Robot 6

Minnesota politician blasts Neil Gaiman as ‘pencil-necked little weasel’

Neil Gaiman

Although the national spotlight is no longer on the controversial budget battle in Minnesota, the political climate remains heated.

As evidence, look no further than this Star-Tribune report about efforts by House Republicans to force arts and culture groups like Minnesota Public Radio — no surprise — and the Minnesota Zoo to compete for grants rather than receive special appropriations from the state’s Legacy Fund, which is generated through sales and use tax

Explaining why the state funding for the arts is undergoing scrutiny, House Majority Leader Matt Dean singled out $45,000 in Legacy money paid to author and comics writer Neil Gaiman for a four-hour appearance at a Stillwater public library in May 2010.

Dean is quoted as saying that Gaiman, “who I hate,” was a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”

The author responded to the remarks this morning on Twitter, writing, “Sad & funny. Minnesota Republicans have a ‘hate’ list. Like Nixon did. I’m on it. They also don’t like capitalism. [...] Any nice, sane Minnesota Republicans reading this, please vote for someone who isn’t a bully with a hate list next time.”

It’s certainly not the first time Gaiman’s Stillwater appearance raised eyebrows, but Dean is being awfully personal (to say nothing of hyperbolic).

The author first addressed questions about his fee last May, conceding that he’s, “Not just a bit pricy. Really expensive.”

“The main reason I got a speaking agency, ten years ago, was because too many requests for me to come and speak were coming in,” Gaiman continued. “And the speaking requests were, and are, a distraction from what I ought to be doing, which is writing. So rather than say no, we’ve always priced me high. Not Tony Blair high, or Sarah Palin high (last time I read about them, they’re about $400,000 and $150,000 respectively). But I’m at the top end of what it costs to bring an author who should be home writing and does not really want a second career as a public speaker to your event. So if you want to pay me to come in and talk, it’s expensive.”

He went on to recount that the money was earmarked “to bring authors to suburban libraries who otherwise wouldn’t be able to bring them in,” and that, if unused, could not be carried over the following year. With that in mind, he accepted the engagement then donated his fee (minus agent commissions) to two charities.

(via Blastr)

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34 Comments

LOL, love Neil, he’s two steps ahead of the controversy.

How could anyone hate Neil Gaiman, guys about as harmless as they come.

I know, it’s because he’s got that accent that turns on all the girls and he’s smart. Mostly, he’s smart and Republicans hate anyone being smart.

I understand Gaiman’s point about why he is expensive…But, whatever public servent agreed to pay 45k for four hours should be fired. If the state is that bad of shape financially, then they should realize that they cannot afford the 45k it took to bring Gaiman to the library. That’s more money than some city workers make in a year.

I thought it was the pursuit of legal fortune that formed the backbone of the republican idealology of a capitalist society. Now this republican “hates” an individual excersising his personal freedom rather than deriding the -system that allowed him thus? What horrors…what a really big un-surprise.

Get ‘em, Neil!

Dean should run for president! Let’s see how many crazy, out-of-touch Minnesotan candidates we can get in the race!

hey, that $45000 went to charity. it’s better than some pencil-neck weasel of a politician pocketing it!

DrJohnMan, if the city had not used that money on Gaiman, they possibly would have lost that money the following year. The city made the decision to bring Gaiman and speak or the alternative may have been to have nothing and lose the money. This is more of a policy question on where to spend money and where to cut back when there are fewer financial resources. Mr. Dean should be talking about smart policy decisions instead of this pointless finger pointing.

It seems like when I was growing up, Minnesota used to be such a nice place.

Who is electing all of these obnoxiously-confrontational a–holes up there, lately?

Yeah Gaiman! Class act :)

I have always thought very highly of Minnesota almost exclusively because of their excellent public broadcasting programs – it was the big “pro” when considering Atlanta vs Minneapolis for grad school. I think it’s a real shame that there is such a partisan bend against NPR, which has always been just as critical of liberal politicians making foolish decisions as it has conservatives, at least in the places in which I’ve lived and listened.

