Verdejost on Fri, 11 Feb 2000 06:37:20 EST

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I have been reading the recent posts about Austrie with a bit of discomfort, 
with the word Nazi being tossed around rather casually, reminding me (as an 
American) of the same loose and dubious use of the words "Red" or "Commie" as 
employed in the USA. 

Mr Haider is a right-wing populist, a political opportunist, a demagogue and 
all kinds of other questionable things.  He is also, as shown, a successful 
politician in Austria, making the right noises for about 1/3rd of the voting 
populace.  He has said conciliatory things about National Socialist actions 
of 60 years ago.  This all, however, does not make him a Nazi, nor in the 
current socio-political circumstances could he begin to actually engage in 
genuinely Nazi behaviours.

What I read on the list, under the quasi-hysteria, is a handful of "artists" 
fearful that their state funding is going to be yanked away.  Having myself 
visited - supposedly to work - Austria, and had a first hand bit of 
experience with how things work there, or at least in my particular case how 
they worked, I must say that this yelping looks very suspicious.  A brief 

I am a filmmaker, and at the Viennale back in 1990 or so, a retrospective of 
my work was done and much to the surprise of the organisers, it was 
successful, sold out, required extra screenings.  This begot an oblique 
invitation from the Wiener Film Fonds to apply for funding to make a film 
there.  I did so, and readily was offered around the equal of $500,000, and 
with that I was able to secure another $200,000 plus from German and Austrian 
TV.  The deal required a Vienna based production house, from a list kept by 
the WFF.  I picked one on the advise of a filmmaker friend in Wien.  I went 
there to research, found a subject, and set up to go make a film.  What then 
happened I am told is all too typical of Austrian culture of the period:
the production house, Prisma Films, headed by Heinz Stussak with his little 
lackey Michael Seeber behind him, supposed alternative/lefties, did utterly 
nothing which a legitimate production house would do.  Nothing.  They were so 
busy buying themselves new toys, a big new office, Avids, etc., and stuffing 
cash blatantly in their pockets that little things like renting a camera by a 
given date was beyond them.  When, after some weeks of this I bluntly told 
them they were two corrupt little crooks they merely smirked and offered to 
up my pay from $50,000 to $75,000.  Also, the WFF deal required spending all 
the money in Wien, where everything was vastly overpriced.  I, however, was 
there to make a film, not wallow like a pig in the Wien kickback game.  When 
I reported this to Wolfgang Ainberger, head of the WFF, he pretended it was 
not so, and was himself rather obviously in on the take.  I also reported it 
to ORF, the Austrian TV station who had $100,000 in it.  They also wished to 
pretend it was not happening.  After 3 months of this I left Wien, having 
shot some scenes under the worst possible conditions, with never a budget 
made by Prisma (one day, amidst of shuffle of papers while I demanded to know 
what the lab costs would be, Mr. Seeber said to Mr. Stussak, regarding the 
various imaginary budgets splayed before him, "This budget or...?"  Which 
pile of phoney numbers were meant for my eyes?)  

Some many months later, Mr Ainberger, who had been told explicitly what 
happened, and was told there was no film shot, accepted a VHS cassette of 
material allegedly made into a film by Prisma, and did not, as he legally 
could have, demand that Prisma pay the money back for non-performance or 
fraud.  One of the actors in the film told me the cassette was a piece of 
shit.  It of course never travelled further than Mr. Ainberger's office, and 
there went $500,000 in public monies down the drain, or more exactly, into 
the pockets of Stussak and Seeber and Ainberger.

I was told, a bit too late for my use, that this was typical of Wiener and 
Austrian cultural politics of the time.

If so, these nice alternative sorts, bearing their fake leftist banners, were 
all too involved in giving birth to the likes of Mr Haider, who could point 
to this kind of corruption (and the "content" of the social-politics which it 
often came with) as a sample of what was wrong with Austria, and what was 
happening with their tax money, and could surf a long way on such things.  

>From what I saw the so-called left (and from what I read on the list from 
some of the threatened artists complaining of their imminent loss of funding) 
was so blatant and arrogant in its slurping at the public trough that it was 
100% predictable that a Haider would come into existence.  

Haider is (like almost all politicians) a dubious grubby little liar and 
provacateur.  But his counterpart leftist opposition are very very little 
better, and for having been in actual power for quite some time, engaged in 
the most blatant of corruptions (which was hardly confined to the arts world, 
but for which Austria has for some decades been rightfully somewhat famous), 
in some senses a lot worse.  

Boycotting is not the proper response to what is happening in Austria.  But 
neither is sympathy for a thoroughly corrupt "left" which fully made the 
situation which it now whines about.  When the money crunch really comes 
watch how many nice well-to-do middle class leftist do a little shift in the 
winds and find themselves conveniently a little bit pragmatically right....

The eagerness to use such epithets as Nazi belies a shallow reading of 
history and reality and sounds far more like a mask for the dubious behaviour 
of those pointing fingers at this date.  Haider is a hate-peddling little 
creep pandering to some of the more provincial qualities of the Austrian 
psyche; the collapsed so-called left is a corrupt little clique of 
businessmen and their cronies, including artists, passing lots of money 
through each others hands in a closed circle.  No sympathies from here.
The people who are really getting screwed will be the immigrants, legal or 
The wringing hands artists are minor players though they like to imagine 
they're big ones.

jon jost

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