"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Republican Propagandists

While Coulter is clearly a loose cannon among the New Right, William Kristol is considered a respectable intellectual spokesman for the Neo Conservatives. Yet, this editor of The Weekly Standard saw nothing wrong with printing all sorts of unsubstantiated rumors about President Clinton’s sex life. Among print and electronic journalists, few can exceed Robert Novak’s record for unabashedly taking a one sided view of the news. He came to sound so much like a paid spokesman for the GOP, that Al Hunt, a Wall Street Journalist, finally suggested on Capitol Gang that Novak was merely parroting the Republicans’ talking points for that weekend. Although Novak expressed outrage, he could find no evidence to claim his position differed from the official party line. Regular viewers of the program must have wondered why Hunt had not stated the obvious months before that.

Conservative writers are even known to consult with one another on how best to handle stories. The most successful example was when Bill Kristol persuaded the others to no longer refer to the medical care problem as a “ crisis” because that word gave the matter an urgency, which worked in favor of the Democrats. Republican strategist Grover Norquist admitted that the conservative press places politics above reporting: it “is self-consciously part of the team.” By 2005, conservative columnists seemed to almost never to deviate from the party’s talking points or to raise doubts about any Bush administration policies. William Raspberry noted that in the past he had looked to conservative columnists for useful information in shaping his views. He lamented that they are no longer “independent sources” and that these pundits have become “mere partisans for particular politicians.”

The so-called liberal journalists did not compare notes on how to handle a story or orchestrate their efforts to see that it got maximum exposure. Similarly, so-called liberal television journalists generally attempt to take into account both sides of a story, whereas the conservatives on Fox News make almost no effort to do so. Likewise, the non-conservative think tanks, with the exception of the Institute for Policy Studies, do not behave as though they had a special mission to beat the drums for a particular political philosophy.

John Fund
Wall Street Journal pundit John Fund made a career of attacking Clinton for his sleazy involvement with Monica Lewinsky. A reliable cog in the Right-Wing propaganda operation, he received many “leaks” from the Starr investigation. Fund joined the effort to use the Gary Condit case to demonstrate the immoral tendencies of Democrats. While cranking out this sort of salacious material, Fund was involved in a minor scandal of his own. He was sleeping with a mother and her daughter. Apparently he focused first on the mother, then the daughter, and then returned to the mother. When daughter found it necessary to have an abortion, the Right Wing columnist, who presumably was pro-life, did nothing to try to stop her. The mother released tapes in which she and Fund discussed the details of his sex with the girl. Perhaps because Fund was not a public official, the matter has had almost no coverage in the press, perhaps because Fund is not a public official. However, this information could help the public weigh the value of his pontificating about the morals of Democrats. Fund occasionally wrote speeches for George W. Bush, and became a commentator for the Christian Broadcasting Network. There was a substantial effort to call into question the charges against his character.

George Will and Other Conservative Pundits
Conservative journalists also became more numerous and prominent. Centrist pundits lost much of their following during the last days of the Vietnam War for they had supported the failed effort too long. Rightist writers like George Will and William Safire often took their places. By the 1990s, writers for The Nation and other publications were experiencing huge problems in getting syndicated as newspaper columnists. There was more and more pressure to give “op ed” pages a more conservative coloration by eliminating liberal writers and replacing them with conservatives. In 2005, even The Los Angeles Times succumbed to this pressure, firing a liberal and adding another conservative. It also scuttled Op-Ed page editor Michael Kinsley, whose views were moderate-to- liberal. He noted that people had come to see op ed pages in terms of grocery store shelf or counter space, they more you give to one side the more likely its views were to be accepted. He thought that view was fallacious, arguing that one well-written liberal column would be more persuasive than ten poorly done conservative columns. But the simple fact was that the shelf space approach seemed to be working.

For a time, George Will could occasionally offer objective commentary, but eventually he almost became just another right-wing propagandist. However, his columns charmed readers with learned references to literature and classical philosophers. Safire was a superb wordsmith and from the beginning an advocate, propagandist, and manipulator of information. The Rowland Evans-Robert Novak column, which often sought balance in the 1960s, shifted to the right in the 1970s. In the 1980s, media outlets sought conservative pundits so they could have people in tune with the voters who placed Ronald Reagan in the White House. George Will became the nation’s most prominent pundit, and he enjoyed the advantage of being a close friend of Reagan. He wrote Reagan speeches, prepared him for a presidential debate, and frequently entertained the Reagans in his Chevy Chase home. Will soon obtained Lippman-like prominence and played a major role in defining the public agenda that occupied political writers and talk shows. He collected $20,000 a speech. A talent agent noted that other pundits could collect $7,500 an hour if he or she were engaging, conservative, and a television talking head.