If they paid Neil 45K to show up as a speaker who has done something useful with his life it’s not so bad. I think Rutgers paid Snooki 32K to talk and all she’s done is be a circus on TV.

When funds are earmarked for a specific type of expenditure, they can’t be spent on anything else. It seems most people who are upset about Mr. Gaiman’s speaking fee, which came from just that type of fund, either can’t or won’t understand that the money could ONLY be spent on getting a speaker. And that the funds wouldn’t carry over to the next year. Use it or lose it. The library chose to use it.

Just goes to show, this particular Republican politician is not bright and likes to bully with his words. He’s an example of what some of us have been calling Rethuglicans. And I’m actually fairly conservative in my politics. I just don’t hold with letting bullies get away with their bad behavior.

And geez, didn’t he think first? He’s taking on a professional wordsmith, for crying out loud!

Have they not read his awesome FAQ as to why it costs so much to get him to speak?
http://boingboing.net/2010/05/10/neil-gaimans-awesome.html

That’s a waste of money, and Gaiman’s response is ridiculous: a government agency throwing an extraordinary amount of money down the toilet has absolutely nothing to do with “capitalism.” Why wasn’t Minnesota’s money being used to promote Minnesota’s arts and culture, instead of trotting out minor celebrities in front of bored suburbanites? And comparing yourself to the people placed on Nixon’s enemies list…?? What? “Use it or lose it” is no excuse for lighting taxpayer dollars on fire. Also: thanks for hurting NPR, a truly valuable institution that’s been under attack for a very long time now by some truly awful people who now get to use this as an excuse… Well done!

Interesting that people are complaining about a $45K fee, but where is the outrage that CEOs get 400x what their average employee gets? Talk about wasted money that could be going to food and housing…$45K is peanuts compared to the multi-millions wasted on CEOs.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I find the call of ‘who I hate’ from the politician to be really odd – is this a personal attack, or one based on principal?
He should be saying ‘I love Neil Gaiman’s work and I think this is a waste of tax-payer money’.

That’s a waste of money, and Gaiman’s response is ridiculous: a government agency throwing an extraordinary amount of money down the toilet has absolutely nothing to do with “capitalism.”

As part of the attacks seem to focus on Gaiman being a crook for charging that much, then the hating capitalism comment holds – he’s allowed to charge as much as he wants.

“Use it or lose it” is no excuse for lighting taxpayer dollars on fire.

If you can’t spend it on anything else, why wouldn’t you use it?

And in this particular instance, he gave it all, minus agent fee, to charity – so it was probably better spent than it would have been if it went back into the system.

How does the Republican party have any credibility ? For eight years they voted for policies that ruined the economy. And now they’re fiscally responsible?

They have credibility because some folks don’t hold with lettin’ the queer-mo-sexuals get hitched. Seriously. How many old white people vote Republican just because they’re anti-choice/anti-gay?

@Abhay “Why wasn’t Minnesota’s money being used to promote Minnesota’s arts and culture, instead of trotting out minor celebrities in front of bored suburbanites? ”

You realize that Gaiman lives in Minnesota and is thus part of Minnesota’s arts and culture? And you’re really not getting the part where this money could ONLY be used to get a big-name author to a suburban library.

“You realize that Gaiman lives in Minnesota”

Oh, I wasn’t aware. I think that changes nothing– I don’t think handing Neal Gaiman $45,000 promotes Minnesota arts and culture, but that’s nice. Also, if he’s given it to charities, I’d (a) not care anyways because he would benefit from the tax deduction and (b) care only that they weren’t Scientology-related charities.

“And you’re really not getting the part where this money could ONLY be used”

I disagree with that premise.

“And you’re really not getting the part where this money could ONLY be used”

I disagree with that premise.

