(a continuation of previous post)
1982: The Moonie Media
“Reverend” Sun Myung Moon was best known as the leader of a global cult (The Unification Church) that aggressively recruited devotees (“Moonies”) and brainwashed them into living a monastic lifestyle while dedicating long hours to raising more funds to line his pockets. But he had a bigger vision. He wanted to conquer America itself; and he made it clear that he considered propaganda the way to do it.
He made a huge leap in that direction in 1982, when he founded The Washington Times, which Ronald Reagan soon proclaimed his favorite newspaper. George H.W. Bush went even farther, making a series of paid speeches to promote Moon’s media ventures. The Washington Times is still going strong, having employed such luminary “journalists” as Oliver North, Ted Nugent, Allen West, Michelle Malkin and Ben Carson. More recently, it assisted with the founding of One America News Network (OAN), yet another Fox clone vying to out-Fox Fox. Isn’t that exactly what the world needs right now?
Moon himself is gone now. But his empire still wields considerable influence, if not control, over the Republican Party, and American media and government.
1986: Sinclair Broadcast Group
Sinclair is a media octopus that now owns or operates nearly 200 television stations reaching 40% of American households. And it’s still growing. In recent days it has become notorious for mandating that its affiliates air dishonest and manipulative boilerplate segments that amount to commercials for extreme right-wing figures and talking points.
1987: Media Research Center
Founded by a nephew of William F. Buckley, Media Research Center picked up the “liberal media” motif and ran it into the bleachers, over the wall and out of the parking lot. Whereas other right-wing pundits and watchdogs try to establish the “liberal bias” of mainstream media merely by anecdotal evidence, MRC does the same thing but adds its version of a systematic ongoing study of the matter. (And oh, by the way, not infrequently tosses in the implication that liberals are downright evil.) Its pretense at scholarly authority has impressed many on the right, and its findings — constructed on cherry picking, faulty reasoning and false claims — are often haughtily touted by Republicans in Washington. (We’ll be devoting an entire post to Media Research Center in the future.)
1988 Hate Radio comes of age
Toxic talk radio has a long history, encompassing Father Coughlin, George Putnam, Joe Pyne, Wally George and Morton Downey, Jr. among others. But the era of hate radio began in earnest in 1988 when a certain flatulent radio personality whose name rhymes with hush moved from a local platform in Sacramento to a national platform in New York. He demonstrated, as no one had done before on such a massive scale, that there are tremendous profits to be made in appealing to gullible minds, stirring up rage over imagined wrongs, and demonizing half of the American population. And naturally, many others have followed his example.
Virtually all of the really successful talk radio personalities have been, at the very least, conservative — and usually desk-poundingly right wing. Even the man whose name rhymes with mush started out as a liberal but did an abrupt one-eighty when he had an epiphany that the lettuce is much greener on the other side of the divide. Many of them also have branched out into television, but radio is the ideal medium for their venom. People can (and do) listen to radio all day long, even while engaged in other activities. While they’re fuming over being stuck in traffic, the voice planted in their head by a pompous ideologue sitting in a comfy studio goads them on into fuming even more.
1993: The Internet mushrooms
It was supposed to be the Information Superhighway, fingertip access to virtually all the world’s knowledge, a way of bringing the world closer and sharing ideas and experiences instantaneously. Well, for many people, that’s what it has been. But for many others, it has been a conduit for QAnon and Breitbart and Alex Jones and Ben Shapiro, and on and on and on.
1996: Fox in charge of the henhouse
If there is one critical moment in the history of our plunge into madness that we can single out as the Rubicon, it was probably the spawning of Fox “News”, which blends all the worst of The Washington Times, hate radio, and manipulative visual imaging into one potent little package. Fox is the ultimate outpost for dysfunctional personalities whose raging schizophrenia and unbridled egomania combine with a knack for conning the shallow and pliant. It was inevitable that sooner or later, one of the shallow and pliant would end up in a position of ultimate power, eager and able to do Fox’s bidding.
2001-2009: The Karl Rove presidency
It only took 4 years for Fox “News” to pull off a major coup in influencing the outcome of a presidential election. The putative presidency of George W. Bush is notable for many reasons. It was a textbook illustration of the power of nepotism and cronyism. It was the start of the Iraqi quagmire. It was a significant milepost on the nation’s rapid slide into anti-intellectualism; whereas in the Reagan years, intelligence and knowledge were considered irrelevant, during the Junior years they actually became a handicap. And we were well on the way to the current zeitgeist in which they are considered objects of loathing.
Chances are you already know most of this. But you may not be aware of to what extent the administration, under the stewardship of Karl Rove, who aptly has been dubbed “Bush’s Brain”, dictated public perception. Bush’s handlers constantly shielded him from media scrutiny; he held fewer press conferences than just about any of his recent predecessors, and they were stacked with friendly faces poised to lob softball questions. When a real journalist asked a real question, he would declare it to be a “trick question” before preceding to evade.
He posed for phony photo-ops that made him out to be a folksy hard-working family man from Dixie who cleared out his own brush from his ranch, rather than the coddled New England carpetbagger he really was. Even front row audience members at his appearances were coached to remove their jackets and ties and roll up their sleeves to affect the appearance of just common folk.
Bush (Rove) created video commercials disguised as news reports — complete with fake journalists — touting his agenda. He (they) fabricated justification for going to “war” with Iraq. He lied hundreds of times about that “war”, and changed his reason for starting it at least 30 times. Dick Cheney even planted a phony story in the New York times claiming that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction — and then cited that same report as justification for the invasion. When the invasion failed to turn up any such weapons — well, no problem. The administration and its media enablers just claimed that in fact, such WMDs had been found. And many people believed it. And still do.
2009: The Tea Party
The election of the first African-American president in the U.S. was considered by many to be a significant breakthrough. For others, it was considered the beginning of the apocalypse. Literally. What made the Tea Party different from the faux “patriots” who preceded them was that they literally believed (and still do) to a greater extent than ever, that they were on the brink of a “civil war”, and they were itching to do anything they could to get it started. Including carrying around boom-boom sticks, and proclaiming the virtues of “Second Amendment remedies” to election outcomes they didn’t like.
Right wingers have long complained about the supposed liberal slant of college classes. it doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that facts have a liberal bias. Instead, they divide facts into liberal facts and conservative facts; the former are subversive “indoctrination” and the latter are handed down directly from God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster and are not to be questioned. Conservatives have engineered a number of campaigns to create a right-wing alternative to book learnin’; one of the most pernicious and delusional — and therefore most successful — has been PragerU. It offers a series of bite-size videos just right for the short attention span of contemporary Americans, packaged as a university curriculum. In reality, this “university” operates out of a private mail box in Southern California.
At its core, PragerU is all about justifying the preferences, privileges and peccadilloes of its cult leader, Dennis Prager. The videos include such topics as why God is necessarily male, why it’s important to wear a suit, why wishing someone “Happy Holidays” is hateful and intolerant, and why it’s okay for married men to ogle women. You think I’m joshing?
Despite its egocentric purposes, however, Prager’s web scam has thoroughly sold his millions of cultists on the righteousness of their smug insularity and bigotry. It is successfully peddling a parallel universe to a whole new generation.
Many years ago, when I was active in theatre, I wrote what was supposed to be a satirical skit about a TV network owned and operated by the NRA. It promoted guns in all of its stories, viewing all world events through the lens of a rifle scope. And now, here we are. Just goes to show you: it’s no longer safe for satire to challenge the world to a duel.
2016: Worst election ever
Many of his followers now believe that even Fox is too liberal — with the exception of Sean Hannity, who is the only one who still can be counted on to give them the straight dope.