In an emotional speech recently in Washington, John Frohnmayer, the ousted head of the National Endowment for the Arts, delivered a scathing indictment of the Pat Buchanan-Jesse Helms style of New Puritanism. "If the NEA gets picked off," Mr. Frohnmayer warned, "public broadcasting is next, and after that research funds for universities, and after that research funds for science."
One needn't accept Mr. Frohnmayer's predictions at face value to be troubled by the turn taken by the arts funding debate, which has been hijacked by right-wing ideologues and religious fundamentalists bent on manipulating uneasiness over obscenity and blasphemy into a Know-Nothing groundswell that would destroy the nation's arts institutions and public funding agencies.
Yet while Mr. Frohnmayer may deplore this development, he is at least partially to blame. Had he been more thoughtful in overseeing NEA projects, cultural troglodytes like Helms and Buchanan never would have found the agency such a ripe target for the politics of resentment.