Traditionally, when art enters the realm of political controversy, it turns out to be something that was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that causes most people to want to hurl upon seeing it. However, those controversies are almost 30 years in the past. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York has created a new kerfuffle with a poster contest related to her grand scheme to remake American society, the Green New Deal.
AOC started the ball rolling with a Twitter announcement:
“I am thrilled to announce the launch of our #GreenNewDeal art series with custom Bronx & Queens GND posters. The Bronx edition poster will be given for free as a limited release to the public at our Pelham Bay Nature Day & Backpack Giveaway in the Bronx tomorrow.”
The tweet showed the two mentioned examples. One depicted the Bronx winged victory monument in Pelham Bay Park next to a monorail. The other poster was from Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, with the iconic globe and people riding bicycles and strolling about, also next to a monorail.
“These posters push us to imagine our future with a Green New Deal in two of our beloved NY-14 parks: Pelham Bay & Flushing Meadows. All our #GND posters are made in the US, union-printed & will be available for purchase soon, but available at organizing events now.”
The idea of an art series, even to advance the Green New Deal, seemed harmless enough. But then art critics on social media began to weigh in. They compared the style of the posters to Stalin-era Soviet propaganda art. The gentle reader may or may not be familiar with the genre. They generally depicted Lenin, Stalin, or a stereotypical Soviet worker or peasant in a heroic pose, carrying a hammer or sickle, the red flag of communism in the background. The mockery showed up on Twitter and caused a firestorm.
As Townhall noted:
“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is usually pretty good with her marketing. You may not like what she has to say, but she at least has style. That’s why it makes it all the more bizarre that she chose posters that look like they are right out of the Soviet Union’s propaganda machine to advocate for her Green New Deal. AOC first revealed the posters on Twitter on Friday, and conservatives were quick to point out their likeness to communist flyers of old.”
AOC was compelled to respond:
“Our #GreenNewDeal posters are inspired by the original New Deal, updated for our future. During the New Deal, FDR launched Federal One, a US project that employed 5,300 artists that created & taught art to envision America’s future.”
In other words. AOC is arguing that her posters were not mimicking that bad government inspired art from the Stalin-era but the good government inspired art from the FDR-era, the two of which coincided. The agreement seems to be that the AOC posters are still government inspired used to advance a government agenda.
Which side is right all depends, some of the critics suggest, on the context and what one thinks the Green New Deal is going to accomplish. As it turns out, neither interpretation bodes well for AOC’s latest project.
Stalin killed tens of millions of people in his pursuit of the perfect Soviet society. The carnage occurred even before World War II slaughtered tens of millions more Soviet citizens. So, if the Green New Deal posters do harken back to Soviet realism, they are terrible. Mind, the destruction of technology that is proposed by the Green New Deal might well kill as many people as Stalin did according to some estimates.
But what about the New Deal? For many people, the New Deal represented a good faith effort to alleviate the effects of the Great Depression. But, as Amity Shlaes pointed out in her classic history, “The Forgotten Man,” the New Deal lengthened the extent of the Great Depression. The New Deal did not end the Great Depression. World War II did, first by providing an economic stimulus and second by stopping the efforts of FDR’s administration from trying (and largely failing) to help the economy through overregulation and unwise spending practices. Thus, the intent of the posters, according to AOC’s view, also fails.
As Townhall noted, “I’m not saying AOC did this on purpose, but it probably isn’t a great idea to have communism be the first thing people think of when they look at posters for a new economic proposal which overhauls every aspect of your life and the economy.”
Or the New Deal, the greatest public policy disaster in history, for that matter.