Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Memo to Congress: Go Ahead and Kill Big Bird!

While conservative commentators such as Brent Bozell & Tim Graham , Joel Pollak and Tammy Bruce  have rallied around President Trump's call to de-fund federal cultural agencies such as PBS, NPR, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the "organs" have predictably begun their illegal scare campaigns for funding, by threatening to "kill Big Bird".

Twenty years ago I worked on this issue for the Heritage Foundation and David Horowitz, and discovered that although PBS, NPR and the cultural agencies spent much of their time and money attacking the GOP, they were protected by Republicans from budget cuts. Indeed, after Congress "zeroed-out" funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Senate restored it in conference--despite the "Piss Christ" fiasco

Now, twenty year later, arguments made on behalf of the cultural agencies in the 1990s are revealed to have been hollow lies. Free speech? Not so much...the NEA for some reason never funded an exhibition featuring a photograph titled "Piss Mohammed." Non-Commercial? Again, not so much, as the Muppets are owned by Disney and Sesame Street airs on HBO. Providing resources not available elsewhere? Nope. YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and podcasts of all kinds  provide free or low-cost educational programming that once was the purview of PBS. Current affairs? Sorry, Charlie, the American public has access via C-Span and a plethora of online public service options dedicated to everything from city council meetings to university lectures. Education? Available free from EdX, Coursera, OpenCulture, Harvard's Open Learning Initiative, and dozens of other providers. Children's programming? Any iPad has more educational software available than your local PBS station.

So, what do PBS, NPR and the cultural agencies provide that can't be found elsewhere? The answer is simple: political propaganda of a predictably progressive tilt, combined with lucrative paydays for politically-correct and politically-connected cadre...all wrapped in a package with British sitcoms, antiques shows, and costume dramas -- now available directly from the BBC and ITV on

Add to this the realization that in some 50 years of broadcasting, Sesame Street has not eliminated the achievement gap in education--its declared purpose as a Great Society Program--there is simply no rationale other than interest group politics for the continuation of federal funding. Sesame Street may be a great business success at selling toys and other merchandise, but it has clearly and demonstrably failed in its educational mission aimed at the underprivileged.

Sadly, the impact of the twin Endowments since the GOP saved them from extinction in the 1990s has been to further the transformation of the art world and humanities into Politically Correct wastelands, phenomena documented extensively by authors like Bruce Bawer and Roger Kimball.

Bottom line: In the past 20 years, American culture has gone from bad to worse, thanks in no small part to the record of federal cultural agencies saved by the GOP in the 1990s. To begin a turnaround around, start by cutting off funding to the CPB (PBS, NPR & Pacifica), NEA & NEH, to send a strong signal that the new Administration is serious about change.  Far from fearing the charge of killing Big Bird, Republicans should embrace it, as an example of Schumpeterian "creative destruction," in order to make room for something better.

Kill Big Bird?

Go ahead, make my day.