Here's The New Republic's Jonathan Chait:
In my field, we have something called the National Magazine Awards. Magazine writers tend to be both obsessed with who wins and convinced the process is a pathetic joke. This isn't just sour grapes, either. The last time The New Republic won a National Magazine Award, it was for publishing Betsy McCaughey's infamous anti-Clintoncare screed "No Exit," which is probably the worst article in the history of TNR. It's as if the last American to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Timothy McVeigh.
Which, of course, raises the question of why TNR hasn't given back the award -- and why its editor claims the magazine has "recanted" and "apologized" for "No Exit," even though it has done nothing of the kind.
In recent days, Glenn Beck has turned his neo-McCarthyite crusade against communism and "czars" against Anita Dunn after Dunn said of Fox News: "As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave." Beck devoted most of his October 15 Fox News show to claiming that Dunn "worships" and "idolizes" "her hero" Mao Zedong. Dunn had once commented that Mao and Mother Teresa were two of her "favorite political philosophers."
Of course, Beck excels at turning molehills into mountains of misinformation. If Beck were to actually turn his specious spotlight on conservatives who have cited or praised influential communist figures, he would have at least a week's worth of shows. That list includes fellow Fox News friend Newt Gingrich; former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed; Stephen Shadegg, adviser and "alter ego" of Sen. Barry Goldwater (Beck has repeatedly called on Republicans to "get back to the conservative roots of Barry Goldwater"); Peter Germanis, who served as a senior policy analyst in the Reagan administration; and even President Bush, who encouraged Karl Rove to read a Mao biography and whose Social Security reform strategy was reportedly influenced by Lenin.
Beck's crack research staff could fill in the details and no doubt find even more tenuous communist connections among conservatives. But there's one conservative that would provide Beck with endless material if his anti-communist witch hunt was actually anything more than a shtick to smear the Obama administration and play to his conservative base.
In Blinded by the Right, Media Matters founder David Brock wrote of the Americans for Tax Reform president:
There was nothing traditionally conservative in Grover's approach. As I conformed myself to the movement, I was being inculcated into a radical cult that bore none of the positive attributes of classical conservatism-a sense of limits, fair play, Tory civility, and respect for individual freedom. On the contrary, Grover admired the iron dedication of Lenin, whose dictum "Probe with bayonets, looking for weakness" he often quoted, and whose majestic portrait hung in Grover's Washington living room. Grover kept a pet boa constrictor, named after the turn-of-the-century anarchist Lysander Spooner. He fed the snake mice, all of them named David Bonior, the outspoken liberal House whip.
It's not hard to imagine the weeks of mock outrage that would ensue if Beck -- or Hannity -- discovered that a prominent progressive had -- or had ever had -- a portrait of Lenin hanging in his Washington living room.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov! In his living room!
But not only did Norquist entertain guests under a portrait of the first head of state of the Soviet Union, he also studied the writings of Antonio Gramsci, the most famous Italian Communist, best known for his concept of cultural hegemony.
Despite his promise as an academic, Gramsci became active in the Socialist Party and launched a career as a fierce pamphleteer, making himself a voice to be reckoned with throughout Italian political circles. Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, Gramsci sided with the Communist minority within the Socialist Party and built up the Italian Communist Party at the dawn of the Italian fascist movement. After serving as Italy's delegate in Moscow to the communist International, he was elected general secretary of the Communist Party in Italy. Soon thereafter, Gramsci was arrested by the government in Rome and spent ten years in prison producing his most influential revolutionary writings, in the form of notebooks and letters, before dying of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1937. Two decades later, his writings were studied carefully by the radical left throughout the world, particularly by leaders of revolutionary movements in the Third World -- and by the anti-Communist Grover Norquist.
Gramsci's concept of cultural hegemony was sprung out of his quest to understand why the working classes weren't more willing to rise up and overthrow the ruling classes. Gramsci posited that culture must be investigated to see what norms contributed to reinforcing (or dismantling) of the larger social structure.
Given his populist framing of his anti-tax group and its efforts, Norquist seems to understand what Gramsci was getting at, albeit with a much different goal.
And given Beck's populist framing of his own partisan attacks against progressives and progressive causes, he also seems to grasp what Gramsci was getting at.
(Uh-oh. Better not let Beck find out.)
From Greg Sargent's The Plum Line blog:
One of Castellanos' firms, as you know, was the ad buyer behind a major insurance industry TV campaign against health care reform. His firm also has raked in nearly $500,000 from the Republican National Committee, which enlisted him to craft anti-reform talking points.
