Porn and Perverts: Are Stimulus Funds Showered on 'Stimulating' Art?

Categories: Government, Media
That paragon of quality news reporting, Fox, ran a story on its Web site today about two local arts organizations that  received federal stimulus funding for "...Saturday night 'pervert' revues and the airing of pornographic horror films at art houses in San Francisco." The two organizations in question are CouterPULSE and Frameline.

The National Endowment for the Arts received $80 million of the $787 billion stimulus package. Of that $80 million, CounterPULSE received $25,000 and Frameline received $50,000. The article calls into question whether or not the organizations deserve funding when they produce and promote content of an adult nature. The two items held up for scrutiny? The pervert "revue" put on by CounterPULSE and a film called Thundercrack, billed as "the world's only underground kinky art porno horror film", screened by Frameline as part of its annual film festival.

CounterPULSE is, in fact, home to a production called "Perverts Put Out!" described as a "long-running pansexual performance series" and information about the show is accompanied by a photo of a nude man at a microphone, a frill of pubic hair just peeking into the frame. However, when we talked to CounterPULSE Executive Director Jessica Robinson, she told us that the event is not produced by CounterPULSE. They just rent the space to the people who put it on. And the money that was given to the organization by the NEA pays for employee salaries, it doesn't pay for events to be produced. "Fox didn't ask about that," Robinson said with chagrin.

What kinds of events does CounterPULSE facilitate? There's a program called "Performing Disapora" which contains "many diverse and talented practitioners of traditional performance." Dirty! The series features poetry, dance and music. Filthy! And the organization will soon be conducting a bike ride during which participants will receive a history lesson about San Francisco labor issues. Lascivious! CounterPULSE conducts classes (there's a dance improv class offered right now), talks (topics include the Great Depression and community journalism), and provides space and resources for artists. Pretty scandalous stuff, indeed.

Frameline is perhaps best known for putting on San Francisco's international LGBT film festival every year. And yes, they run some edgy stuff. They also screen films about discrimination in the sports world.

Frameline did not return calls in regards to this story.

The Citizens Against Government Waste is an organization dedicated "to eliminating waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government." The organization's vice president for policy, David Williams, is quoted in the Fox article as saying,"When you spend so much money in a short amount of time ... you're going to have nonsense like this, and that's why the stimulus should never have been done in the first place."

When we spoke with Williams this afternoon, he first stated that the arts should be funded by the government only rarely. When asked if the content of the art should determine whether it's worthy of funds, he retracted that statement saying, "The government should not be in the business of art funding. It should be done by organizations and patrons. ... It has nothing to do with content. The government wasn't created to do this at any level."

So it's not that the government should only fund acolytes of Norman Rockwell, it just shouldn't support the arts financially at all.

In the meantime, Robinson reported that, while the story resulted in 3,000 hits to the CounterPULSE Web site, crashing their server momentarily, the response has been fairly tepid.

"We got a few calls from conservative talk show hosts. Drive time radio shows, that type of thing," She said.

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