You disagree with what appears to be an undisputed fact because i conflicts with your political views? You must be a Republican, then. As I understand it, the state of Minnesota allocated $45k to this library for the express purpose of funding the speaking fees of an author who would come in and give a lecture to the community. It would have been illegal for the library to have spent those funds on anything else, and if they had failed to spend the money at all, the library’s budget for the following year would automatically have been reduced by $45k. Now, if you want to argue that such an earmark is frivolous and should not be in the budget at all, that’s one thing. But you appear to suggest that the people running the library should unilaterally turn down money that has been allocated to them by the state in order to provide a specific service to the community that the librarians themselves wanted to provide simply because you, like this Republican douchebag, don’t see any value in a library arranging for perhaps Minnesota’s most prominent living author lecture for four hours.

Why are we wasting money on libraries in the first place? Ain’t nobody ever got nuthin’ outta no fancy book larnin’!

And what do you have against the Scientologists? Is it professional jealousy, since, as a Republican, you belong to a cult every bit as ignorant, pernicious and destructive as that other fraudulent sham?

I’m not a Republican– you think only Republicans care about public money being misspent? That’s silly– and exactly the kind of reaction Gaiman is trying to create with his little martyr complex, that you’re either on his side or some evil “enemies-list” drafting Republican bully. No. I’m not on the side of government waste– that’s not a Republican-Democrat issue, or shouldn’t be. Especially where it’s beyond obvious that there are valuable ways that $45,000 could be spent that would have benefited the arts and culture of Minnesota for a longer span of time than 4 hours, for more people than the inhabitants of a suburban library, and for artists who need the money far more desperately than an internationally recognized author/screenwriter.

“they had failed to spend the money at all, the library’s budget for the following year would automatically have been reduced by $45k”

GOOD! If they couldn’t spend it well, that’s exactly what should have happened so that the following year, that money could be reallocated to people who could have spent it in a competent way. Instead, they gamed the system in order to maintain a budget that was too high to begin with. They got more than they needed, and they wasted it rather than see other people, more deserving people get it instead. How is that right? Plus: government art spending has been under attack for a LONG time now and that library should have known better rather than hand the right-wing maniacs such a perfect example of wasted art spending…

“And what do you have against the Scientologists”

Seriously?

Currently, institutions are punished for being efficient and/or gaining a surplus.

If all the money is not used, the institution is likely to receive less funds next year. Funds, you think are desperately needed.

This is not a problem specific to the arts and culture. All divisions suffer from this culture of wasteful spending. Military wastes bullets just “spend” its budgets. Purchasing unnecessary and expensive equipment just so that their budget will not be reduced next year.

It makes sense for all institution to pocket the surplus, to save for needed things down the line or tide them over during a less fruitful year, not the mention keeping budgets in check. Yet this is not how it works.

It is clear, that this is a systemic problem. It is not how the library is funded that needs to be attack. After all, they are just doing what any rational human would do. What needs to be attacked is how such institution are funded.

For most of us, a surplus at the end of year means a larger budget for next year not less.

RockingJamboree

May 7, 2011 at 2:00 am

Abhay, it’s all about what you value. Here in Minnesota we have Professional Sports teams. Their players get paid many millions of dollars a year. How much is that per hour of “Game Time”? And yet, the Sports Stadiums are (to a VERY LARGE extent) publicly funded. The Libraries asked what Neil Gaiman’s Standard Rates for Public Speaking were. Neil said they were very large, but they should contact his Agency. Because of a Sales Tax of 3/8 of one percent for the next 25 years that is specifically mandated to go to Funding for the Arts (voted into the Constitution by Minnesota Taxpayers), the Library had the funds to pay Neil his standard rate. His lecture was given to a crowd or 500 (you could say they paid $90 a head) for a one hour lecture, a one hour Q & A and a two hour meet and greet, autograph signing and photo taking session. Four hours total Many people had paid FAR MORE than that, just the night before at a Charity Event, for a very similar experience. On top of that, Neil’s speech was broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, so that it was heard by many thousands more listeners. How many Library Events have you been to that drew 500 people? How many Library Events have you ever HEARD of that were broadcast on the radio? The Library knew what it was doing. They knew they would be generating some controversy. They also knew they would be generating loads of excitement and enthusiasm for READING! More than $45,000 worth. At least the Library felt they were getting good VALUE for their money.

