Thursday, September 10th, 2009

The New Shape Of The Culture War :: Glenn Beck, Yosi Sergant, Van Jones, and Hip-Hop

Progress? Yosi Sergant helped launch the arts movement that got Obama elected. Now Glenn Beck is putting everything in reverse.

Are you mad yet? You should be. Glenn Beck has now taken down Yosi Sergant, the second hip-hop activist to be targeted in the Obama administration in a week.

Last night the 34-year old communications director at the National Endowment For The Arts was asked to resign. Why? Because he was trying to organize artists to support President Obama’s national service program, United We Serve. If your next question is: so what? That was ours too. But Glenn Beck compared the effort to “Nazi propaganda”.

(Just sick–especially since Sergant, a Jewish American, has worked as an activist for peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.)

This was the same logic paleocons used to batter Obama’s school speech. If he does it, it’s indoctrination. If they do it, it’s “journalism”. But there’s much more to this story…

Coming For Hip-Hop Heads

Sergant was the key organizer in the historic arts effort to back the Obama campaign. In January 2008, Sergant teamed with Shepard Fairey to produce the now iconic HOPE posters (a variation on Fairey’s original PROGRESS poster, above and flipped). He began handing out the first 3,000 copies at a rally at UCLA and they stumbled into history.

He then went on to commission literally dozens of artists–and inspire hundreds more–to create Obama images–making the candidate the face of hope, progress, and change. By the end of the summer, Obama was riding the biggest creative surge for any presidential candidate ever.

Earlier this year, at the request of grassroots artists and arts advocates, Sergant helped organize a White House meeting for them–I was there–and he has helped open the doors to artists like Saul Williams, Mayda Del Valle, and graffiti artists like Kofie to the White House. He was appointed to one of the country’s most influential positions in culture as the director of communications for the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation’s largest funding agency and policy-setting body.

In an interview I did earlier this year with him, he told me he started out in Los Angeles as a self-described “goofy kid trying to get down” in the cipher with the freestyle dancers and trying to get up in the train yards with the graffiti writers. “It’s who I am, “ he said. “Spray-paint brought me to the NEA and I won’t forget that.”

He added, “I think we can revolutionize the way that Americans think about art.” He wanted to do that in part by continuing to engage artists more directly in working in their communities. He was working to enlist high-profile artists for the United We Serve national service initiative when Beck started attacking him a couple of weeks ago.

Beck said, “Your government is trying to trick you, use your tax dollars to change your mind. It’s called propaganda.”

You can see all of Beck’s stupidity and hypocrisy compiled here.

Why Culture Always Matters

Why was Beck going after a communications director at an arts agency?

Beck’s agenda is unveiling itself–he means to go hard after the progressives in the Obama administration whose work engages grassroots movements and reaches people and communities directly through media and the arts.

This is why he has also been attacking Mark Lloyd, Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer at the FCC, and others like him. Real diversity means that voices like Beck’s are in danger of being drowned by the roar of the masses.

Beck is not just trying to make progressives who are young and/or of color absolutely dispensable to the establishment. He is trying to take away their platform as well. To Beck, this is a fight not just over the individuals, but to block the ways change is actually made.

Van Jones did not just have great ideas, he used culture to make them viable. He brought inner-city youths to anti-prisons and environmental justice agendas using hip-hop. He also found a way to speak to wealthy environmentalists through speeches and books. Culture created openings to forge new alliances between inner-city youths and wealthy environmentalists.

Yosi Sergant worked at what the Obama campaign thought were the margins: to use the creative power of artists to ignite the imagination of the people. When he got started, all of the money was raised through creative communities. And when the artists got rolling by the end of the summer, they didn’t need the campaign to do their thing. But they were arguably as important to shifting the public tide towards Obama’s victory as all the pollsters and precinct organizers on the campaign payroll.

Glenn Beck, like other conservatives, is deathly afraid of the colorized world we now live in. In the continuing battle between the ideas–monoculturalism vs. polyculturalism, domination vs. justice, repression vs. change, fear vs. hope–there is no doubt what side he is on.

But better than any other conservative, Beck understands the new role culture is playing in how change is made. When all avenues for change are blocked, organizers and artists find the holes to slip through and connect with their communities.

This is why he is using his own media perch to attack those who are young, idealistic, progressive, and have a strong understanding of the ways culture builds diversity, and diversity builds strength and longevity.

Put bluntly, this is the shape of the new culture war.

It can’t work. Not just because we have worked too long, too hard, and built too strong a foundation to be broken, but because culture can always find a way. But we will need to steel ourselves for the kind of attacks we have never seen before. That’s going to be our work now.

