So, Lee Rosenbaum (perhaps better known to the world as blogger CultureGrrl) scored an interview with NEA Chair Rocco Landesman and writes about it today in the Wall Street Journal:
In a freewheeling conversation we had on the day of his Brooklyn visit, Mr. Landesman was true to form—brashly candid. But his provocative words in both the speech and our discussion suggest that he doesn’t see what’s looming between him and the goal—political opponents, waiting to tackle him.
Rosenbaum goes on to list the litany of “controversies” the NEA and Landesman have been involved with in recent months, including the “firestorm that had erupted before his arrival over the possible partisan agenda of the new Democratic administration’s NEA.” (Said firestorm was unwittingly enabled, let us not forget, by Rosenbaum herself. She wrote a concern-trollish piece inspired largely by Patrick Courrielche’s original, borderline fraudulent essay about the conference call he secretly eavesdropped on and recorded, then found herself prominently quoted in Courrielche’s next essay to provide “legit” culture blogger cover for his case–to her dismay.)
What really cracked me up about this piece, though, was Rosenbaum’s characterization of Landesman’s idea to have the NEA fund hip-hop:
Do you think that hip-hop would be an appropriate area for NEA to fund?” I inquired.
“Absolutely. And mural painting and graffiti are art. There are popular aspects of all the arts that I think shouldn’t be ignored.”
Funding hip-hop—the best of which is rhythmically poetic, but commonly punctuated by profanity, violence and/or misogynistic sexuality—could put the previously embattled agency back in the crosshairs of the decency police. Congress had considered shutting the agency down in the 1990s over grants to exhibitions and artists that some politicians deemed obscene, blasphemous and unworthy of government support.
::facepalm:: Thank you, Captain Obvious, for explaining to us this strange new phenomenon known as the “hip hop.” Gawker, of course, picked up on this awesome paragraph immediately and let her and the WSJ (“bless its nilla heart”) have it:
Sure, rappers have rhythm. Many can dance! But, you know…bitches and hoes. Guns and malt liquor. Pussy and weed. Glocks and rocks. The WSJ thinks you know what it means. The things those people talk about.
Hilarity aside, though, I find articles like this one incredibly annoying. Landesman’s opinions about the National Endowment for the Arts are in no way controversial except to those looking for controversy. Since he’s not careful about his word choice, though, anyone looking for controversy (which describes pretty much the entire right wing at this moment) can find it easily — or in Rosenbaum’s case, create it. I mean, seriously, get a load of this weasel-word concern-trolling: “could put the previously embattled agency back in the crosshairs of the decency police?” Is that what CultureGrrl wants? Because she just sounded a pretty serious dog-whistle to the right-leaning readers of the Wall Street Journal. Landesman just started his job – the Sergant affair happened the day before he took office – and this is the time when his image is being defined in the public imagination, which means that the framing of his comments by mainstream media writers has a huge influence on how he’ll be perceived from here on out. So if things blow up later, sure, she can act all innocent and say, “don’t look at me, I just asked him a question,” but doing so would reflect a leaden misunderstanding of political media in the 21st century.
UPDATE: Sssh, don’t tell Lee, but the NEA already funds hip-hop! From 2009 alone:
Dancing in the Street, Inc. (aka Dancing in the Streets)
New York, NY
To support the third annual Hip-Hop Generation Next. The full-day block party at Coffey Park in Red Hook, Brooklyn, will feature a variety of artists. [link]
Diversity of Dance, Inc. (aka Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts)
To support Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts, a series of school-year residencies and a residential summer dance institute. Students will receive rigorous dance training from professional dance educators through classes in technique (ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, African dance, and tap), composition, and repertory, as well as participate in master classes with guest artists. [link]
Henry Street Settlement
New York, NY
To support the Abrons Arts Center Dance Ensemble and the Abrons Arts Center Junior Dance Ensemble. Students will study ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap, salsa, and flamenco, and participate in choreography workshops. [link]
Su Teatro (aka El Centro Su Teatro)
To support performances of Representa!, a hip-hop theater play and related outreach activities. The new work will be created and performed by spoken word poet Paul Flores and rapper Julio Cardenas. [link]
Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz
To support BeBop to Hip-Hop. Professional musicians will introduce students to the latest recording technologies and software and teach students composition, music theory, arranging, improvisation, lyric writing, turntable scratching, and sampling. [link]