The latest political tempest in a teapot features international sci-fi/fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and head of the Minnesota GOP (Republican Party) Matt Dean.
Quick background here: Neil Gaiman is a Hugo Award winning, New York Times best selling author. He’s written books, comics, and done some screenplays. In short, he’s a very successful author who prefers writing things to going out and speaking. (Do take the time to read the link).
Today the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article discussing the Legacy program referenced above. Now I won’t go into the validity of the Republican efforts to potentially cut funding to arts programs in Minnesota. I’m not well versed enough on the program in question to have an informed opinion. I am informed enough to be rather floored that Dean states he “hates” Neil Gaiman, and then proceeds to call him a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”
Those are fairly strong words about a man who Dean has apparently never met. Further more, accusing anyone of stealing money from the state is a rather strong statement. (Remember to go back and read Neil’s original post about his Legacy talk in Stillwater, MN).
Since when is it stealing for any professional, working individual to ask for payment for services rendered? Frankly, this is something the GOP as a whole tends to advocate. Pull yourself up by the boot straps, go forth and make oodles of cash! It’s the American dream. (Gaiman is British, but you get the idea.)
Apparently Dean is upset that Gaiman was paid with taxpayer funds. That’s not his fault. The Legacy program is designed to bring authors in to schools and libraries to talk about reading. The money doesn’t roll over year to year. If they don’t spend it, they lose it. That sounds like an issue of program design to me.
1) The Legacy program had around $40,000 dollars in the fund which was set to expire in a month. (There’s some question of how much Gaiman was paid. His rate is around $45k per engagement. Per another post by him he recieved $33,600 for that talk. You can see the original talk here.)
2) Individuals have the right to ask for fair payment. In a free market economy, this is how it works. You put up an amount, the individual asking for the services then decides if they want to pay or not. Capitalism at work here. It doesn’t matter if it’s a government entity who pays or not. Every single day, taxpayers pay for services from individuals. This is how it works.
3) The Star Tribune fell down on the job. With a fairly provocative statement like the one Dean made, I’d expect to see some sort of follow up with Gaiman in the article. There was none. That’s poor editorial control and poor reporting in my view.
4) Don’t tick off an internationally known author with 1.5 million folks on his Twitter feed. Gaiman was steamed this morning. He fired off several tweets, one of them resulting in a “#neilwebfail” where he managed to crash the server hosting Matt Dean’s website. (Yes I am a fan and do follow Neil on twitter.)
5) Blame the right people. With a month to go, Legacy still had $40,000 available to spend. That indicates to me they were not using the funds effectively. THAT is where focus needs to be directed.
Interested to hear your thoughts. Do me a favor, and keep it civil. As noted, I’m not judging the validity of the Legacy program. I am not pleased with the implication that private citizens (or those who are here legally working) are somehow not allowed to set fair market value for their services. Remember, “fair” is determined by what people will pay.
(Note- Dean has since apologized for calling Gaiman pencil necked. No apology as yet for the stealing comment, which is the one I actually objected to.)