Charles Krauthammer, an apostate liberal, also gained in prominence, and Morton Kondracke also shifted to the conservative ranks. Fred Barnes was another New Republic Republican who gained television prominence. Patrick Buchanan, a Nixon-Agnew speechwriter also became a pundit celebrity and propagandist for the far right. John McLaughlin, who had formerly edited a religious magazine, became another prominent television figure and conservative advocate. His carelessness with facts never seemed to bother him or his viewers. As the weight of the punditocracy shifted to the right, centrists like Jack Germond and David Broder were seen as liberal. Likewise, centrist solutions to national problems came to be seen as liberal. David Broder, dean of the mainline commentators, deplored what had occurred during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was quick to issue Ronald Reagan a pass. Moreover, he questioned the value of prosecuting the wrongdoers, asking if sending Oliver North to Allenwood prison would gain anything. The timidity of the press during the affair helped to make it a toothless watchdog when other abuses of power were to occur.

Some of the earliest complaints against liberal media bias occurred at the time of the Republican convention in 1964. Barry Goldwater complained about Walter Cronkite’s handling of the senator’s own words and said “I don’t think these people should be allowed to broadcast” some things. Cronkite later had to hire bodyguards. Angry delegates rocked the beams supporting the ABC broadcast booth. Later, conservatives objected to coverage of the Watergate scandal, too, and Norman Podhoretz called it a media coup d’etat. Outraged that CNN did not frame discussions of Cuba in terms of condemnation, Brent Bozell, III of the Media Research Center, called the network a megaphone for Castro. For three decades, the right has carried on an effective campaign of media-bashing, built around claims that the media had a strong liberal bias. It has had the effect of making “editors and producers look over their right shoulders and second-guess themselves.” In addition, the conservatives built the “Republican Party’s not-so-secret weapon: a 24-hour television, radio, and newspaper [political] advertisement” network that includes FOX News, numerous print and electronic commentators, and radio chains such as Clear Channel, which was owned by two active GOP contributors, Tom and R. Steven Hicks. What essentially occurred was that people and operations that considered political propagandizing far more important than adhering to journalistic standards of fairness infiltrated the media.

Even some Republican newspapers can be considered more a part of this propaganda apparatus than merely newspapers with a conservative orientation. A Kennedy School of Government study analyzed the editorial pages of the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times. It found that the two liberal and two conservative pages were about equally partisan in dealing with their opponents. However, the two conservative papers showed great reluctance to criticize “their side” while the Post and Times had no problem frequently rapping the Clinton administration and its policies. Moreover, the Wall Street Journal criticized the secrecy of Hillary Clinton’s health task force eight times but fiercely defended the secrecy of Vice President Cheney’s energy task force. The study found that the liberal papers held “a traditional view of journalism as detached, independent, and unaffiliated ( or at least less affiliated ) with a particular political party,” while the conservative papers were practicing a “ more activist-oriented journalism” and were much more closely aligned with a political cause.” This pattern, which appeared in the leading liberal and conservative newspapers is reflected in other newspapers and gives the Republicans a significant advantage.

The news reports offered by conservative foundations and journalists were often so clearly biased that there was no question about their orientation. On the other hand, the so-called liberal media stories usually did not slant one way nearly so ostensibly. Many conservative journalists justified the obviously conservative thrust of their stories with the claim that something had to be done to counterbalance the liberal media. With the exception of the talk show hosts, they usually claimed to be unbiased while also defending their conservative bias. Yet their work has often been accepted and recycled by the mainstream press. Mainstream journalists often praised David Brock, who later apologized for his work. He was able to peddle a hatchet job as careful investigative journalism to seduce the mainstream press into accepting it. Indeed, so-called liberal publications often praised the thoroughness of his work David Brock and many other talented young writers entered the movement for emotional and not political reasons. Brock said he wanted to fill the “emptiness inside me” and feel important by belonging to a powerful movement and experience success by driving an expensive car and dressing well, and associating with powerful people. He also wrote about the “psychic thrill of relentless partisan attack.”


Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!