The role of artists during periods of repression and arch-conservatism is traditionally one of resistance and criticism.
There are valid arguments that society is in another dark age similar to the medieval, or middle ages and I can see the similarities – a de-valuation of liberal arts and accessible education, rapid developments in technology, a great divide between the poor and rich and (due to the very limited shelf life of digital media) an impermanence of recorded information.
Though the arts benefit greatly, like everything does, when society is more tolerant and educated there is also a natural counter-reaction to arch-conservatism that actually triggers significant production and innovation. Sadly, genuine suffering and the need to articulate critical ideas in areas rabid intolerants don’t know how to censor are the main engines for these historical periods of high art. It is a testament to both the strength and importance of artists in our society and the “weakness” of the arts deserving support because it is pretty obvious during these times that arts and artists will always play a significant role no matter how hard religious or political trends attempt to squash or neglect such intellectual efforts.
The arts have never been more popular or important as they are right now… but for all the wrong reasons. We live in dark times.