When the Obama administration launched its United We Serve volunteerism program earlier this summer, it was all about building playgrounds, caring for wounded veterans and reading to homeless children. Weeks later, the Obama White House, the National Endowment for the Arts and United We Serve have revealed the actual agenda -- backing the administration's political priorities with coordinated propaganda, perhaps boosted by millions in stimulus cash.
In a conference call with dozens of politically connected artists held Aug. 10, Yosi Sergant, director of communications for the NEA, made the plan explicit:
c "This is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand-new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government."
c "So bear with us as we learn the language, so that we can speak to each other safely and we can really work together to move the needle and to get ... stuff done."
c "I would encourage you to pick something, whether it's health care, education, the environment.... Then my task would be to apply your artistic, creativity community's utilities. Bring them to the table."
c "Take photos. Take video. Post it on your blogs. Get the word out. Like I said, this is a community that knows how to make a stink. Do it. Do it within your town. Do it nationally. Call on other producers, marketers, publicists, art -- you know -- artists, people from within our community and get them engaged."
The Obama administration had to know that its effort to use a supposedly independent arts agency and a national volunteer program to coordinate political propaganda in support of the administration's agenda was shady, to say the least. The most important unanswered questions are: Which artists and organizations were invited to be part of the effort? How many of them were recipients of grants from $80 million the NEA has distributed this year as part of the stimulus program?
Clearly, there is something here because the first reaction of the administration to questions about the effort was to fudge. After the basic facts of the conference call broke on BigHollywood, Andrew Breitbart's Web site, The Washington Times called Mr. Sergant to ask for details of the effort, including a copy of the invitation sent to artists.
In an act of shortsighted amateurism, Mr. Sergant -- an Obama political appointee -- told a Washington Times online producer the exact opposite of the truth: that the invitation "didn't come from us, so I don't have it to distribute. The corporation who set up the conference call and who conducted the conference call is another federal agency."
The next day, BigHollywood published the invitation. Not only did the NEA send the invitation, but Mr. Sergant is the one who sent it. The invitation itself says the NEA was working in "collaboration" with United We Serve and the White House Office of Public Engagement. And Mr. Sergant was a dominant participant in the conference call.
When government officials deceive the public, it's usually to cover up something wrong.