WASHINGTON, D.C.—Everyone in the adult industry thought it was pretty funny when adult entrepreneur Larry Flynt, allegedly at the urging of Girls Gone Wild's Joe Francis, proposed last January that Congress "bail out" the adult entertainment industry to the tune of $5 billion.
But little did Flynt and Francis (or anyone else) realize that the government was already funding some adult entertainment projects... until Fox "News" noticed it yesterday and decided that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was using some of the $80 million it got from the $787 billion Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to "fund nude simulated-sex dances, Saturday night 'pervert' revues and the airing of pornographic horror films at art houses in San Francisco."
Imagine: Devoting 0.01% of the economic stimulus package to that!
Needless to say, the right wingnuts went, well, nuts.
"Stimulus funds porn sounds like the title of, well, a bad porn; but its [sic] reality under this Administration," wrote "rightpundit" Shannon Bell. "While the President is out sipping beer at photo ops, Pelosi constituents are watching kinky horror movies courtesy of you and me."
"If there's any program Republicans like myself would be willing to immediately de-fund, dismantle, and move its resources over to Head Start and 'green initiatives' (is porn more important than Mother Earth?), it's the NEA," wrote Big Hollywood's John Nolte.
(Of course, Republicans have been trying to defund the NEA at least since the Reagan era, but who's counting?)
"It would be unrealistic and unwise to oppose all NEA funding for art projects that would offend someone," allowed Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media. "For example, just as any art that conveys a positive message about religion will offend some Americans, so any art that conveys a positive message about homosexuality will offend others."
"But does that mean that NEA should have no standards?" he continued. "Does it mean the NEA should have no standards when it comes to offending moral conservatives but high standards when it comes to the risk of offending 'liberals' and 'progressives?' Does it mean that the NEA must be as foolish as some 'artists' who confuse (ignore the difference between) 'message' with genuine artistic quality?"
(Hate to break it to ya, Bob, but artistic creations often have "messages"—even religious art—and yet contain "genuine artistic quality"—a term that it would probably be a mistake to allow a religious reactionary like Peters to define.)
"The National Endowment for the Arts is using money from the stimulus bill, which was supposed to create economic activity, for the production of pornography," Alliance Defense Fund attorney (and former Obscenity Unit prosecutor) Patrick Trueman told the American Family Association's OneNewsNow. "They've specifically given grants to companies that they know produce pornography—primarily homosexual pornography."
(Or as Marlon Brando's character in Apocalypse Now might put it, "The horror! The horror!")
"This is literally obscene overspending," the Wall St. Journal's Steve Moore told Fox "News" anchor Greta Van Sustern. "It's money for things, like you said, porno horror films. There's one, I guess, with four men, three women, and a gorilla. I don't know what that's about... There is also pervert art and movie reviews. I don't exactly know what that is. I'm not part of that culture. Nude sex dances, things like that."
The "porno horror film" was Thunder Crack, screened at San Francisco's Frameline, a nonprofit organization supporting gay/bi/trans media arts, and we're guessing that "gorilla" is a guy—or gal—in a gorilla suit, since bestiality is still bustable even under the Obama administration.
Other organizations targeted by, among others, Fox house Mormon Glenn Beck were CounterPULSE, a nonprofit supporting community-based art; San Francisco Cinematheque, a showcase for experimental film and video since 1961; and Jess Curtis/Gravity, Inc., a "research and development vehicle" for "live performance."
There's just one problem: All of those organizations also got NEA funding during the Bush administration.
CounterPULSE, for instance, got $10,000 in both 2007 and 2008 to "support the Artist in Residence Program for local emerging choreographers." Frameline got a total of $71,000 from 2002 to 2006 to support film, video and lecture series and for a conference on "strategies relating to exhibition, distribution, and support for filmmakers." And Jess Curtis/Gravity, Inc. got $10,000 in both 2005 and 2007 to "support the creation and presentation of a new work by choreographer Jess Curtis." (We're guessing that's the "nude sex dancing.")
Moreover, as Media Matters for America notes, "Direct grants were only made to organizations that were screened to receive funding in the past," and as even FoxNews.com reported, NEA spokeswoman Victoria Hutter "defended the agency's choices and said its grants would help 'preserve jobs in danger of going away or that had gone away because of the economic downturn.'"
So... tempest in a teapot, anyone?