is elected.

      • The real terror in all of this is, those right wing forces won’t be checked if Romney loses. Big Corp is pulling the strings of both puppets. We’re on the downside of a very big hill that should never have been climbed.

  8. Francis Schwartz says:

    Does anybody remember Mencken’s “Boobocracy” reference? While I would never compare Governor Romney to such abominations as the Nazis, he does cater to many ‘know nothings’, who fear (yes,,fear) the intelligentsia of the world.. This type of ‘egg-head’ scorn is promoted by the powerful media magnates and corporate barons who do not wish for the electorate to exercise critical thinking. It’s all about preserving power and wealth.

  9. This is simply an absurd comparison. Gov Romney is not interested in destroying arts culture but simply is saying that Public Broadcasting needs to find another funding model and that the NEA is irrelevant in terms of the overall state of the arts in the United States. Public Broadcasting and the serious arts parted company many years ago: it has become a purveyor of largely commercial fare; the NEA by moving to the fringe of the arts world made itself irrelevant. If the economy and business prosper under a Romney administration, then the arts will benefit with individuals and companies more able to support the arts organisations of their choice. The US government forgoes more tax revenue because of the deduction for contributions to qualifying arts organisations than many European governments give out as subsidies. It’s simply a different model and I would note that in Europe, the government funding model is not working well at the moment. A mixed model is ideal but at least in the United States, a new administration’s first order of business is to get the economy functioning and eliminate the cycle of indebtedness that harms the value and credibility of the dollar and weakens all institutions, including the arts.

    Romney is not proposing to demolish historic monuments because he doesn’t approve of them.

    • He is, however, proposing to demolish a liberal civilisation of which he does not approve. The analogy stands.

      • Emil Archambault says:

        Why did you choose to call him a ‘Taliban’? Why not a Hippie (also aiming at changing an order they did not approve of)? The only reason you chose to call him a Taliban is because of the shock value and its insulting nature. When you compare, you need to have some consideration for facts.

        What you do is nothing different than anyone who throws around the ‘Nazi’ label to everyone they disagree with. The fact remains that Talibans killed and tortured massive numbers of people. Romney has not.

        I ask you again; what constructive argument does this analogy bring to the debate?

      • However, in order to disapprove, on must know the subject at hand first. He doesn’t hate liberal civilization like the Taliban do. He just is ignorant about it.
        He simply doesn’t know about arts as forms of highest representations of civilization and thus sees no loss in doing away with it.
        The problem with Romney is, he only knows business, making money and more money. He is a highly sophisticated idiot so to speak. If it is not profitable (in monetary terms), it doesn’t have value to him. Homo economicus.
        It’s the degeneration of a whole civilization and Romney is one of it’s prophets.
        Idiocracy meets Plutocracy.
        Too bad his wealthy parents didn’t provide for him a good humanistic education. Or did they?

      • First time I heard of “liberal civilization”. Are we talking about Western Civ, you know the one that is supposed to be based on Judeo-Christian values? Is that the one he is trying to destroy, or rather preserve?

      • Michael Endres says:

        Agree with you Norman .That is exactly the point !! A liberal civilisation is at stake here. I quote Rick Santorum,ideological spearhead of the Republican Right ,on par with Romney’s right wing Vice president candidate Paul Ryan: “One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a Libertianish right. They have this idea that people should be left alone,be able to do whatever they want to do,government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low,that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom,we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. That is not how traditional conservatives view the world.”

      • Eh? I thought the pretext of all this was that the fund he wishes to abolish contributes very little, in the grand scheme of arts funding across the States, so it’s all just rhetoric to please voters without having a particularly sizeable impact overall. Smoke-n-mirrors, typical “Indian Bicycle Marketing”, and there’s no need to read much in to it. (If anything his plans are arguably helpful – they pacify those who would genuinely slash arts funding, deliver very little actual cuts to arts organisations, and give the arts a fine excuse to seek new donors / more from their existing while complaining about what a miserable cultureless so-and-so he is)

        If you believed what a politician says rather than what they do, or the effect of doing what they propose, then you’d think Gordon Brown was actually good with money, and that Osborne and the Tories were actually making cuts, rather than increasing spending as they are. Why is Romney so different? It’s what they actually do that counts.

        • Paul Scanling says:

          Never let the facts get in the way of sensationalism. The President of the United States does not have the authority to end funding to the arts or destroy liberal/western/whatever civilization. The federal funding of the arts is a small percentage of the total arts funding in America.

          Also, just because he has proposed REDUCING federal arts funding does not mean that he does not care about or know about the arts. That’s a pretty large leap to get from one to the other.

