This conservative media machine now rivals—and may well surpass—the power and the influence of the old-line press. It holds sway over much of the national agenda, deciding which ideas and individuals are accepted and which are marginalized.
In May 1992, television preacher Pat Robertson announced that he was interested in buying United Press International, the financially struggling news service. Reflecting on the proposed deal, Robertson told reporters the purchase "may be a little opportunity" for God to touch society. Two months later, the deal was off. Robertson explained that his auditors had looked at UPI's books and determined it would take at least $31 million to turn the troubled news agency around. Robertson said the investment just wasn't worth it. God, it seems, would have to look elsewhere to touch society. As the UPI move illustrates, Robertson's […]
A Right-Wing Hatchet Man
In 1992, the American Spectator's circulation stood at 38,000; today, the right-wing magazine boasts 335,000 subscriptions. Two factors account for most of this growth: One is the continuous boosting by talkshow host Rush Limbaugh (the magazine is a sponsor of his show); the other is the sensationalistic reporting of David Brock. Brock is responsible for the reporting on Clinton's alleged extramarital affairs that became known as "Troopergate" (American Spectator, 1/94), he's also the one who called Anita Hill "a bit nutty and a bit slutty" (American Spectator, 3/92), and later wrote a book called The Real Anita Hill. Brock's mix […]
A Feminist Perspective
One breezy October evening three weeks before last fall's election, Ellen Messer-Davidow, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, advised New York feminists to start reading the writings of the right. Because most progressives don't spend their time perusing conservative publications, she said, they usually don't notice right-wing arguments until they spread to the media's center stream. Long before Christina Hoff Sommers published her attack on feminist scholarship, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, for example, Carol Iannone, vice president of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), had authored "Feminism and Literature" (New Criterion, 11/85), "The Barbarism […]
How the right wing subsidizes its press
Why have progressives virtually lost their voices in serious public policy debates? Is it the superior effectiveness (or entertainment value) of the Newt/Rush appeals to reason? Or is it just some inevitable historical cycle, which progressives should endure quietly, assuming that their turn will come? These would be logical questions if the contest for public opinion were being waged on a level playing field. But it isn't: America's conservative philanthropies eagerly fund the enterprise of shaping opinion and defining policy debates, while similar efforts by progressive philanthropies are, by comparison, sporadic and half-hearted. Unitl five years ago, when I became […]
In the Right Lane of the Information Superhighway
Al Gore may get credit for coining the term "information superhighway," but it's Newt Gingrich and company who are burning rubber on it. House Speaker Gingrich and his fellow Republicans have clearly stolen the thunder of their Democratic counterparts in applying state-of-the-art information technology to further their political agenda. Since seizing power in November, the Republicans have taken new initiatives to get out their message through electronic media. Gingrich, who refers to himself as a "conservative futurist," quickly inaugurated a new on-line system that will make Congressional information available over the global computer network known as the Internet. Gingrich's media […]
Tired of easy listening? If you're in Colorado Springs, you can tune into KVOR, where talkshow host Chuck Baker mimics the sound of a firing pin--"kching-kching"--as he raves against the government and talks to listeners about shooting members of Congress and forming guerilla cells. Baker's three-hour talk show piggy-backs Rush Limbaugh, forming a solid bloc of conservative talk five days a week. But Baker's show took a radical turn to the right last summer, when he found that more callers were associated with the "patriot" movement than the Republican Party. "Patriot" is a generic term for an anti-government movement that […]
Who pays the bills for the right's daily paper?
By Daniel Junas Sun Myung Moon, the charismatic leader of the Unification Church, founded the Washington Times on May 18, 1982, the day after he was convicted of tax fraud and related charges. That conviction, for which Moon served 14 months in federal prison, contributed to a widespread perception that Moon was a discredited and fading cult leader. But while Moon himself has faded from the consciousness of the American public, the Washington Times has left its own mark on the political consciousness of the nation's capital and, indirectly, the entire nation. The Washington Times' circulation has never topped 100,000, […]