Taxpayers' money going to the London Review of Books

December 03, 2010 4:24 PM

There is a fine line between taxpayers' money supporting free expression in the arts, and it funding political work that bolsters a particular viewpoint.  With ordinary taxpayers' money tight there clearly need to be sharp cuts in support for the arts.  It would just be intolerable for poor families to be paying more in VAT so that the well off can enjoy the fruits of the art budget: from galleries to the opera.

But that is one more debate over getting good value and competing priorities.  It is far more egregious when arts funding is used as a cover to support political causes.  That is unfair and undemocratic.  Taxpayers shouldn't be supporting views that they don't even agree with.  There was one example of this in our recent report on taxpayer funded environmentalism, the Arts Council paid the radical New Economics Foundation £5,000 in 2008-09.  Here is a video with TPA Campaign Director explaining the problem with taxpayer funded environmentalism:



But a bigger example comes in a report from JustJournalism.  They report that since its inception, the London Review of Books has received over £767,000 from the Arts Council, including £188,000 just for paying contributing writers.

Over that period, it has published 92 articles on Israel-Palestine, with plenty from Jewish Israelis, but just one gave a "mainstream Jewish and Israeli perspective".  They manage to produce lots of sympathetic stories about the terrorist movements Hamas and Hezbollah but have nothing positive to say about a Western democracy.  This isn't an accident, the editor - Mary-Kay Wilmers - explained her views on Israel to the Times:

"I’m unambiguously hostile to Israel because it’s a mendacious state. They do things that are just so immoral and counterproductive and, as a Jew, especially as a Jew, you can’t justify that."

That Times article paints quite a picture of her "controversial views" and some of the views the magazine has provided a space for, like the idea that "America had it coming" on 9/11.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with controversial views or running a literary journal full of controversial views.  No one has to buy or read them, and that's free speech.  There absolutely is a problem, though, if the rest of us are made to pay for it.  To come back to JustJournalism's example, why should taxpayers, many of whom hold a more moderate or positive view of Israel, support someone to express their hostility to that country?There is a fine line between taxpayers' money supporting free expression in the arts, and it funding political work that bolsters a particular viewpoint.  With ordinary taxpayers' money tight there clearly need to be sharp cuts in support for the arts.  It would just be intolerable for poor families to be paying more in VAT so that the well off can enjoy the fruits of the art budget: from galleries to the opera.

But that is one more debate over getting good value and competing priorities.  It is far more egregious when arts funding is used as a cover to support political causes.  That is unfair and undemocratic.  Taxpayers shouldn't be supporting views that they don't even agree with.  There was one example of this in our recent report on taxpayer funded environmentalism, the Arts Council paid the radical New Economics Foundation £5,000 in 2008-09.  Here is a video with TPA Campaign Director explaining the problem with taxpayer funded environmentalism:



But a bigger example comes in a report from JustJournalism.  They report that since its inception, the London Review of Books has received over £767,000 from the Arts Council, including £188,000 just for paying contributing writers.

Over that period, it has published 92 articles on Israel-Palestine, with plenty from Jewish Israelis, but just one gave a "mainstream Jewish and Israeli perspective".  They manage to produce lots of sympathetic stories about the terrorist movements Hamas and Hezbollah but have nothing positive to say about a Western democracy.  This isn't an accident, the editor - Mary-Kay Wilmers - explained her views on Israel to the Times:

"I’m unambiguously hostile to Israel because it’s a mendacious state. They do things that are just so immoral and counterproductive and, as a Jew, especially as a Jew, you can’t justify that."

That Times article paints quite a picture of her "controversial views" and some of the views the magazine has provided a space for, like the idea that "America had it coming" on 9/11.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with controversial views or running a literary journal full of controversial views.  No one has to buy or read them, and that's free speech.  There absolutely is a problem, though, if the rest of us are made to pay for it.  To come back to JustJournalism's example, why should taxpayers, many of whom hold a more moderate or positive view of Israel, support someone to express their hostility to that country?

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