    • Gregg Whiteside says:

      Michael, thank you. Reading an intelligent comment by an obviously intelligent man is such a rare treat.
      Much appreciated.

    • The NEA has not moved to the fringes, to the contrary it has spread its support widely with making lots of smaller grants across the country rather than fewer larger ones. It’s also expanded its support of education and has forged a range of new partnerships which is expanding arts access.

      The NEA supports a level of quality in the arts that will disappear if it goes. That part of the arts ecology will wither away, and the rest will suffer from the lack. As a result the individuals and companies you mention will have less of a choice of what to support – and those who remain will likely be the larger companies.

      Where’s the data on whether tax deductions make up for the gap between arts funding by US governments and European governments? Because this gap is huge. Or are you just going to throw the idea of deductions out there and not bother to do the math, like someone else I could name?

      In the meantime, here’s some hard data about how much the arts contribute to the economy. The story it tells is that the arts funding mix that the NEA has helped to underpin all these years has succeeded in creating millions of jobs and tax revenues that dwarf the amount of the NEA budget. http://www.artsusa.org/information_services/research/services/economic_impact/iv/national.asp

      And have you been to Europe lately? I have. I went to the Ruhrtriennale, which had a programme of a quality, depth and scale that would be the envy of any US festival. There may be problems with funding – let’s face it, there always are – but we in the US have a lot more arts funding problems than Europe has, and the higher production values and much greater density of arts provision in Europe are clear evidence of that.

      However, I do agree with you that Romney isn’t interested in destroying arts culture. It’s more a matter of indifference. He doesn’t seem to be interested in what happens to arts culture, period. His greatest interest seems to be getting into office. And if he does, I don’t think he will have any qualms about opening the door for people who will do the destroying for him.

  10. Reductio ad hitlerum/association fallacy. Epic.Fail. I don’t care for Romney’s ideas for the NEA (said the American) but seriously, Taliban? It’s an incendiary, unthoughtful, immature argument.

  11. Henry Williford says:

    Mr Lebrecht,

    It pains me greatly to read these comments you have presented regarding Mitt Romney, and having read the relatively mild responses in disagreement with your statements, I feel I must speak out strongly.

    This is not a letter to you in defense of Mitt Romney, nor of his political objectives. Though indeed I feel there is much to discuss on those topics, you have made it necessary for a man such as myself to address you in a manner that you will find less than agreeable, no doubt.

    This is not a letter meant to discard or disavow the admirable body of work you have presented in many fields. You are an eloquent and articulate writer and have reached a large audience in your time as a journalist, biographer, and commentator, and it is precisely because of this that I am compelled to write to you today.

    With such influence, such volume to your voice, comes an equal measure responsibility:
    A responsibility to the truth, first and foremost—and I do not question your dedication in this respect;
    A responsibility, when writing about a particular person or group, to present your arguments against them and their actions with fairness and respect—no matter the extent of your anger or incredulity;
    A responsibility to avoid exaggeration, distortion or misrepresentation in order to enhance an argumentative course you wish to pursue;
    And finally, a responsibility to maintain an understanding with your readership that these values and responsibilities hold true for them as well in their every conversation and commentary.

    On these three last counts, Mr Lebrecht, I find you have erred, and it is disgraceful. You have, in comparing Mitt Romney to the most despicable human beings to have transgressed those things most sacred to us—life, freedom, innocence, dignity—, committed a gross betrayal of your duties as a journalist. It is nothing short of slander, and should be despised by the public regardless of who the author may be or whom that author targets.
    You have exaggerated your assessment of Mitt Romney in order to shock and impress. By so ridiculously drawing a parallel to the Nazi’s restriction of Polish education after their occupation of that country, you must have known the extent to which you would awaken images of the inhumanities committed by that regime; torture, imprisonment, and death—to name a few! Do you truly intend to draw out such fear in your audience at the name of Mitt Romney of Massachusetts? This is not only slander; it is a vulgar reference and it is manipulation.

    You have committed the same injustice to his dignity not just once. You insisted on doing so twice, and I will not let that instance go unchecked either. As strongly as you or I may feel about such a thing, your false alignment of Mitt Romney’s pledge to cut spending to the arts with the Taliban’s severe restriction of education while ruling the Afghani people is preposterous and, again, meant to solely shock and impress. There is no defense of such behavior as a journalist. Must I remind you, a man so intimately connected to the world around him, that to this day female students in that country are punished, tortured, or even killed for attending school? And need it be said that engendering those images in our minds, and those feelings in our hearts, should not be a method of sustaining the strength of your opinion? Shameful!