UPDATE :: Color of Change is re-upping their Glenn Beck Boycott. Here’s James Rucker’s piece on the Huffington Post. If you want to sign the petition, go to the Color of Change Beck petition page here.

posted by @ 11:15 am | 49 Comments

49 Responses to “The New Shape Of The Culture War :: Glenn Beck, Yosi Sergant, Van Jones, and Hip-Hop”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Chang and martin gee. Jeff Chang said: The New Shape Of The Culture War :: Glenn Beck, Yosi Sergant, Van Jones, and Hip-Hop :: […]

  2. mike ahuja says:

    not cool glen, but at least glen knows yosi was a huge role in making ppl vote for obama….bigger than ppl give him credit…yosi keep doing what you do….revenge is sweet….

  3. BeckisDickButYosiLied says:

    Beck is a moron, but Yosi did lie while representing the NEA. I’m sure he didn’t know he was doing something wrong until someone told him. at that point it snowballed, like things do in DC.

  4. Right on. As we feel a call to arms, to push back and reinvigorate a left cultural movement, what are the next steps?

  5. MK says:

    Apparently, he hasn’t left the organization, he has only had his title removed. Please update your post.

    “[UPDATE: The NEA adds this line to the statement: “As regards Yosi Sergant, he has not left the National Endowment for the Arts. He remains with the agency, although not as director of communications.” Sources familiar with the situation say that the move represents a significant step down and was the result of the controversy. Discussion about his new duties is still ongoing.]”

  6. Jeff Chang says:

    OK MK, I’m going to double-check on that.

    In the meantime, I understand Color Of Change is re-upping their Glenn Beck Boycott campaign. I’m adding the link above.

  7. Karl K says:

    Jeff, Jeff, Jeff…

    Are you completely obtuse?

    The NEA is a taxpayer funded organization. The NEA should not be used as a platform to advance ANY administration’s political agenda.

    ANY administration, including President Teleprompters.

    Imagine if Bush’s NEA communications director got a bunch of conservative artists, say Mel Gibson and Jon Voight, together to encourage support for the Iraq war, or warrantless wiretapping? And suppose it was compounded by the fact that the communications’ director LIED about instigating the call?

    Your guys heads would explode!

    Beck, alas, is right again. Van Jones is a man of vulgar and vile sentiments. Yosi Sargent is a man who is incapable of seeing how ethically troubling his action was.

    Beck doesn’t “take down” anyone. Folks like Jones and Sargent simply self-destruct.

  8. Karl K says:

    Oh, one other thing Jeff.

    Your post implied that Yosi was simply getting artists to help out United We Serve (nice Stalinist label that, but I digress). In fact, the audio of the conference call has Yosi encouraging artists to take up the cudgel for any of the laundry list of pet causes — the environment, health care, education. And there is no… ZERO… doubt that he was encouraging them to apply their art to expressions consistent with Obama’s political agenda.

  9. Karl K, you are an arrogant nut job but…

    Jeff, I love what you do and agree with you on many things. I also love Yosi and the role that he played in getting Obama elected. I have long found solace and hope in the fact that someone like him is now in gov’t…but he and the NEA made a mistake and should own up to it. It is irresposible for the NEA to be promoting anything like this unless they do so in a bipartisan way…how many republican artists were invited to this?..not many i’m guessing.
    I really hate to admit anyone like Beck is right but he is….its also incredibly disappointing that Yosi or the NEA has taken no responsibility for this. If they had taken some responsibility we wouldn’t be talking about this still. Patrick Courrielche published his article on August 25th….2 weeks is a bit long for no response and demoting him is like a half admission of guilt.

    Again, I think Yosi has been amazing and I am happy that someone who shares my ideas and beliefs is in the NEA….but “dude”,own up and move forward! you messed up. it happens..just don’t try and hide it with BS…it lacks integrity.


  10. Karl K says:

    Ebeneezer, you have drunk the Messiah kool-aid, but…

    …kudos to you for seeing the troubling aspects of what Yosi did. Let’s hope your fellow travelers see the light.

    Personally, I have no problem with artists assembling, independently of any governmental prompting, to support any political agenda, even cockamamie ones like the Chief Community Organizer advocates.

    That, of course, is not what happened here. NEA should focus strictly on artistic issues.

  11. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. – John F. Kennedy, October 26, 1963

    I’m w/ Yosi! NEA is loosing a wonderful person who lives and breathes for the arts!

  12. […] from some of the bullshit about world-famous culture vulture Shefferd Farley, here’s about the smartest piece I’ve read on the Van Jones dilly […]

  13. Jon in CA says:


    Honestly, WHY can’t you progressives just swallow the truth?

