With all the speculation (and mounting degrees of evidence) regarding America's deep state machinations by our intelligence community, it behooves us to look at the history of art utilized as a weapon against our country's foreign enemies and the past-to-present artistic schemes to actually change the culture of our own nation.
Note 1: Every tyranny throughout history has dictated output from three influential avenues of value-laden communication to the public: education, media, and ... art for the purpose of mind manipulation in order to foster compliance from an oppressed populace.
Note 2: Only a century ago the brutal post-WWI dictators Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and (later) Mao Tse-tung institutionalized art glorifying socialism whether fascist or communist: Nazis forbidding art by individuals belonging to the targeted victim group (music composed by German Jews), Soviet art glamorizing workers-peasants-soldiers (by decree), and destroying art representing a previous cultural heritage (Chinese ink paintings).
American politicians during the same not-so-long-ago century employed art as political tools, too, but, eschewing force, utilized propaganda alone. This should still cause grave concern, however, because our own governmental interference drastically influenced the trajectory not only of American art but also the whole American culture.
FDR's Great Depression New Deal initiated support of the arts in unprecedented political-federal-tax-payer-dollar maneuvers from 1933 until 1943.
Aside from encouraging left-leaning artistic content by funding artists for producing "socially conscious" work, the ideological-driven agenda paved the way for politically oriented artists to create art predominantly for promoting social change — toward socialism — a trend that moves ahead at high-octane speed today.
New Deal "deals" also paved the way for massive government intervention regarding the type of American art propagated later via Post-WWII-Cold-War Central Intelligence Agency (CIA, established 1947) foreign operations, the more-transparent psychological warfare division of American military government, and the present-day blatantly political-artistic-internal-arts-weapon agency, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA, established 1965).
Even before the CIA was formed, providing government funds directly to artists was expanded to officially promoting "modern" American artists of questionable-quirky quality abroad, hyping their "freedom of expression" works.
This created longstanding, symbiotic work relationships and a cast of intertwining social-government-elite characters between American government and New York City's modern-art-mecca The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, established 1929).
The original connection? In 1940, MoMA President Nelson Rockefeller became FDR's coordinator of Inter-American affairs, serving as Latin America's assistant secretary of state.
Thereafter, MoMA filled 38 government contracts and mounted 19 exhibitions of contemporary American paintings throughout Latin America to bring the southern continent closer as "friends."
Another project featured a traveling exhibit aimed at proving to European foreigners —especially cultivated French, German and Russian — that America was not artistically/culturally barren but actually stood at the forefront of artistic creativity.
So, the State Department purchased 79 paintings from MoMA for the "Advancing American Art" show which included bizarre works such as Jacob Lawrence's "dynamic cubism."
At this point some Americans were becoming disturbed not only at taxpayer money being lavished on the arts but also that the art they lavished it on was not to everyone's liking or America's pride. So, the CIA was created (for many reasons), and government art money went underground.
Thomas Braden served as MoMA's executive secretary (1948-9) and then joined the CIA in 1950 to supervise its cultural activities, so the collaboration-collusion between government, museum and "modern" art continued. For example, Abstract Expressionism (a la Jackson Pollack) was promoted and literally "put on the map" with (then) covert taxpayer funding.
A major, appreciably long-lived caper was CIA's creation of Congress for Cultural Freedom (CFF) to "propagate the virtues of western democratic culture." This taxpayer-funded-spin-off maintained offices in 35 countries, published 20-plus magazines, held international exhibitions/conferences, and gave awards to musicians and artists along with sponsoring public performances.
Programs by yet more taxpayer-funded projects to champion so-labeled-freedom-produced art and parade it around the world made the financial/famous careers of government-chosen American artists and more importantly popularized their off-brands of art as worthy and significant here at home.*
Collateral/cultural damage? American representational artists executing established-Western-heritage-highly-skilled techniques and projecting intelligible universal-humanistic content were reviled or ignored by government's (and self-interested critics') shenanigans, so most turned to teaching because they could not make a living with their art as previous superb and relevant American artists like D.C. French, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the Hudson River School painters, and hundreds-plus more had done.
End game? President Lyndon Johnson's formation of taxpayer-funded National Endowment for the Arts and its continuing political/artistic influence.
Recalling President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign pledge to "transform America," we see that his administration went beyond political art to promote him individually via the NEA.
Now, let's consider how these "transformation" plans have become outright "woke" with the NEA's explicitly stated motive to transform American culture in toto away from a talent-merit-oriented nation based on individual equality to methods for distributing equity instead.
From its current website: "NEA's announced Strategic Plan and Equity Action Plan for fiscal years 2022-2026 provide a blueprint for the agency to position itself as the lead agency within the federal government for social and economic change through the arts and to build on current processes already in place and implement new strategies to ensure the advancement of fairness and equity."
Art at its best is a personal connection between painter/sculptor-composer-author/poet to viewer-listener-reader.
Art is the singular and singularly beautiful aesthetic language communicating ideas in tangible physical forms created by an artist, perceived by a receiver and integrated psychosomatically to the self-created center of each human's individual fundamental identity, letting them "see-listen-read" and celebrate their unique personhood from — so to speak — the outside in.
Such a sacred capacity inherent in art is not a social construct to be used as a government tool for cultural manipulation.
Backlash imperative. Abolishment now.
*For a detailed examination of CIA's covert programs and American government interference in the arts in general see "The Cultural Cold War" by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Alexandra York is an author and founding president of the American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART) a New-York-City-based nonprofit educational arts and culture foundation. She has written for many publications, including "Reader's Digest" and The New York Times. She is the author of "Crosspoints A Novel of Choice." Her most recent book is "Soul Celebrations and Spiritual Snacks." For more on Alexandra York — Go Here Now.
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