    Regarding your final responsibility, that you encourage and insist on honesty and fairness and respect among your readers in their reactions and in their statements, you have failed.
    Already having committed these indecencies, you made no effort to corral the excited, absurdities issued in agreement. In fact, even when confronted by many readers’ expression of disagreement—as inappropriately lenient as I found them—you have stated that “the analogy stands.”

    I insist, Mr Lebrecht, that you retract the statements you have presented here, and anywhere else they may have been seen or heard. It is not necessarily appropriate that you apologize, I think, but is unquestionable that you should make some effort to regain some dignity after your recklessness. As citizens of a free society it offends our love of truth and our respect of those now dead or who suffer today. It offends our love of fairness and respect. It offends your profession, as corrupted as it may have become.

    Our democracies needs none of this kind of nonsense. And coming from those who see themselves to be enlightened, civil, and humanist, nonetheless!

    If indeed “the analogy stands,” Mr Lebrecht, I am forever disappointed in your imprudence, your distasteful exaggerations and comparisons, and your unwillingness to retract such cheapness.

    With all due respect,
    Henry Williford

  12. The analogy is beyond a stretch, and it undermines the legitimacy of the argument that Romney’s proposal is heinous. It is heinous, and it deserves condemnation, but he is not advocating that government forces actually destroy culture, he is just saying government shouldn’t fund it. The effect may be to destroy it, but comparing him to murderers is a bit much.

  13. dies irae says:

    if you can stand back far enough to look in objectively (that’s far but possible), you’ll see it.

    it might be a bit of a stretch to use the given analogy — right now — but he (what he’s representing) is the living, breathing, proverbial warning shot to what could follow.

    realistically, no, it’s not quite the same. but there are enough similarities to warrant the comparison. without a doubt.

  14. Reading more about NEA makes it really hard for me to contain my indignation. Probably I am one of millions who don’t know what is being done with tax money that is just being bled from US citizens who can’t afford it.
    I knew about the outrage of the Piss Christ of which part of the $15,000 grant was given by NEA in 1989 to the so-called artist, Andres Serrano. Other projects I was not aware of such as the scurrilous films cited below:
    http://www.newsmax.com/DrewJohnson/film-festivals-tax-subsidy/2012/05/25/id/440336
    The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) received $146.2 million from federal taxpayers this year to bankroll a myriad of artists and arts projects. A major emphasis of the NEA’s spending in recent years has been subsidizing film festivals. Judging by the long list of film festivals that taxpayers funded this year, it seems like no film festival is too small or too bizarre to receive a government handout
    Perhaps the most outrageous film festival taxpayers will fund this year is the New Orleans Film Festival. Among the gems screened at last year’s edition of the festival were “Barracuda,” a movie in which a phone sex operator drives her Plymouth Barracuda across the country to exact vigilante justice on various perverts, and “Moon Pie,” a short film that follows a man’s journey through his double-wide as he accuses family members of eating his last Moon Pie.
    The highlight of the most recent New Orleans Film Festival for taxpayers, however, had to be “The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence.” The film is heartwarming cinematic treasure in which a gentleman named Martin abducts a dozen people, then severs their knee tendons and knocks out their teeth. (The rest of the description is too outrageous to print here. cj)

    http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/crowd-funding-site-may-outspend-nea-2012
    Kickstarter is one of many crowd-funding sites that enable members and groups of the creative community to post information about their prospective projects. Private patrons comb the crowd-funding sites and donate to the projects they see as most interesting.
    In a February interview with Talking Points Memo, Kickstarter cofounder Yancey Strickler told reporter Carl Franzen the Web site he cofounded with two partners will distribute more than $150 million to various projects in 2012.
    “It is simply outrageous that the taxpayers are compelled to support artists,” said Sheldon Richman, editor of The Freeman, a magazine published by the Foundation for Economic Education, a free-market, nonprofit think tank. “Artistic freedom is embedded in a broader concept of freedom that includes the right to spend one’s own money as one wishes, whether on ‘the arts’ or not. Private funding is not only morally superior to coerced funding, it is also better because it enables donors to direct their resources to the artists of their, not some bureaucrat’s, choice.”

    I just want to point out that undermining the values of Western Civ is biting the hand, nay, cutting off the hand that feeds the necessary freedom to create and has been the humanitarian basis for the great works of art, literature and music. Beethoven, Shakespeare and Michangelo did not come from a void.
    Christians are not going on rampages about the abovementioned blasphemous piece of junk and the White House is not condemning it like it did the Mo trailer. The point is, had PC been subjected to the free market and not shoved down the public’s throat, probably no one would have noticed that bum artist peeing in an alley

    • You’re entitled to your own artistic opinions, but not to your own facts.