    America does not want a race-baiting self-avowed communist running ANY government program!

    America does not want this Administration using tax-payer dollars funneled through the NEA to “promote” partisan political causes.

    America does NOT want potentially BILLIONS of $$ being channeled to a known corrupt organization (ACORN), whose members help pimps hide their underage prostitutes and get tax write-offs.

    Until you GET THAT… be prepared to continue your rants regularly.

  14. Jeff Chang says:

    Karl Karl Karl,

    Um no I don’t think I’m being “obtuse”, whatever you mean.

    You probably don’t remember when Karl Rove was dispatched to Hollywood to court producers and artists to support the war, hmm? I complained and I paid taxes. We’re supposed to do both those things around here.

    The NEA has been a non-factor during all of the Republican administrations of the last, oh, 30 years because most of the time those administrations wanted to nuke it.

    (Ebenezer, love you too man, but could you explain to me why is it that equal time and care must always be given to folks who are inimically opposed to something you want to do? Seems to me like that’s why we lose all the time. We expect the other side to play nice like us, and they don’t.)

    So now some folks in government, including the NEA, whose job it is to advance American arts and artists, simply ask artists to volunteer–volunteer, that is, do something for free on their own time–around a list of issues that you may not agree with, and…it’s all too neo-Stalinist? And someone’s head must roll?

    Karl Karl Karl,

    I think the NEA ought to be recognizing that when artists and the community come together, great things can happen. I’ve made that argument elsewhere so I’m not going to recap it now.

    But most of all, I don’t think artists are being dupes if they listen to someone make a pitch and then decide to take on volunteer work around some of the major issues of the day. I don’t think Americans are all idiots who suddenly lose their brainpower and willpower before the prospect of anodyne speeches about staying in school or Saturday afternoon arts projects designed to make a neighborhood greener.

    If everyone wants to refight the Cold War, then by all means organize some battlefield re-enactment on some lonely pasture somewhere. But in this day and age, when almost anyone can post their opinion on almost anyone’s blog somewhere–like this one right?–please don’t try to tell me you’re really afraid that this is an example of some heinous “propaganda” campaign spreading throughout the land.

  15. […] This post was Twitted by clbergpowers […]

  16. Holger says:

    Jeff —

    I find Beck as reprehensible as the next guy, but on this one, he may be somewhat right. The propaganda nonsense is offensive and as idiotic as ever, but he’s not wrong about the NEA.

    I don’t know Yosi Sergant’s work. What he has done for the Obama campaign sounds great, but it has nothing to do with his job as a major funding agency’s communication director.

    “When he got started, all of the money was raised through creative communities. And when the artists got rolling by the end of the summer, they didn’t need the campaign to do their thing. But they were arguably as important to shifting the public tide towards Obama’s victory as all the pollsters and precinct organizers on the campaign payroll.”

    Great. But so what? It’s irrelevant for his current (or no-longer current) position. He’s not working for a campaign anymore, nor is he working for an agency that’s designed to advance a particular agenda.

    The NEA should not speak with the voice of a political organizer. They were bad enough under Bush, and tilted way conservative (if not as much as the NEH, which started funding more and more US-centered research, and started cutting support for subculture studies and work on marginal(ized) subjects), but as far as I know they never hosted large-scale conference calls trying to bring artists together in support of a particular political goal. And even if they did, that’s no reason for a Democrat to do it, too — it’s wrong when the right wing does it, and still wrong if we do it. Rove going to Hollywood is different, since he was acting on the administration’s behalf.

    All these agencies do have an ideological slant, of course, but it’s not normally made this obvious. Very heavy-handed and definitely the sort of thing he ought to have to resign for, especially as communications director.

  17. Karl K says:

    Jeff, Jeff, Jeff —

    Guess it was only a matter of time until you trot out the old lefty meme — “Look, the other side also did it, but only worse!!”

    I guess that justifies Obama doing preventive detention, rendition, and continuing other Bush administration policies. But,hey, it’s a kindler and gentler detention and rendition under Barack “Oooh-I-look-good-in-a-40-long jacket-and-can-really-deliver-a speech” Obama.

    And if you don’t believe me about BO’s hyprocrisy — and, after all, for you guys, hypocrisy is worse than having no morals at all — just go to youtube and search for Maddow-Obama-Hypocrisy. Let one of your own skewer one of your own.

    Meanwhile, Rove, unlike Yosi, was not explicitly encouraging them to start making propaganda. (And yes, the HOPE poster IS propaganda: Putin’s face would slide right in with a little photoshop tweaking).

