Scalia’s Golden Rule for Art

“The First Amendment has not repealed the ancient rule of life, that he who pays the piper calls the tune.” With these words staunch conservative and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, unambiguously defended the rights and privileges of capital over artistic expression. Scalia’s remarks reveal an unbridled hostility with respect to the arts, exposing an attitude that justifies the most egregious forms of censorship. He might as well have said, “I believe in the Golden Rule, those with the gold make the rules.”

Scalia’s remarks were made at a Sept. 22nd. symposium on American society and the arts held at the famed New York Juilliard School. He further elaborated his position by saying the government has the right to deny funds for art it disapproves of: “When you place the government in charge of funding art, just as when you place the government in charge of providing education, somebody has to pick the content of what art is going to be funded, what subjects are going to be taught. The only way to eliminate any government choice on what art is worthwhile, what art isn’t worthwhile, is to get the government totally out of the business of funding.”

I’m not sure how to take Scalia’s comments. Is he in favor of an official U.S. art - an approved national aesthetic that is blessed and sanctioned by the government? Or is he not so slyly arguing for the total elimination of all government funding of the arts? Neither position bodes well for artistic expression here in “the land of the free,” and with two more reactionaries slated to be seated on the U.S. Supreme Court, American artists had better prepare for gloomy days ahead.

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