Here’s the thing. Who the Hell is Rep. Matt Dean to call Neil Gaiman a thief! Gaiman was asked to perform a service. He set a price. And he performed the services he was contracted to do (give a speech) and then hung out for several hours more. The Library paid that price and they got good VALUE for their money. That’s not THIEVERY, that’s CAPITALISM! Matt Dean has said that Neil Gaiman is a wealthy man, so he can afford to donate his time to the Library. First, the Library didn’t ask Gaiman to donate his time. And how rich do you have to be before Republicans start demanding you perform Community Service? That’s an interesting Economic Premise, but it’s NOT American Capitalism! Is it a progressive scale? Are Billionaires required to do more Community Service than Millionaires? And Neil Gaiman CAN’T afford to donate his time to every Library that would have him come speak, or he would do nothing but give free speeches, and get no writing done. He’s a writer, you know.

Matt Dean can say that the $45,000 was misspent. That’s his opinion. But he CAN’T call Neil Gaiman a thief, because that is just a LIE. And he shouldn’t call Gaiman a “pencil-necked little weasel,” because that’s just rude and stupid. We have more and more “rude and stupid” creeping into Politics and less and less civility. Turns out, Dean’s Mom made him apologize for his School-Yard Bully Taunt of “pencil-necked little weasel.” I don’t think Dean has formally apologized for calling Gaiman a “thief.”

Look, you might not think a speech by Neil Gaiman is worth $45,000. I do. The Minnesota Taxpayers do, that’s why the voters created a special fund for the Arts and entrusted Local Libraries to spend some of that money! The Stillwater Public Library did. Republicans are supposed to be about smaller government and less bureaucratic red tape and more local control. So why does a State Legislator feel it’s necessary to micro-manage a local library? Another State Legislator (Dean Urdahl) cut the Library Budget Funding for next year by $45,000. He essentially FINED the Libraries GENERAL FUND by $45,000 for having the temerity to spend their Arts Funding Money (not money from their General Fund) in some way that personally offends him. I think that’s shameful. What will happen next? Will Legislators feel empowered to cut Library funding for buying books they don’t approve of? How much micro-managing do they want to do?

Thank you for such a reasonable response.

Hmm, as much as I liked Neil Gaiman’s works and own at least half of his stuff, I’d be very disappointed if my local council was spending $45,000 on him talking for a few hours. That he was happy enough to take that kind of money from his own state is just a wee bit rotten.

Decisions like this is exactly why arts funding is so hard to get and maintain. I would much rather have seen a comic book festival.

I didn’t know Gaiman was a Scientologist but feel strongly enough about the subject to boycott his stuff from now on. They are venal, corrupt and utterly irresponsible.

@Stuart -Comic Book convention was canceled due to the “Spawn” controversy…. Be real, this dude does nothing for comic books when you attack another artist…. Oh wait that was writer VS artist…. (one of these is a talent, the other is well something we can all do if you think about it) -Oh wait, free thinking on your own…. Guess that why he has fan’s, people forgot how to imagine….

I guess buying Neil Gamin stuff to take home and burn will always be my personal quest to help the travesty he left in the Spawn universe…..

Neil Gaiman isn’t a Scientologist, but his family is. BBC did an interview with ‘m and touched on it briefly.

So Neil is a man of honesty and integrity while Matt Dean appears to be a rank, political opportunist. And he drove his argument into a brick wall. It’s easy to defend yourself when you are in the right. Well done Neil. Keep writing.

Allzermalmende

May 11, 2011 at 11:04 am

The funny thing here is that the principals of both Dean and Gaiman are the same here, it’s the political posturing that’s screwing everything up.

The whole thing is a clusterf- of misdirection. Dean is doing the typical politician thing: since it looks bad to attack the arts in general, he’s attacking a straw-man, since Gaiman did get more money out of the transaction than most would likely want their tax dollars spent on.

While Gaiman then does the usual celebrity tactic of over-generalization (attacking the Republicans of Minnesota rather than just Dean), he does point out that Dean’s attack on him is an attack on capitalism.

