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Dissecting Right Wing Political Extremism

OPINION – Democrats stink at branding and messaging. They still live in the wonkish intellectual nirvana that somehow if we explain the societal benefits of policy to the American people, it will quell their fears and they will rise enlightened into a new age.  Republicans embrace fear. They package and brand it in flavors and variations, like Oreos or spaghetti sauce. Fear sells their Sham-WOW politics. Back us and we can make America shiny and white again. Just follow us, folks. We’ll keep the bogeymen at bay. We’re the patriots. The morally correct. The true Americans. It is not dissimilar from the kind of advertising that the cigarette industry used to sell cancer to kids for generations.

Chuck Todd of NBC News sent a tweet out earlier this week that highlighted a blog post on the “For America” blog where one of the Radical Right , Media Research Center (MRC) founder L. Brent Bozell III, was eviscerating Newt Gingrich for his move to the middle.  It was a rant against Gingrich and any other potential GOP contender that would not march in lockstep with the causes of the Radical Right.

I did a bit of checking.  Mr. Bozell is no Tea Party crazy blogging off his NetZero account from the used PC he bought at the garage sale for ten bucks.  He and the organizations that he foundes reap millions in PR money annually by selling the political carcinogens of extremist Right billionaires wrapped in the flag, mom, and apple pie. It’s the political Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man trying to put one past the American people.

Bozell, a second generation Right-wing reactionary following in his father Jr.’s footsteps, is a nephew of the late William F. Buckley and the grandson of advertising/PR agency magnate Leo Bozell.  He one of many of the Christian media Don Quixotes marching off to joust with their big windmill: Liberal America.

MRC boasts “the most comprehensive media monitoring operation in the world” to track major televised broadcasts and print news with the goal of “documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias.”

Of course, Bozell injects a lot of bias of his flavor into the media, appearing on Fox News, radio, and in print regularly.

Were this his unfettered, unpaid, personal opinion, more power to him. It is not. Mr. Bozell is a spokesperson no different than the guy selling potato peelers on HSN.  His ideas and ideology are molded around being green, if green is cash put into his organization’s pockets, and then, one might conjecture, into his pockets. Real trickle-down theory at work.  He gets millions from a handful of wealthy patrons who would seem to want to roll us back to the days of the Robber Barons and poor houses.

The Dead Billionaires Club

Bozell worked for Terry Dolan at the National Conservative Political Action Committee. When Dolan died in 1986, Bozell took over the organization for a year, then shifted gears and started the MRC which, from the $339,000 that they started with in 1987 runs on a $10 million annual budget today.

Who pumps $10 million into this one little group? Meet the Dead Billionaires Club. They’re either the foundations or the children or grandchildren running the foundations of ultra-Right philanthropists who are effecting changes in modern American politics from beyond the grave:

  • The Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation is the legacy of a deceased pair of industrialists who made millions in motor controls when they sold out to Rockwell. Both are dead, but their conservative hand reaches out from the grave to fund guys like Bozell;
  • The Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Carthage Foundation contribute to MRC. Both are cash-cow trusts controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife, the Right-Wing publishing baron out of Pittsburgh who is a backer of groups that generate Right-Wing political disinformation and chaos. Scaife, along with the more infamous Koch Brothers, backs organizations that fuel the Tea Party zombie movement;
  • The John M. Olin Foundation, another beyond-the-grave trust of a munitions and chemicals scion, is funded out but handed out big pay-days to the MRC and other groups until 2005;
  • Castle Rock Foundation, another contributor, is a back-door distributor of Right-Wing money for the Adolph Coors Foundation. That way they can fund anti-gay, anti-minority and other Right-Wing groups while courting them as customers in their brewing business.
Let’s dissect his recent blog, “Wake Up!” to illustrate how a crack, PR-savvy Righty spends shadow millions to influence public perception.  Mr. Bozell’s blog can be found in its entirety here.  To avoid claims of distortion, the entirety appears here in chunks to qualify my comments about it, which are annotated in red.
“By Brent Bozell, Chairman, ForAmerica

Chairman lends that air of authority to one of the many arms of Mr. Bozell’s Right-wing outreach. He is a blogger, in this case, of one. Say “chairman” and you have invisible legions behind you. even when the organization could be as few as a handful of actual people working for it.  The site name, “For America,” is also brilliant marketing.  It automatically implies that someone is against America.  That someone, of course, is not the Chinese, or the Russians. They used to be the bogeymen of the Right. No, folks. It is you and me. Centrists. Liberals. Minorities. LGBT Americans. Non-Christians. Non-believers.

