'Public Option Please': NEA Propaganda Revealed


When Big Hollywood correspondent Patrick Courrielche exposed the infamous NEA Conference call, where members of the NEA staff and the White House encouraged artists to use their talents in promoting causes that were closely associated with President Obama’s aggressive, left-wing agenda, apologists and defenders on the left and in the media began to parrot the Administration’s defense as if it were Gospel Truth.

The most linked-to and referenced defense came from Ben Davis at the well-respected artnet Magazine. After spending many paragraphs attacking Patrick and questioning the nefarious motives behind his unforgiveable act of betrayal (I’m not referring to Patrick recording the conference call, the real betrayal was Patrick appearing on “The Glenn Beck Show“), Davis goes on to repeat the Obama talking point:

This notorious conference call, in other words, was essentially a pitch for artists to make glorified PSAs about volunteer work. As far as I can tell, the truth is exactly the opposite of the ominous attempt to yoke artists to the Obama Agenda that critics suggest; if anything, the call was an effort to take the inspiration for radical change that led many creative types to vote for Obama and channel it into low-level, local activism.

This article has been rallied behind and taken as the final word on the subject as far as the left-wing blog world is concerned. Only problem: it’s spin and obfuscation. First, through the Freedom of Information aAct, Courrielche further proved that artists responded to the call with tangible, policy-oriented ideas that went way beyond a call for volunteer work.

And now, after four months, we see some real, tangible propaganda. Enter Justin Kemerling.

Earlier this week Big Hollywood exposed the tangled web of left-wing blogs and political agitation groups controlled by Hollywood producer Jane Hamsher. “Hollywood” Jane Hamsher used her considerable clout within the Hollywood Left mafia family to pressure celebs from supporting Susan G. Komen for the cure as long as they continue to retain Hadassah Lieberman (or, I suppose for as long as Haddasah retains Sen. Joe Lieberman as her husband).

While investigating one of Hamsher’s many left-wing confrontation pages, Public Option Please, we discovered that people who donate to the cause and become members of the movement receive free art work (a button or a poster) designed by pop artist, Justin Kemerling.

Kemerling was on the conference call that day with Patrick Courrielche. He heard the same things Patrick heard. Within weeks of the call, he designed this neat little button for Hamsher’s Public Option Please campaign:


He also designed this poster for Hamsher:


And these stickers:


I know that our friends from the left in the art world recoil and get defensive when accused of creating propaganda, but look at these designs…. What would YOU call them? Propaganda is a form of communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. Seriously, what do YOU call this stuff?

Kemerling created propaganda. He created the propaganda exactly the way the NEA and White House requested him to on the August 10th conference call. “Public Option Please” was launched on October 8th, so the propaganda Kemmerling made was done about a month after the NEA and White House told him to.

So Kemerling is a left-wing artist located in Nebraska and Hamsher is a Hollywood Producer/Activist now located in Virginia. How do these two star-crossed lefties hook up to create the “Propoganda Opportunity”?

Enter Yosi Sergant.

Remember Yosi? After he took the fall for the NEA conference call (even though it was really pushed by the White House Office of Public Engagement, right Yosi? Come on, you can tell us…) Yosi laid low for a while. We hadn’t heard from him or about where he ended up employed. And then, we saw this article in the Washington Post announcing an art contest for Jane Hamsher’s Public Option Please. (BTW: Notice how the winning artistic design put a symbolic heart of our country right smack in the middle of Washington DC? These people really do think that Government is the heart of our country).

At the end of the article Hamsher reveals a key fact:

You can vote for your favorite on the group’s Web site, though the winner will be picked by a panel of judges including Arianna Huffington, Margaret Cho and Jesse Dylan. Hey, why not Yosi Sergant (the publicist behind “Hope,” who resigned his NEA job after a conference call in which he exhorted artists to support the Obama agenda)? “He’s been advising us,” Hamsher said.

Well there you go. Looks like Yosi landed on his feet and scored a cool little consulting gig for the woman who promulgated a picture of Joe Lieberman in “Sambo Blackface” and is shaming Hollywood celebs into dropping their support for a breast cancer charity until the charity dumps Hadassah Lieberman.

So let’s connect a few dots, shall we? Yosi knows Kemerling. Yosi coordinates a conference call that Kemerling is on. As Director of Communications for the National Endowmant for the Arts, Yosi encourages Kemerling to “pick something, whether it’s health care, education, the environment, you know, there’s four key areas that the corporation has identified as the areas of service… And then my ask would be to apply artistic, you know, your artistic creative communities utilities and bring them to the table.” Within weeks of Yosi’s “resignation” Hamsher launches Public Option Now and focuses the fundraising campaign around Kemerling’s art.

Many will contend that there is no link between the conference call and this propaganda. And that Kemmerling has a history of supporting left-wing causes through his art; he would have done these posters without White House encouragement. Those who hold this position are probably right, actually. But the fact that I can so easily reach the conclusion that Kemerling was motivated and inspired by Yosi Sergant and Buffy Wicks call to action is exactly the reason why the conference calls and the policy behind them should never have been made. And, it is exactly the reason why Yosi Sergant no longer works for the NEA.

I would love to hear Ben Davis’ honest reaction to this article. I wonder if he would honestly and openly re-visit the subject and if he would be tolerant enough to recognize that there are many people (many, Ben) in the art world who disagree with him on this subject and just about every social and political view that he holds. I doubt it, given this passage from the same article:

Of course, there are all types in the art world, but in general, it is a cosmopolitan group; urban, educated and tolerant. Not really the Sarah Palin crowd. You have to defend the art world’s right to be what it is.

Yeah, that’s some impressive tolerance on display, Ben. Aren’t you even a little bit hesitant to speak for the entire art world in such a way? Can you find any room in your oh-so-tolerant world view to grasp the idea that you have many colleagues who actually like and respect Sarah Palin, but because of your totalitarian methods of politically correct manipulation of thought, they would never tell you? Isn’t it possible, given your refusal to acknowledge the obvious reasons why Sergant was fired and your ability to call Sarah Palin supporters (about half of our country) as the antithesis of tolerant, educated and cosmopolitan, that YOU Mr. Davis are the intolerant, un-educated, parochial, mind-numbed, knee-jerk reactionary?


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