And that’s what is so funny about this: both want a streamlined capitalist system. Dean doesn’t want money taken from taxpayers waisted on getting a comic artist to appear at a library in a way that is tremendously inefficient and doesn’t really have a benefit equal to its cost. Gaiman clearly states that making appearances breaks his writing process and costs him money, so he prices his appearance costs at what they are worth to him, which some in the market will pay.

So ideally, Gaiman should be getting brought in by a collection of fans or a convention, who are paying their money to see him (getting what they want for a price they agree to), the venue will make a profit on the transaction (whether it’s a library or convention hall), Gaiman can actually charge less and/or make more because he knows he can make more money at an event off of those willing to pay to see him than those who would come to see him for free. Everybody wins!

So, the real problem here is the person in charge of distributing the earmarked money (which could have brought many more authors of equal caliber who don’t mind making appearances as much to many libraries). The solution is, ironically, exactly what Dean is supposed to be championing: stop letting bureaucrats decide how to spend YOUR money arbitrarily and have a bidding process or a budget where the money has to be remade in profits or at least meet a certain margin. Private organizations do the same things and make money, going in with the mindset of losing all your money every single year is like ordering people to waste it.

The comedy is that in Dean’s idiotic compulsion to make the political rather than substantive argument, he buries his party’s proposal under the controversy. Another example of how politics undermines governance.

How about this: If I heard Neil Gaiman was going to be speaking at my damn library, I might actually be inclined to go to my local library.

Sad truth is I spend more of my time (and money) in bookstores that are filled with top sellers and adeptations of hit movies (or soon to be made into hit movies). If I saw that Neil Gaiman was going to be speaking there and I got to see him for free (no they don’t charge admission at the door to libraries. I’ve seen some authors speak), no power in the universe would stop me and my friends from going.

Low and behold me and my jaded friends get there, listen to Gaiman tell us stories and assure us that there won’t be a Sandman movie produced by John Peters, and realize what a damn cool place the library turns out to be. Maybe we hang around for a bit after, decide to get a card and borrow some books? How is that not good for the library?

Lemme give you all a crash course in accounting: If the library’s 45k for bringing in authors to speak “would not be carried over the following year”, that means it’s gone. It doesn’t stack with the next year, it can’t be eremarked for other projects, it has to, by law, be spent on authors appearing. And yea, other years you have 9 authors show up for 5k each, but one year you get a 45k author like Neil Gaiman to show up. Why? Because what that man can say is worth pure gold.

Oh and if you want to claim the moral high ground in an argument, don’t call your opponents names. It’s not polite, even if it turns out he does resemble a ferret’s head on a #2.

As a writer myself, I have to say that I’m rather offended by the people saying that Neil Gaiman shouldn’t have taken the money from his own state.
Look, I know the arts tends to get lumped in its own kind of ethereal category when it comes to jobs. People have this view of writers as somehow special, living on a shoestring budget because they work for their art. But for those of us who actually live that life, it’s a job. A great job, perhaps, but a job nonetheless. We work forty hour weeks, often more, and expect to be paid for our services. Just because we deal in ideas and intellectual property doesn’t make our work public domain. It certainly doesn’t make our time public domain either. I can produce two chapters of a novel in four hours. I can write an entire short story, or an article. And none of them would be worth a fraction of what Neil Gaiman could accomplish in those four hours.
Consider, too, that he already does appearances at conventions and book signings for fans. They aren’t cheap, and they usually have a very steep entry cost to cover the expenses. Consider all the people who can’t afford to drive down to ComiCon to get to see him. For them, a free lecture at a library may be the only chance they’d get. And the value of that lecture could mean everything.
There’s no easy path one can take to become a writer. There aren’t any publishers willing to look over your resume and pay you to make a book for them. To get there you need to work hard at honing your craft, learn how the system works, and make yourself a part of it. And frankly the best way you can do that is by learning from the examples of others. In those four hours, Neil Gaiman could have helped dozens of potential writers find their way.

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