Here's one more interesting data point: Another one of his firms, Purple Strategies, also has a contract with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most determined and well-funded foes of Obama's governing agenda.
J.P. Fielder, the Chamber's spokesperson, confirms that Castellanos' firm is doing the advertising on the Chamber's ongoing multi-million-dollar campaign hailing the virtues of the free-market system - which has the specific goals of derailing Obama's climate change and health care reform initiatives.
To be clear, there's nothing necessarily amiss here, and I wanted to take this occasion to clarify something. The reason we're digging into Castellanos is not because of Castellanos per se, but because his case tells a larger story about how Washington works. You hear a lot about the revolving door between government and lobbying. But there's another, less-remarked-on revolving door: One between consulting and commentary.
Just a few short weeks ago, Glenn Beck was voicing his concern about the potential effects Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermonizing might be having on President Obama's policy toward Israel. Remember, Beck believes that the president is a racist who hates white people, so don't be surprised that Rev. Wright is still a hot topic of discussion on his program. Anyway, Beck asked former United Nations ambassador John Bolton: "Do you think it's possible to sit in the church with somebody who is as anti-Semitic as Jeremiah Wright is and not come away with an anti-Semitic view?" Beck went on to allow that Obama's Israel policy "may not be anti-Semitic," but the implication was clear -- Obama's thinking was influenced by Wright, and is therefore suspect. Beck clearly thinks the views and opinions of a person's mentors, if that's the proper word, are tremendously important when understanding the view and opinions of that person. So perhaps we should be taking a closer look at Beck's own "mentors."
Beck's affinity for the writings and theology of ultra-conservative activist W. Cleon Skousen is well-documented. Skousen's book, The 5,000-Year Leap, is at the center of Beck's 9-12 Project, and Beck called the book "divinely inspired" in the foreword he wrote for the 30th anniversary edition. But much of what Skousen wrote has been forgotten or never progressed far beyond the obscure fringes that Skousen himself inhabited. We've already explored Skousen's unique take on "the story of slavery in America," wherein slave owners were "the worst victims" of slavery, white children "envy the freedom" of slave children, and life in the antebellum South was a "nightmare" of fear for "white civilization." But a mind as fertile as Skousen's couldn't be limited simply to sympathizing with the owners of human chattel.
Take, for instance, Skousen's 1970 book, The Naked Capitalist. It's ostensibly a review of Dr. Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope, and in it Skousen declares that Quigley is an "insider" in a grand "power complex" that will "eventually attain total global control." Skousen gets right to the meat of things on Page 6:
The real value of Tragedy and Hope is not so much as a "history of the world in our time" (as its subtitle suggests), but rather as a bold and boastful admission by Dr. Quigley that there actually exists a relatively small but powerful group which has succeeded in acquiring a choke-hold on the affairs of practically the entire human race.
This is what is known as New World Order conspiracy theorism -- the idea that the affairs of the entire globe are secretly controlled by a small group of extremely wealthy (and usually Jewish, though Skousen didn't seem to buy into that) cabal of individuals who are either Freemasons or Illuminati or Stonecutters or whatever. Of course, Skousen throws his own flourishes in, linking everything to the great communist conspiracy and the apocalypse as predicted by Revelations. Skousen continued on Page 6: "Anyone familiar with the writings of John's Apocalypse might have suspected that modern history would eventually contain the account of a gigantic complex of political and economic power which would cover the while earth." Put bluntly, the whole thing is stonking crazy.
But The Naked Capitalist is also completely dishonest. At least, that's the opinion of Dr. Carroll Quigley, who would be something of an authority on this issue. As Salon's Alexander Zaitchik noted in his handy-dandy Skousen round-up, a 1971 issue of Dialogue: The Journal of Mormon Thought contained Quigley's analysis of The Naked Capitalist, and, as Zaitchik wrote, his "judgment was not kind." Quigley accused Skousen of "inventing fantastic ideas and making inferences that go far beyond the bounds of honest commentary." According to Zaitchik, Quigley actually intended Tragedy and Hope to be a critique of far-right conspiracy cranks like Skousen. But as is the case with most conspiracy theorists, Skousen twisted the evidence before him into something that approximated his own worldview, and then proudly declared his own vindication.