There are points in history where all great peoples reach a crossroads and must make fundamental decisions about their future direction. One road leads to continued greatness, the other to decline and, for some, ruin.

Extremists need extremes. They’re not good with shades of grey. So, always good to set out the black-and-white of history in overblown terms to drum up momentous fear. The reader needs to know that everything that is complex about our country and troubling can be wiped away in an instant, filtered down into overly simplistic terms so they can nod their heads appreciatively, mindlessly.  

We make choices about the future every day. A line is a series of points, as is a time-line. That every moment presents opportunities and dangers.  So the rhetoric here is kind of a big “So what?”  

In 1776, our Founding Fathers were faced with a choice: continue to submit to British rule or stand up and fight for a new nation based on the concepts of freedom, individual responsibility, and the pursuit of happiness.

Righties love to shroud themselves in the Constitution, the flag, and they try, really hard, to claim that they are the franchisors of the intent of the Founding Fathers. Actually, Brent, our Founding Fathers were supporters of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Individual responsibility is not liberty.  It is never mentioned in the Constitution.  The thing that is mentioned, though, is a troubling word for the Right: Union.  

Union implies a group. A coming together of common interest. The framers were very intent on this concept, particularly recognizing how very different were the religious enclaves that evolved into colonies and then states. In those hard early days, no one spoke of individualism.  Quite the opposite.  Colonial communities banded together. The social fabric of small communities kept everyone alive. The founding fathers and the early citizens of this country would be far more inclined to see the needs of the community first, and the individual second. 

Once the war was over and the states were considering adoption of the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government America was getting. His answer: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” What followed was the unfolding of the most radical — and most radically successful — experiment in the history of man: a nation guided by the notion that central government should be limited so as to provide maximum freedom for the individual.

A Republic is a government run of the people and by the people. That would be all of “the people,” though.  The billionaires who control our government from the shadows and pay for Mr. Bozell’s livelihood would be an extension of the very tyranny that the American Colonists fought to avoid.  

His analysis, “a nation guided by the notion that central government should be limited so as to provide maximum freedom for the individual,” is just plain wrong. 

The colonies and the framers of the Constitution worried that a monarchy would break out on the American continent, or some tin-horn dictatorship would sieze the power of one state, say New York, and impose their will on the others.

The argument for a weak central government was floated by the states to provide maximum protection for each of those states joining the Union, not for the individual. The concept never came into play.  Freedom was societal, and regional, not individual.  It is why, to this day, you aren’t free to park where you like, or eat without paying for the food. “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains,” said the social philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, whose works influenced the framers.  There are lots of limits to freedom, most of which start and end at what is best for the common good of society, not the individual.

For almost 250 years we kept it. Is it over now? Is this extraordinary experiment in Constitutional governance — finished?

Will Biff fall off the cliff? Will Johnny go steady with Besty? It’s a nice drama queen moment to pump those fear centers in the brain. Please.

Under the leadership of President Obama and the radical Left, we have reached another crossroads: Will we return to our principles of limited government or if we will continue to slide toward European-style socialism, as represented by ObamaCare, bailouts, and calls from Democrats for trillions of dollars in new taxes to pay for evermore reckless federal spending which is draining our treasury of our last reserves?

Bozell has pulled out the Baskin-Robbins of fear here. 31 flavors.  

We are no longer thirteen isolated colonies in the wilderness. There are a lot of projects for the common good, from roads and schools to hospitals and health care, that are accomplished better when we do them together as a bigger community. In the bigger globe in which we live, the duplication of effort by states and the feds becomes increasingly harder to maintain.  The winner here, is the federal authority for the scale and economy that it can achieve.  The same principles that make large corporations more efficient global competitors, their scale and breadth, are no different in government for many things.  We cannot defend ourselves with state militias. We have a federal armed forces. We cannot do business as 50 different states. We have had to streamline commerce to stimulate business growth as one united nation.

Then there are the distortions and inaccuracies. The bailouts were the idea of Wall Street, and first deployed by George W. Bush and a Republican United States Congress before Mr. Obama took office. The new taxes which the Obama Administration calls for are being levied against the rich. Everyone else got a modest tax cut.  Poll after poll support the idea of a 3% increase in tax on the uppermost bracket. 

Bozell speaks of “reckless federal spending.”  Code words.  Social programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the social safety net of our communities, are what they are targeting. The Obama Administration has already gone to the well on other parts of the bureaucracy and addressing ways to trim wasteful spending. This is not enough. The billionaires from the great beyond were delivered a stinging rebuke after the Great Depression in the 1930s.  The New Deal has stuck in their craw to this day.  They want it destroyed, collective bargaining against them ended, and their days of absolute control of the lives of average Americans returned.  This is why they invest those millions into people like Mr. Bozell.

