Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Riefenstahlization of The Arts

Who was Leni Riefenstahl? In case you don't know, she was known as Hitler's photographer, the photojournalist and filmmaker who gave us most of the images we have of the Third Reich in its heyday. Riefenstahl was notorious for denying she knew about any of the horrors the Reich perpetrated, and denied being a Nazi to her dying day. In no way do I compare the Third Reich to the Obama Administration. Far, far from it. But her story is a fine example of artists turning a blind eye to what is happening right in front of them politically. And something similar is playing out in the arts community here in the US in their lemming-like following of all things Obama.

Admittedly, I'm a rarity - a Conservative working in the arts community (in my case, as an off-off-Broadway PR agent). All that stuff you hear about artists being open-minded only applies if you're a Liberal. And speaking out against Obama? Accusations of intolerance and racism fly your way. Judd & I actually received an anonymous email, pre-election, warning that we "would lose many PR jobs" because of our politics. The email further threatened that the writer "would personally make it their mission to make sure our potential clients know you're Republicans", etc. etc. So as you can imagine, we keep our politics on the down-low while conducting business. After all, we're damn good PR people; that has nothing to do with our politics. But you'd be surprised how people react when they find out you voted McCain/Palin in 2008. You'd think we were child molesters.

So just when I thought all hope was lost, and no one else in the arts community besides me & the hubs were questioning the Obamessiah, Patrick Courrielche comes along and makes my whole damn year with these two articles: The Artist Formerly Known as Dissident and The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion .

Courrielche, like me, wonders where all the dissent has gone. Rarely if ever has art and politics been in as total an accord as they are now. There seems to be a sense of, dare I say, "hope" out there, that now that Obama's in office, everything is going to be alright.

How odd, then, that other than increasing an already astronomical deficit, President Obama continues the Bush Doctrine when it comes to Iraq. He has increased troop deployment in Afghanistan, despite his promises to "bring the troops home". A simple repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act would take less than a month, yet they remain. The anti-war protests & the pro-gay protests have been a mainstay of the theatre community, and the subject of many, many works of art, plays, etc. over the past few years. Yet the arts community has overall remain silent even as Obama ignores the promises he made concerning these issues.

Worst of all is the absolute silence on freedom of speech. CNET.com reports that there is a bill going through Congress right now that would give the Executive Branch absolute power to shut down private citizens' access to the Internet during "times of national emergency". This has been done under the guise of "security". In all fairness, this abrogation of our civil liberties started in the wake of 9/11 with the Patriot Act, but that pretty much only referred to warrantless wiretapping of violent Islamic extremists, not shutting off American citizens from Facebook. The Administration even advocated Orwellian-style reporting of "misinformation" about the healthcare bill at the now defunct flag@whitehouse.gov. Citizens were encouraged to rat out their friends who dissed the so-called "reform". And most egregious of all, there is an attempt to institute government regulation of radio & television content with the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer to the FCC.

During the Bush-Cheney years, I couldn't go a week without seeing yet another play about Iraq, about torture, about the abolition of our basic civil liberties, about the repression of minorities, about same-sex marriage. Since all of these things really haven't changed since January 20, 2009, where is the arts community, and why are they so damned silent after raising hell for 8 years?

I liken this mentality to being a herd of sheep. If you know anything about sheep, you know they will follow their shepherd anywhere. If their shepherd doesn't bring them in out of the rain, or shelter them against the wind, or bring them to the proper feeding ground, it is in their nature to remain together in a herd, awaiting the shepherd's lead to move. And honestly - Obama isn't moving his sheep forward. He is not a leader. He looks great on paper, he talks a great game, he makes one hell of a campaign speech, but when it comes to leading, he's not the man.

I guess when you've drank the Kool-Aid, you all fall silent en masse. Let us hope the artistic community awakens before they find themselves occupied with creating art that only promotes the Obama Administration's Agenda, rather than constantly questioning the status quo. Speak truth to power. Don't fall silent.


  1. I feel like I found a home! I just recently graduated college with a degree in Theater Performance and, much like yourself, am a conservative. I happened to tack on a German minor at one point and one of the things we talked in depth about was Leni Riefenstahl. Although brilliant in her cinematography she was a Nazi sympathizer through and through. It's mind-numbingly frustrating to sit in a green room and be harassed by "open-minded" liberals for my libertarian views. You wouldn't happen to be looking for a intern would you!?

  2. "During the Bush-Cheney years, I couldn't go a week without seeing yet another play about Iraq"

    For the record, on the law and the facts, the decision for OIF was correct. The law and policy, fact basis for the Iraq intervention is explained here.