    Rove is way cleverer than that.

    No, what he did in this little side trip is make what amounted to a policy speech — here are the 7 things the new “war on terror” actually means and/or doesn’t mean. He was making an argument, he was not rallying the community to the great cause and to get them to take up pen, keyboard, camera, and brush to march in lockstep with the anointed one.

    Like Yosi was. Then again, Yosi is an adolescent wet-behind-the-ears blunt instrument. Rove is an adult stilletto.

    All of this is a not-so-subtle distinction; I am sure — at least I think I am sure — you can master it.

  18. kenshin says:

    van jones is the most charismatic, intelligent leader we have in the climate movement and progressive movement. he is innovative, witty, and obviously deeply passionate about social justice and environmental justice.

    i have a feeling he left cuz he just didn’t feel like he was getting anything done in the WH position. he’s just not a bureaucrat, but a real leader and do-er. nevertheless, it has emboldened beck of course.

    beck’s campaign (also online, see troll posts above) is a typcial right-wing tactic to take down our best leaders, ruin their image and make them into divisive characters. al gore and others have been targets in the past.

    BUT: it’s only as effective as our leaders are not heard in person to a broader audience, and establish good pr first. the solution is to have van and any targeted official, to be heard speaking first (or immediate counterpunch), in a broad public audience, in a positive engagement. it does not have to address the smears!!! just show people who they really are, good leaders, dedicated public servants. have van speak on oprah, and these others should appear on prime time too. what u learn first u learn best.

    this way, the smear campaigns are rendered ineffective.

    opposition knows this of course, so we should get to work.

  19. Jeff Chang says:

    @holger I don’t understand your arguments. Rove was acting on the administration’s behalf so he’s OK, but if you’re an Obama appointee you can’t do a job?

    You said “All these agencies do have an ideological slant, of course, but it’s not normally made this obvious.” So Yosi should leave because the right objects to artists joining a call that urges them to volunteer to do work on things they believe in?

    This is not like firing Dept. of Justice officials for liberal bias. No one got extra brownie points for signing up. No one would have to get their work approved by CentCom. We all know artists don’t tend to be the conforming type. Ask Patrick Courrielche.

    The bottom line is that the NEA ought to be encouraging the arts to help build communities. This is wholly within that mission, a mission that has been carpet-bombed for the last two decades such that people can’t even imagine what a real NEA is supposed to do these days.

    Karl Karl Karl, you’re new to this site and my work, else you’d know I’m not all in the tank for BO and wouldn’t have wasted your words.

    And you seem to be a smart person. So let’s get to it: Why even bother comparing Yosi Sergant to Karl Rove? It may be flattering but you know it’s not the point.

    Art has power. That’s the thing that scares you and other conservatives. Beck gets that. Hell when I see “Birth Of A Nation”, I get scared.

    But art only has power if people decide to let it. They’re not the empty vessels old W wanted to pour stuff into.

    If people didn’t want something different, the Obama HOPE posters would have been in the dustbins of history with the McCain CHANGE WE NEED posters they were handing out when I was at the RNC last year.

    This is not Nazi propaganda, it’s not the return of communism. It’s people trying to organize a different world. Get with the world, man, it’s moving on.

  20. Chantelle says:

    One question: is “culture” really the right word for all of this?

    I don’t deny that Yosi Sergant & Co have done important work… I just deny ever hearing about them before! What does that mean? You tell me.
    Does it meant that I’m a girl from the Midwest and am “out of the loop,” as they say, or does it maybe mean that all of this “culture” isn’t quite so vitally important and significant after all?

  21. Holger says:

    Jeff —

    it would help to hear the entire conference call.

    What I heard sounded decidedly partisan. It’s a partisan mission I happen to agree with, but it’s not one within the remit of the NEA. I don’t have a problem at all with the agency funding work of all kinds, no matter how political, but I don’t think it can be seen influencing artists to work towards a specific agenda, at least not in ways that seem so obviously driven by the administration. If it does that, it comes awfully close to using funds meant to foster the development of the arts in general in order to support a particular political project, and no matter how much I like that project, I don’t think that’s appropriate. It’s precisely what the right wing has done in the past (while denouncing government and misuse of taxpayer money), and it’s not a tactic I think we should adopt.

    Rove was a political appointee. If that was Sergant’s job, what he was doing would have been just fine. But the NEA’s communications director is not a political figure.