The 2012 election should seek to answer this fundamental question. On every front, economic, social and foreign policy, there are monumental decisions to be made. It is at this point — this moment, now — that Republicans should be responding to this socialist pull with dramatic and consequential policy counter-measures. The country desperately needs them and millions upon millions of activists are standing by, awaiting the order to carry the banner of freedom forward.

Mr. Obama is one of the few centrists in the White House, ever. He has demonstrated a good understanding of the necessities of leading this country, even when it has not been politically popular with the special interests of the Left.  His urgency, and his claim of legions of activists carrying the “banner of freedom forward” sounds like a bad George Romero movie, “The 300 Meets Rush Limbaugh.”  It’s empty verbal calories.

Instead, incredibly, the GOP is… gliding. Most of its leaders in the Senate make the term “Senate leadership” an oxymoron when applied to the GOP. In the House, where so many promises were made to constituents who gave them one last chance in 2010, there is growing indecision. There is the growing consensus that the present line-up of declared and would-be declared presidential candidates has failed to capture the imagination because none is bringing forward the bold leadership times of crisis require. When they do make “bold” statements, it is to defend their own leftist records, or to attack the few Republicans who are putting forward serious proposals to save America.

If, by bold leadership, Mr. Bozell means the kind of reactionary thinking to which he ascribes and puts Republican congressmen like Paul Ryan in the popularity department right behind uncured lepers at a meet-and-greet, then I guess we understand each other.   He’s dead wrong, but I understand him.

Conservatives are fed up with this nonsense. The American people do not want ObamaCare and they do not want NewtCare. The American people wholly reject the individual mandate, whether it comes from Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich. But the former Speaker did not stop there. He felt compelled to take shots at Paul Ryan and the House Republicans’ budget. Is the Ryan plan perfect? No — but it is serious, and it is bold, and it is courageous, and it would reverse the slide to economic ruin and socialism set by President Obama. Paul Ryan deserves the highest applause from conservatives, but rather than acknowledge that he is busy pulling the arrows from his back.

He attacks Gingrich for going along with the stuff that Romney and others did that made sense years ago, and Mr. Obama has adopted as, at least, a measure of improvement in our decaying health care and financial institutions. 

The GOP leadership, and most especially its presidential candidates, need to get with the program. If the GOP is incapable of articulating a vision that returns America to Constitutional conservatism, then maybe conservatives should start thinking the unthinkable: a new party. There is no luxury of time to debate and discuss and, as usual, postpone the tough decisions. They are upon us. Will we continue on the path to European socialism, or will we once more be a nation based on individual freedom, a virtuous and principled society and limited government? It’s time the GOP step up or move aside.”

America has never been within a hundred miles of  Mr. Bozell’s warped vision of Constitutional Conservatism. Tough decisions are being made every day by the Obama Administration.  One could easily argue that Mr. Obama has faced the toughest set of decisions that need to be made of any president in modern history. The man is also an isolationist who obviously doesn’t get out of the country much.

His ding about “European [S]ocialism” is just pure Right-Wing Kool Aid. If you’d travel abroad more, sir, you would find that most of those countries, like Germany and Sweden, have higher employment, living wages, better working hours, and better health care at a lower cost than anything that we can offer in the screwed up mire that our thirty years of offering tax breaks to the rich and stealing from the Middle Class has ever done for us here.

If he wants to go and live in fantasyland, where Mark the Matchboy is on every corner pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, grandma is making do in her golden years living in a chicken coop, then by gum, he needs a few Halcyon pills, not a new party.   On the other hand, the best possible outcome for the GOP would be to have Bozell and the other members of the Rabid Right take their Tea Party zombies and find a new home. 

There is a way to combat the millions that dead billionaires and the loot-sodden loony Pittsburgh publishers put into plummeting our people into perpetual pecuniary predicaments to benefit their fat lifestyle of bygone days:  Turn guys like Mr. Bozell OFF.  If you see his face on a television show, on a radio program, turn him off.  Have the restaurant or bar turn him off.  Leave his blog to his one fan and handful of reads.

Television, in particular, likes incendiary guests to stir things up.  Write the management of Fox and CNN and let them know you disagree with the practice. Your Righty friends start in on George Soros?  Introduce them to Richard Mellon Scaife and the Koch Brothers.

Everyone has the freedom to speak.  We also have the freedom not to take in the empty-calorie rhetoric of people who make millions by repackaging greed and protection of billionaires as public service and patriotism.  Sham? Wow.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian, filmmaker and chef. Ad hoc, ad loc, quid pro quo... so little time. So much to know!

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