[Update: I'm sorry I left out the link to Parry's column. Here it is .]
Robert Parry of Consortium News writes,
The American Right achieved its political dominance in Washington over the past quarter century with the help of more than $3 billion spent by Korean cult leader Sun Myung Moon on a daily propaganda organ, the Washington Times, according to a 21-year veteran of the newspaper.
The 21-year veteran is former WT reporter George Archibald, who wrote an internet essay about internal turmoil at the newspaper. Parry continues,
Archibald also confirmed claims by some former Moon insiders that the cult leader has continued to pour in $100 million a year or more to keep the newspaper afloat. Archibald put the price tag for the newspaper’s first 24 years at “more than $3 billion of cash.”
At the newspaper’s tenth anniversary, Moon announced that he had spent $1 billion on the Times – or $100 million a year – but newspaper officials and some Moon followers have since tried to low-ball Moon’s subsidies in public comments by claiming they had declined to about $35 million a year.
The figure from Archibald and other defectors from Moon’s operation is about three times higher than the $35 million annual figure.
Parry goes on to describe Sun Myung Moon as a nexus connecting organized crime, including drug trafficking, with prominent right-wing American politicians. This you can read and judge for yourself. For now I just want to say a little more about right-wing media infrastructure.
Last year Don Hazen wrote a great piece at AlterNet about how Big Money subsidizes the rightie message machine.
Consider that the conservative political movement, which now has a hammerlock on every aspect of federal government, has a media message machine fed by more than 80 large non-profit organizations – let’s call them the Big 80 – funded by a gaggle of right-wing family foundations and wealthy individuals to the tune of $400 million a year.
And the Big 80 groups are just the “non-partisan” 501(c)(3) groups. These do not include groups like the NRA, the anti-gay and anti-abortion groups, nor do they include the political action committees (PACs) or the “527″ groups (so named for the section of the tax code they fall under), like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which so effectively slammed John Kerry’s campaign in 2004.
To get their message out, the conservatives have a powerful media empire, which churns out and amplifies the message of the day - or the week - through a wide network of outlets and individuals, including Fox News, talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, Ann Coulter, as well as religious broadcasters like Pat Robertson and his 700 Club. On the web, it starts with TownHall.com
Fueling the conservative message machine with a steady flow of cash is a large group of wealthy individuals, including many who serve on the boards of the Big 80.
The recent, well-publicized financial problems of Air America Radio drew hoots of derision from the Right, but rightie “journalists” and bloggers studiously refuse to acknowledge that their own media — and often their own careers — are made possible by deep pockets in the deep background. If right-wing media truly were supported by nothing but its own profits, I suspect much — not all, maybe, but much — of it would fail.
The foundations of today’s right-wing media infrastructure were laid in the 1970s. With seed money provided by Joseph Coors, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lynde and Harry Bradley, and Smith Richardson, among others, the Right built a mighty network of organizations — including think tanks, media monitors and outlets, and legal groups — for the purpose of relentlessly hammering right-wing propaganda into the American public.
Don Hazen explains how it works:
If Rush Limbaugh wants something on vouchers – it’s immediately in his hands; if Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly needs a guest to talk about the “death tax,” he’s got him from one of the think tanks. Stein estimates that 36,000 conservatives have been trained on values, issues, leadership, use of media and agenda development. These are not the elected officials, but rather the cadre of the conservative network. Stein figures that the core leaders of the Big 80 groups he studied are about 2,000 people who make between $75,000 and $200,000 and have all been trained in the Leadership Institute.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, while the American Right built an Empire, the American Left came unglued. The old New Deal coalition finally splintered apart in the early 1970s under the pressure brought by the New Left and the antiwar movement, among others forces. But instead of building a new coalition to take its place, liberal activism devolved into identity politics and single-issue advocacy. The “Naderite” approach of effecting change through legal challenges instead of by majoritarian politics had some successes, but at the cost of disconnecting liberalism and progressivism from populism and party politics. This, combined with the dominance of the Right’s infrastructure, by the late 1980s had robbed liberalism of its voice in the nation’s political dialogue and allowed the Right to render the word liberal into a pejorative from which voters fled in terror. (I went into a lot more detail of this sad history in this Mahablog post from last August.)
Here I could also say a lot more about how Democrats sold out to corporations and special interests because of the cost of mass media political campaigns, but you probably know that story already.
Instead, I want to tie the media infrastructure story into something I posted here on C&L a couple of days ago, about health care.
I do think we’ve reached a point at which a critical mass of the American middle class understands the system is seriously bleeped and is willing to listen to options. Unfortunately the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy still has a tight enough grip on news media that it is damn near impossible to have the dispassionate national discussion on health care we need to be having. As soon as the phrase “universal health care” leaves anyone’s lips, you can count on a right-wing goon to be standing nearby to shout it down. Thanks to the VRWC, all the average person knows about other nations’ health care system is that there are waiting lines in Canada.
This unhappy situation was made possible by the deep pockets of Richard Mellon Scaife, Joseph Coors, and Sun Myung Moon. These same deep pockets helped see to it in 2002 and 2003 that voices of opposition to the Iraq invasion were nicely muffled, and in 2004 that the bogus “swift boat” stories got plenty of (mostly uncritical) media coverage. And so on. Media Matters does a great job of documenting the atrocities as they occur. But we’re still way disadvantaged compared to the Right at speaking to the American public through mass media. Somehow rectifying this situation will be essential to restoring the nation to any semblance of political health.