  22. Holger says:

    Sorry, PS to clarify:

    If an artist or a group of artists applied for NEA funding for a community-forming or community-engaging project that seems worthwhile on its artistic merits, I’d be all for such funding getting approved. But I don’t think it’s the NEA’s job to encourage artists to work on a larger project that’s driven by the White House. If artists’ projects and the administration’s agenda coincide, great — but don’t act in such a way that marginalizes or drives away people who aren’t on your side politically or ideologically. That doesn’t make them bad or uninteresting artists. Not all good art is progressive, sadly.

  23. av2ts says:

    This argument shows why the issue is so important. This distrust of Government infects everything – even the noblest of intentions. This was a nothing phone call. The results will be so minor as to be non-stories. But the IDEA of nefarious socialist agit-prop is all that matters.

    They said the same thing with the WPA in the 30s. How dare the Government organize artists, and even PAY them!! To do amazing things – like paint murals in our libraries, write travel books, build museums and parks, make posters to promote our national parks. I have a book of (taxpayer paid) art posters telling mothers to breast feed their kids. Today, that would be beyond the pale!

    Artists on their own can’t do much. In is not in their nature to self-organize for good – even though so many are idealists. If Common could be “leveraged” to better help Chicago’s South Side, wouldn’t you encourage that as a City Councilman, a Mayor, a Governor? If we know an artist volunteering to build a house can help get hundreds of people to volunteer on the same project, why can’t that be talked about?

    Certainly if any artist/reporter was paid, forced… or even asked to push a SPECIFIC Administration proposal (like Bush did with his education bill – paying journalists) – that crosses the line. But the most specific this phone call got was mentioning the 3 (socialist?/obama monopolized?) words education, health care and the environment. Just like when the Government coordinates with Habitat for Humanity, they may mention the word housing. Must a government employee never talk to anyone outside government to try to improve an aspect of American life?

    The Obama Administration obviously came in on the back of big support in the artistic community. Artists and the Administration want to give the arts a platform to do something good. That is not something to run away from or be afraid of. You can do that without endorsing a specific Bill Obama supports.

    I think the more troubling aspect is the way the Administration has turned his back on Jones and Yosi. This only invites more hyperbolic attacks on someone new the next day – in other words a McCarthyite witchhunt where you don’t even have to be a socialist, let alone a Communist. Just progressive.

    I’m also starting to feel some people just are truly scared of “government” (our elected representation) doing anything good – talking to kids, artists, saving the economy, providing health care. Asking artists to volunteer and serve their communities like the Adminstration is asking every other class of worker is just being fair.

    Why also do some of us care so much about this witch hunt? Because some of us belong to “radical” groups, groups that may not like capitalism. I mean, in the You Tube age, you are going to have to have human robots in public service.

  24. Holger says:


    I’m not afraid of government at all. I am afraid of a progressive government using a non-partisan, non-political agency like the NEA in the same ideologically motivated way the Bush administration did.

    “But the most specific this phone call got was mentioning the 3 (socialist?/obama monopolized?) words education, health care and the environment. Just like when the Government coordinates with Habitat for Humanity, they may mention the word housing. Must a government employee never talk to anyone outside government to try to improve an aspect of American life?”

    I’m assuming that Beck picked the most problematic passages from the call, but that doesn’t make them any less problematic. Those three issues, especially the latter two, are hot-button issues — they’re under much debate, and really the last thing the NEA should get mixed up in pro-actively. Your example illustrates this, in fact: when the government is coordinating with Habit for Humanities, they would obviously discuss housing. But health care and environmental issues are not core concerns of the NEA, even if individual projects they fund may have to do with them.

    Government officials can and should get involved with the artistic community (and the academic community, for that matter), but if you’re the communications director for the NEA, you’re not a government official. You’re an official at a non-political government-funded agency. I’m all for the administration funding artists to produce exciting art with a political message. But that’s not what the NEA does — if the art the NEA funds has a political edge, that should be incidental, not essential.

  25. Karl K says:

    Jeff, I didn’t bring up Karl Rove: YOU did. Again, it’s the shopworn argumentative technique: accuse the other side (and I would presume you think Rove is on the “other side”) of doing the same thing, only worse, to justify what YOUR side is doing.

    As Winston Smith might say, “double ungood.”

    Glad you’re not in the tank for BO. Though I am sure he expects you to be.

    I find the language used about Beck and others by left-wingers and Huff Po travelers amusing: Beck is a “paleocon;” Palin is a “moron.”

    Funny, though, how these commentators and public figures of presumably little intelligence manage to take hold of the public debate and dominate, while the great O, he of the smooth delivery and elegant carriage, gets steamrolled. They are winning the war of ideas.

    Beck isn’t afraid of a “colorized” world–that’s a red herring you put forth. No, what he wants to do is demolish what he perceives as the threat of an ever-intrusive government telling us what we can and can’t do, and what we should and shouldn’t do (like Yosi telling those artists what they SHOULD be doing).