      Currently, Congress funds the arts through the NEA at 47 cents per capita. That’s affordable.

      Then, on Sheldon Richman’s contribution. NEA awards grants through a peer review system. Artists and arts professionals are invited to serve on panels, and assess the applications. Then their decisions are presented for ratification to the NEA Council, which is made up of 26 citizens appointed by the President and Congress. The bureaucrats do not make the funding decisions.

      Private arts funders recognize the virtues of this system (and artists and arts professionals like it too). Private funders see NEA funding as a stamp of approval which helps them come to prudent funding decisions. So as far as I can understand Mr. Richman’s point about “moral superiority” – and I’m not sure I do, it’s not really an appropriate term to apply to arts funding – the dynamic he describes actually acts in reverse in real life. The private funder looks to the NEA to enhance the quality and integrity of his or her choices.

      Also, if the NEA is “coerced funding”, then spending on the military is too. As was TARP, for that matter, which bailed out the institutions that are essential to the health of the free market Mr. Richman is championing.

      It does seem as if you’ve made up your mind on the slimmest of evidence. Which does a disservice to everyone you know who loves their local non-profit museum, symphony orchestra, repertory theatre, childrens’ dance classes taught by NEA-subsidized professional dancers, and, yes, film festival. All these will be damaged if the NEA goes.

      • That’s a funny argument, less than a half dollar for each of the 300 or so million US citizens, so it’s a BARGAIN! First of all, the actual tax paying adult population is less than half and those who do are half of that. So the bill comes to at least a dollar and a quarter per citizen. However, I wouldn’t spend 10 cents on scurrilous films and horrible descecrations like Piss Christ and less so if coerced into it.
        And how does one get funding? Does quality or political connections count for more?
        TARP was such a disaster that it not worth going into right now as it became more the problem rather than the solution. In other words, LESS government meddling was indicated not MORE of the same injudicious manipulation of mortgage and banking.

        • Let’s have another look at the facts.

          The NEA budget is around $147 million. The survey by the Americans for the Arts I linked to earlier in the thread found that “Nationally, the industry generated $135.2 billion of economic activity—$61.1 billion by the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations in addition to $74.1 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This economic activity supports 4.13 million full-time jobs and generates $86.68 billion in resident household income. Our industry also generates $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year—a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations.”

          My point was that we can indeed afford the NEA, not least because NEA funding anchors a system that ends up generating far more money for the government than it spends. Over half this money is “event-related” expenditures, for example on small businesses such as restaurants serving pre-theater meals and parking lots near NEA-funded theatres, whose patrons would otherwise have left the car in the garage and stayed at home.

          So, now that you mention it, NEA funding is not just affordable – it certainly is a bargain.

          Mitt Romney’s argument for doing away with the NEA is just like yours – that we can’t afford it, that we need the money to reduce the deficit. But in reality, this course of action will actually add to the deficit, because the government will end up losing more in tax revenues than it saves in axing the NEA budget (which is in any event less than 1% of the deficit, so this won’t make anything near the impact Romney is very publicly claiming for it).

          Romney’s a smart guy, and he’s been through something similar before in Massachusetts. So there must be something else involved. And that’s where Norman’s argument comes in.

          Finally, as for citizens being coerced by their government into funding things they don’t like, given the choice I wouldn’t have spent 10 cents on the Iraq war.

    • William Safford says:

      If you were to give less credence to the right wing dog whistles, you could live your life without feeling the indignation that you describe, or any need to contain same.

  15. Michael Endres says:

    Interesting to see all this indignation about Norman’s comment.
    It’s true that Mitt Romney is not a Taliban.,after all he is not wearing a proper beard .
    But the destruction of Art comes in many ways: you do not need to blow things up,you just make sure they run out of funds. And reading Paul Ryans’s chilling account that conservatives should NOT stop at the bedroom door and leave cultural issues alone –that coming from a candidate that lies through his teeth whenever he sees fit–reminds of the chilling days of McCarty’ism ,where people’s lives were destroyed ( not killed ,but ruined ) for simply being suspected of disagreeing on certain issues.
    Romney and his right wing friends are not killing people,but there is a Taliban component here,the actively propagated degeneration of a civilised society . It would be better to get irate about that than about Norman Lebrecht’s rhetoric statement.

  16. In the 70′s when I was young and the consensus was broadly left leaning, there was a certain type of idiot who’d describe any curtailment of their personal freedoms, (even minor ones such as library fines) as “fascist”. Disapproval this type of highly coloured rhetoric has morphed in the Internet age into Godwin’s Law. And there is very good reason for this disapproval, not only does is it usually show lazy thinking, but it diminishes by association the evil of real fascism, or for that matter real terrorists, if you spray these words around like confetti at anyone you disapprove of.

