New Documents Reveal: White House, NEA Had Big Plans In Motion Before Being Exposed

by Patrick Courrielche

Inciting is usually a telegraphed endeavor, with rhetoric yelled to an audience through a megaphone held by a coarse, weathered hand. But it can also be delivered subtly, with a soft voice and a wink, in the name of doing good.

Subtlety is necessary if a federal agency intends to incite activists to take action on the hot issues of the moment. This approach is what we see when we look at the most recent documents acquired by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of the controversial August 10th conference call.

Readers of Big Hollywood may recall an article published in late August entitled “National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion?” that described an August 10th conference call organized by the White House, the NEA, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. As stated during the conference call, the goal was to bring together a group of pro-Obama artists to push the President and his agenda, with United We Serve as the first proposed effort. During the call, Yosi Sergant, then Communications Director for the NEA, encouraged artists to create art on the vehemently debated issues of health care, energy, and the environment.

In the newly obtained documents, Nell Abernathy, a representative of The Corporation, is shown providing the handpicked moderator a list of “concrete asks” to be emailed to the call participants following the conference call. The first concrete ask in the document [document 1] included volunteering on issues that were closely related to legislation being vehemently debated nationally:

“Serve in your community. You are probably already working to improve health care or green a neighborhood. Reach out to friends, colleagues and fans to serve with you. Ask five to pledge to serve with you.”

Health Care Reform and Cap-and-Trade legislation were both being intensely debated in Congress in August, causing town hall meetings at the time to go nuclear over the proposed health-care legislation. Democrats were widely viewed as losing the debate. Asking a stacked group of pro-Obama art activists to address these issues could only lead to policy advocacy – and it did, as we have shown (here & here).

The new documents also show that other efforts were underway. In response [document 2] to the “concrete asks” document, an artist that participated in the call sent the following (emphasis added):

“We’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming about how we can add our skillset to this effort, and here are some of our thoughts…Making prints that subtly encourage the progressive agenda. Health care, Employee free choice, immigration, energy conservation, etc.”

This is the type of propaganda art that Big Hollywood helped stop by publishing the article. The response was sent by a talented print designer (Tugboat Printshops) prior to, but on the same day that, the article was published.

Patrick’s article continues at

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