    And if it means taking down guys like Van “Truther” Jones, or Yosi “Make Art for Obama’s Policies” Sargent, or Mark “I am going to tax right wing radio and give dough to public broadcasting” Lloyd, he’s going to do it.

    I wouldn’t bet against him.

  26. Mateo says:

    what the hell is a hip-hop activist? Do they fight for the words of Biggie/2PAC? That’s are some good role models for the inter-city youth..Next you’ll have an article about the right wing jazz flute activist taking over your Starbucks with their racist bigot music. You’ve got to be smarter than this. What is so hard to realize? The NEA is not design to bow to the White House its to promote art not a Prez. If the Bush administration would of done anything near this, NEA would have been blasted by you and your “hip hop activist” (whatever the hell that means)

  27. Ann says:

    Wasn’t it the Bush administration that literally put hundreds of millions of dollars into advertising lies to the public about marijuana? … Yes, I think it was. In fact, Bush and his friend Karl always put serious cheese behind promoting his agenda … tax dollars that is. Bush was MUCH more guilty of this than Obama has been.

  28. Holger says:

    The Bush administration did do stuff like this all the time, both at the NEA and the NEH. They just were more subtle about it.

  29. I wasn’t aware of that campaign…the conservatives have always bulldozed over any liberal opposition…and the liberals cave in the face of it. Yosi and NEA have an opportunity to debate art and the public funding of it again…to make this an issue but are choosing not to…either because they have something else they are working on or they are buckling to the pressure. I hope they have something up their sleeve as right now I am extremely disappointed in the way they have handled things.

  30. […] Excerpt from: The New Shape Of The Culture War :: Glenn Beck, Yosi Sergant, Van … […]

  31. […] supporters of Sergant are rallying high-profile artists behind him, and linking Sergant’s resignation to Van […]

  32. EA says:

    Interesting issue… i can see Jeff’s point, but at the same time Karl K has a point too. Still, I dont think there’s any doubt that Beck used MCCarthyesque tactics, along with race-baiting, to oust Jones. That ‘watermelon’ comment showed where his head was really at. It shouldnt have been that easy, though. But Van will have the last laugh–Fox news just reported his speaking fees have doubled. so Beck has, in effect, created a martyr for the progressive left and given Jones even more visibility.

    As for Sergant, well, he made an error in judgment. there are some dangerous implications of using art to advance a political agenda, no matter which side does it. but to imply that this is the first time art has been politicized is simply untrue.

    The larger issue here isnt so much what Jones and Sergant were doing, but the fact that the Dems are so soft when it comes to standing behind their troops. One has to wonder what would happen if the next time Beck went into attack mode, they just shrugged their shoulders and said, “eh…so what”?

  33. av2ts says:

    Holding a phone call to infrom people about opportunities to VOLUNTEER their own time to highlight or improve the environment, education and health care is NOT a “political agenda” or “propoganda.” Democrats and Obama do not hold any sort of monopoly on these issues.

    “This call was not a means to promote any legislative agenda, and any suggestions to that end are simply false,” the statement said. “The NEA regularly does outreach to various organizations to inform them of the work we are doing and the resources available to them.”

  34. Citycat says:


    The NEA is about art not pushing a progressive agenda.

    Funny how when the “Conservatives” push back you people scream bloody murder. You think its one way street? America does not want your crap, face it you want the working mans money to push your agenda. America is waking up the more people are seeing the light! People like Van Jones, Yosi Sergant and Acorn are just the tip of the iceberg. The list goes on and on…

    Why should my tax dollar fund the NEA? We can only hope Washington cuts most of the funding to the NEA. Best part less crap we have to walk around or look at in public places.

    As they say the acorn does not fall far from the tree.

  35. Barbara says:

    Gee, I didn’t support the Iraq War, but my taxes still support it!

  36. Karl K says:

    Some replies…

    To Holger and Ann: just because Bush did it doesn’t justify it. Again, the old hoary argumentative chesnut: the other side did it, only worse, therefore it’s OK for us. It doesn’t justify EITHER side doing it.

    Oh, by the way, this newsflash just in: Bush is no longer president. YOUR guy is.

    To EA: Love that Van Jones is cleaning up on speaking fees. How entrepreneurial of him! Who woulda thunk it from such a communist leaning sensibility?

    Van, my friend, just don’t mess in a centralized way with the “green jobs economy.” You’re a charismatic speaker Van (for those who go for lots of firebrand speaking and little logic) but you know didly about economics.

