Springtime for Hitler
By Bill Wilson
Everywhere you look today the authoritarian impulse in raising its ugly head in an aggressive, predatory snarl. This streak is not that well recognized in the United States due in large part to the myth that we are a free people who will resist with all our strength enslavement. Were it so.
From one end of the country to other, advocates for the imposition of forced government control of every aspect of our lives marches unabated. One needs no more evidence that the hyper-hubris of our Madame Speaker who “has a planet to save.” Government, it seems, can cure all ills. Whether it is remaking the world in our image or ending poverty or forcing the laws of physics to bend to our will, the silliness of most of what passes for serious policy discussions today has no limit.
But now comes yet another cause du'jour that is both ludicrous and deathly dangerous all at the same time. From the editorial pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times has come the clarion call for an entire new Department of Government: a Department of Culture.
Now, seeing what has happened to education since the creation of the Department of Education, or the state of Housing under the guidance of that august agency, I can understand those who are a bit nervous about a Department of Culture. And well they should be nervous, if not in a downright state of panic.
Ministries or departments of Culture have been around for some time now. The first and most famous was, of course, the Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. This Nazi invention had bureaus for all the same things the U.S. advocates want. There were bureaus for the visual arts, literature, music, theater – you name it. Of course, their mission was clear: to promote National Socialist thought through the arts.
Similarly, the Soviet Ministry of Culture operated in the same way, only promoting international socialism. But regardless of the type of poison being sold, government regulation and promotion is aimed at one thing – the forced feeding of propaganda to the public. That is its mission, its very reason for existence. To assert otherwise is either foolish or purposely deceptive.
It is always the case. Just this past May, another stark example of how such agencies operate came to light. The Egyptian Minister for Culture, Farqu Hosni, uttered the enlightened view that, “I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt.” Force, brute force and thuggery. That is always how, in the end, governments impose their will. Still don't believe? Ask dissent artists in China how they are treated by the Cultural Ministry in that nation.
Mr. Hosni is not an extreme example. In fact, he has been a top contender for the head of UNESCO, the internationalists cultural arm at the U.N.
The creation of the U.S. Department of Propaganda, a.k.a. Department of Culture, is being pushed now because of the severe economic downturn. Crocodile tears are turning into rivers over lost funding to local opera companies and symphonies. And, without government money and guidance, where will the next obscene attack on religion or bedrock American values come from? Who will subsidize the next Robert Mapplethorpe?
The answer, of course, is private donations. If an artist or company of artists cannot attract funds for their work, then maybe their work doesn't need to be performed. If opera cannot build an audience that sustains it, then perhaps we should just let it go. Why should 300 million Americans pay for an art form that no more than a few thousand enjoy or care about? To assert that they should is elitist to the point of tyranny.
Culture is a phrase to denote the collective values and tastes of a people. It is the sum of thousands of individual choices and preferences. When government attempts to impose those values and preferences, it ceases to be true culture in any sense of the word. It becomes pure propaganda. At least the Nazis were up front about what they were doing. Too bad the effete advocates for an American Goebbels aren't as honest.
Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.