    And there is a third important reason that descriptions like this should be used with great care, because on the rare occasions when there are significant and frightening parallels, it makes it very difficult to draw them. Norman Lebrecht is not a firebrand, or given to heightened rhetoric, and in this instance he is drawing a quite justified comparisons between two groups both founded on the toxic mix of politics and fundamentalist religion.

    I might add he could also have drawn other comparisons between the Republican party of today and the fascist parties of the 1930s. As wells being anti culture, both share many notable characteristics, both movements are corporatist, militarist, anti-democratic, with populist appeals to demagoguery and an invented heroic national myth, with blatant disdain for facts, history, or logical argument. That is not to say that the Republican party has become a fascist movement. Nonetheless the similarities are both striking and disturbing.

  17. Bravo, Norman! You have, in a relatively short piece, done exactly what a good thought leader should do – kick off a spirited and (mostly) intelligent debate. Good for you!

  18. Greg Hlatky says:

    Facts, Mr. Lebrecht, facts. Even a cursory inspection shows that appropriations for the arts have been neither dramatically increased under virtuous Democratic congresses nor eliminated under evil and treasonous Republican ones (http://www.arts.gov/about/Budget/AppropriationsHistory.html).

    Fact: There’s been no major effort at the Executive level to change matters significantly. In the 200-odd State of the Union messages by the president to Congress, a role by the Federal government in the arts has been mentioned just four times (Eisenhower – 1955, Johnson – 1965, Carter – 1981, Clinton – 1997; http://stateoftheunion.onetwothree.net/). The Smartest Man in the World has never said a word on the subject.

    Fact: Spending by the Federal government now constitutes some 25% of GDP (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Historicals, Table 1.3) vs. about 21% over the previous 20 years. The Constitution of the United States is, nominally at least, one of enumerated powers delegated to the Federal government. If we can’t have a debate over whether or not this amount of spending is too much or what the proper role of the Federal government is (including funding the arts), we may as well pack it in and acquiesce to the kind of technocratic authoritarianism that Europe is now falling under.

    Fact: No president has the power to “demolish a liberal civilisation of which he does not approve.” Even if funding for the arts is eliminated at the Federal level, nothing – nothing at all – prevents them from being funded at the state or local level or privately (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” – Amendment X).

    If the arts in the United States are going to collapse over the abolition of an agency that didn’t exist 50 years ago, the arts have far worse problems than some paltry appropriation can solve. Maybe they do, after decades of Progressive disparagement of Western culture, educational standards and a hierarchy of excellence in the arts as bourgeois affectations have done their damage.

    And remember, the dark night of fascism always falls across America, but eventually lands in Europe.

    • another orchestra musician says:

      Fact is, GH, that your lines are long on angry hyperbole, and short on meaningful argument. Any serious discussion of reducing the size of the US federal budget must address, first and foremost, its two primary elements, which are entitlement spending and military spending. Mr. Romney proposes to significantly increase military spending, and he does not propose to reduce entitlement spending within the hypothetical timespan of his presidency. He does propose to reduce discretionary domestic spending, which is a small percentage of total spending, but he declines to bring to the chopping block any programs his voter base feels are worthwhile – which leaves him, in point of fact, with almost no proposals for reducing discretionary domestic spending. Only the arts, widely perceived as left-leaning, are safe for him to target. Alas PBS/NPR/NEA, taken together, directly cost the US federal government about as much as a single unit of fighter jet. Whence the fact that cutting arts spending will not perceptibly reduce the size of the US federal budget – and the self-evident reality that people who propose to cut arts spending under the pretext of reducing the US federal deficit are being disingenuous, at best.

      Whether those who speak of recurring fascism in North America, where fascism has never factually existed, are similarly disingenuous, is less clear. It could be that they are but the unfortunate product of an education system long in decline. It could however also be that they are in fact victims of a vast Progressive conspiracy – one that has robbed them of their certainty that true culture exists only in the West – and have been left with no point of reference beyond pseudo-bourgeois affectation. May they be offered succor at the teat of technocratic authoritarianism. And may they lose, once and for ever, their xenophobia: because God made our world a kaleidoscopically multicoloured place, in order that we might embrace the entirety of it, and learn.

  19. Couple this with Romney’s plan to cap deductions at $17k (or whatever the ever-changing number du jour) and you can see where this is all heading. The arts (or any charitable organization, for that matter) are screwed. So much for that 1000 points of light thingy. You can’t make billions dabbling in the arts or soup kitchens, so obviously there is no reason to support them, right? Sigh.

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