    Oh, and Beck using “McCarthyesqe tactics?” Gonna have to rewrite the dictionary on this one because, well, McCarthy was an elected Senator with subpoena powers and was looking for communists under his bed. Beck is just a commentator/pundit…and dare I say, “muckraker?” In the grand tradition of muckrakers such as — oh my! — LEFTIST muckrakers like Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, Hunter Thompson, or…gasp!…Saul Alinksy?

    Interesting how the techniques of these “legends” are being turned against the left in a kind of intellectual jujitsu.

    Oooh, that’s gotta hurt.

    By the way, heard the news on ACORN (a “colorized” organization if ever there was one). The Census Bureau just ended their partnershop.

    Really, (in my best Bill Murray voice) those crazy nutty right wing paleocons, trapping ACORN operatives into advocating tax evasion and child prostitution!

    Cats and dogs living together…!!

  37. Jeff Chang says:

    Karl Karl Karl,

    “Jeff, I didn’t bring up Karl Rove: YOU did. Again, it’s the shopworn argumentative technique: accuse the other side (and I would presume you think Rove is on the “other side”) of doing the same thing, only worse, to justify what YOUR side is doing.”

    Oh I see you went to neocon communications training. The book: “1) Bait the silly liberal by suggesting how they might feel if we were still in power. This tactic confuses them and makes them smug. 2) Chuckle as they offer the counterexamples which you’ve just invited. 3) Jump on them to praise your heroes through comparison and/or accuse them of being hypocritical. Have them any way you want.” Good work! You win.

    Calling Beck a muckracker in an Upton Sinclair mold…dude, all I can say is THANKS MAN I really needed a good laugh today. Beck’s agenda is to preserve media consolidation, stamp out diversity, and maintain the status quo. Upton’s, not so much.

    Finally you and your boys Jon in CA and Citycat can stop with that ACORN stuff. All of you really are new around here, else you’d know I’m not on ACORN’s good side these days. Definitely not looking for props from you cons–paleo, neo, or whatever we call ’em–just saying.

    Look, I can imagine how fun it must be for yall to be able to use your talking points on little fish like me, but straying off-topic into Crazyland like that also makes me think you’re a lot less smart than I thought you were.

    Too bad.

  38. Citycat says:


    One question for you… Public school?

    We are all little fish in this pond…some of can see the light. As for Glenn Beck… I’m so glad he has the balls to push back. Why is it when you play by the rules the Libs use, the Libs get all bent out of shape?

  39. Karl K says:

    Jeff, Jeff, Jeff —

    So you bring up Karl Rove, I tell you Karl Rove’s pilgramage to H’wood was different than Yosi’s call to arms, you wonder why I am bringing up Rove, I say it’s YOU that brought up Rove in the first place.

    Your response?

    You don’t even ACKNOWLEDGE these facts. Nope, you go off with with the lefty rhetoric machine like the wind-up jack in the box toy — pop!! out comes “diversity” and “maintain the status quo.”


    Here ya go.

    On the one hand, we have Maddow/Olbermann/Matthews…on the other hand we have O’Reilly Beck and Hannity.

    On the one hand we have NPR; on the other hand we have Westwood One.

    On the one hand, we have The Nation; on the other hand we have The Weekly Standard.

    On the one hand we have Instapundit; on the other hand we have HuffPo.

    Given these facts, I am not sure how YOU define diversity, nor am I quite sure how you can reach the conclusion that Beck, poor little ‘ol Beck has even the remotest chance of “stamping it out.”

  40. Jeff Chang says:

    What’s the difference between a “policy speech” and a “call to arms”? You don’t convince me it’s much more than ideology.

    And wow if that’s your definition of diversity, you live in a small sad world. There are a whole lot more stories out there not being heard. There’s diversity of ownership and diversity of viewpoints, and the two are linked. Beck is against both, that’s why he’s going after folks in the FCC who want to return localism and diversity after years of consolidation.

    Engagement can be interesting if both sides are willing to meet halfway. It took me a while to see that this isn’t one of those situations. I blame that mushy liberal in me I’m still trying to eradicate.

    So hey, good luck to you and yours with future trolling.

  41. bossandnova says:

    I think I know you, Karl K! I think that you are jealous of Obama’s 40 Long suits, good looks and charisma. Otherwise, why mention it? And who are you to talk about the role of artists in our society?

    Stop spending your time being an online troll–and leave Jeff alone. If you knew anything about Jeff, you’d know that you are not going to change his mind or the minds of the modern generation of “hip-hop” thinkers. Argue until you are blue in the face (or red?) But this generation “can’t stop, won’t stop”. No turning back the clock!

    And “Poor little ol’ Beck”???

  42. Celeste says:

    Just to chime in one thing, which is the idea that the NEA or art, for that matter, can exist in a political vacuum and be completely nonpartisan.
    Sorry, that just doesn’t happen.
    Art is political even if it’s not trying to be. You could say that Thomas Kinkade (sorry, most people wouldn’t consider him art, I know, but everyone knows who he is) is just trying to paint pretty pictures of houses. If he was funded by the NEA over a sea of artists (who make thought-provoking, compelling art that deals with more than that), I would consider it a conservative move. An attempt to stifle expression by more challenging artists who will not be able to continue their careers because they can’t support themselves is conservative. A national art program that funds only Kinkades and others who paint pretty, meaningless work – that is conservative. The NEA exists because artists often can’t sustain themselves on sales if they create edgier, challenging work. I want there to be a place for those artists in our society. We need them. As a follower and maker of “high art” (a baloney classification, but clarifying nonetheless), I can’t stomach the idea of creating a culture in which those who challenge it are forced to bow out in favor of work that no one can be offended by.
    I’m sorry that you don’t like where your 1/2 cent of taxpayer money to the arts is going, but come on – compared to the rest of your tax money, it’s like saying the hamburger’s bad because one sesame seed isn’t toasted correctly. Why not own up to the fact that this is about more than the NEA – this is a CULTURE WAR. And you are on the side of repression and censorship (and bad art). Supporting art that is completely free of ANY political or social relevance IS a political stance.

  43. […] RaceWire (the ColorLines blog) and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, thoughts on Glenn Beck’s latest target, Yosi Sergant at the National Endowment for the Arts. […]

  44. […] been thinking a lot about Yosi Sergant, and reading the debate on Jeff Chang’s blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about politics, and provincialism, and wondering if it is possible […]

  45. […] The New Shape Of The Culture War :: Glenn Beck, Yosi Sergant, Van Jones, and Hip-Hop – by Jeff Chang Are you mad yet? You should be. Glenn Beck has now taken down Yosi Sergant, the second hip-hop activist to be targeted in the Obama administration in a week.  Last night the 34-year old communications director at the National Endowment For The Arts was asked to resign. Why? Because he was trying to organize artists to support President Obama’s national service program, United We Serve. If your next question is: so what? That was ours too. But Glenn Beck compared the effort to “Nazi propaganda”. […]

  46. StageRight says:

    Couple things:

    Karl K is right about pretty much everything. You are all trying to engage him in arguments that are way outside of the actual point here.

    If I may… the point is: “The NEA is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.” (Those aren’t MY words, those are the words of the NEA’s own description of itself on their website.)

    Can someone tell me how this conference call fits into the NEA’s reason for being?

    If we question the appropriateness of the call, we are met with arguments like “Oh, you are saying artists shouldn’t have a voice!” or “What was wrong with the call? They were just informing artists about the United We Serve campaign and focusing on a few core issues… everybody does it!” Yeah, ok… fine arguments all (sort of), but they don’t address the basic point: Why in the Hell is the NEA coordinating this call? It’s not their freaking job!

    Hey, NEA: Fund the arts! Dole out some grants! Stay out of politics!

    Yosi should have never been assigned to an independent agency like this… (unless the whole intention was to politicize the agency). The analogy is NOT Karl Rove going out to Hollywood and speaking to producers (a lot of good THAT did). No, the analogy is Karl Rove being appointed to the NEA and then making those speeches!

    It’s not about what these guys did, it’s the ROLES they had and the agencies they worked for when they did it. And the NEA KNOWS that… that’s why Yosi got re-assigned. That’s also why Yosi and the NEA obfuscated when first asked about the calls. It’s exactly what Robert Lynch at Americans for the Arts is doing now… just wait for THAT shoe to drop.

    The NEA is about funding. When an invitation comes from the NEA to attend a call, you attend that call.. why? Because the NEA pays your bills, that’s why. If the invitation for the call did not come from the NEA, no one would have bothered joining it. Get real.

    When a spokesperson for the NEA (whose SOLE FUNCTION is to fund arts organizations) communicates that these are issues you COULD be focusing on, well then which issues do you think any SMART arts organization might start focusing on? The NEA has influence over these organizations, they used that influence (intentionally or not) and it was wrong. You don’t need to express a quid pro quo to apply pressure.

  47. Lxy says:

    A couple of links about Mr. “Change That You Can Believe In” himself, and what his vision of Hope and Change is really about.

    Obama Administration: Bushism without Bush

    Black is Back! A Coalition to Fight the Powers that Be – Including Obama

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