If this sounds familiar, it should -- this is pretty much exactly what Beck does. It's the sort of fevered narcissism that compels Beck to cast himself as the embattled voice for truth who braves death to reluctantly do the job of complacent or complicit journalists who just won't connect the dots between the fascist artwork in Rockefeller Center and the president's speech to schoolchildren. If there's a difference between Skousen and Beck, it's that Beck at least sometimes acknowledges that he sounds like a lunatic as he tumbles down various rabbit holes.
Books like The Making of America and The Naked Capitalist elegantly demonstrate why Skousen never achieved much notoriety as a scholar -- his ideas were too whacked out even for hardcore conservatives. But he's enjoying a bit of a resurgence now as the gravitational center of the Glenn Beck universe.
Given Glenn Beck's specious attacks on Anita Dunn's statements on Mao Zedong, it seems noteworthy that in his 2003 book, The Real America, Beck wrote: "I wish I were the president, just for the 747 and the cabinent I could assemble. I would have the best minds that I could find with a special eye out for those people who would vehemently disagree with each other." He then explains that since he's not president, he did "the next best thing." He gathered books that presumably represent those "best minds."
Among them? Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.
Beck said he'd love to take lawyer Alan Dershowitz and "put him in a room with ... Adolf Hitler." Beck adds: "I'd love to see those guys go at it."
From The Real America, pp. 210-211:
Why I Am a Mormon
Growing up Catholic in my family, there were questions you don't ask because "the devil is making you question this" or you'd get my favorite answer: "It's a mystery." Now in my thirties, I realized that I really didn't know God at all on a personal level. I only believed in God because someone told me He existed. And I was no longer afraid of questioning.
I wish I were the president, just for the 747 and the cabinet I could assemble. I would have the best minds that I could find with a special eye out for those people who would vehemently disagree with each other. I'd let them argue it out and just listen. Well, I'm not the president so the jet doesn't take off when I tell it to and I can't hire great minds to argue.
So, I did the next best thing, I drove to the bookstore. Here is who I put on my "book cabinet": I got Alan Dershowitz. He's opinionated, obnoxious and at times-when he's not talking about the OJ Simpson case-he makes a good point. Let's see, let's put him in a room with... Adolf Hitler. I'd love to see those guys go at it. So next: Hitler's Mein Kampf. The something by Pope John Paul, along with Carl Sagan. I looked really hard, who else would I like to see in a room together? Hey, how about Nietzsche and Billy Graham? Yeah!
I thought it all made sense and was cool until I got to the checkout counter. I will never forget the look on the woman's face or her comments as she scanned the bar codes "Oh! Alan Dershowitz! That's a great book (Boop!) Okay, Pope John Paul (boop!)... and Nietzsche... interesting. (Boop!)... Adolf Hitler... Uh...(boop!) Thank you!"
As I saw the freakish collection of titles pass through this woman's hands I realized I was assembling the library of a serial killer! This is what Hannibal Lecter reads. I began to imagine that the FBI databanks were being alerted as to my location. "Oh, one more thing, do you have a copy of The Catcher in the Rye?"
Meanwhile, my quiet little friend Pat was still saying, "Glenn, if you're looking for answers I have some for you."
"No thanks, Pat! You Mormons are freaks!"
Really? Which sick freak is reading Mein Kampf?
First to speak on my book council was Carl Sagan, who's an atheist. He took organized religion apart, and did it very well. He talked about the power and the manipulation and the greed, and I said to myself, "Now, there's a point of view I've never really considered. I've never considered atheism. Maybe there is no God. Maybe I'll try this on." That's the kind of world I live in. I try things on. I immerse myself in things, then pick them apart from the inside.
So I tried on atheism. I said to God, "I don't know if you exist. I do know, however, that if you were really our 'Father in Heaven' that you would leave breadcrumbs for your children to find their way back. Why would you erase your tracks. If you exist, I will find you, because you would want me to find you."
My path, my spiritual journey ended up taking me to Yale. There were too many questions that I couldn't figure out without some kind of structured study.
Yet another column on the Fox News feud, and yet another (zzzz) Beltway pundit insisting it was a very, very bad thing for the White House to label the channel a propaganda arm of the GOP. (Doesn't the White House know Democrats are never allowed to push back on the press?)
USA Today's Chuck Raasch, offering up his tsk-tsk appraisal of the situation, deftly repeats what's already been said many, many times for the last week, which, of course, means Raasch never even hints that Fox News routinely traffics in blatant lies and misinformation. But Raasch actually breaks new ground when he claims the White House attacked Fox News' viewers, which is a shockingly dumb reading of the recent dust-up.
Here's Raasch [emphasis added]:
Attacking whole segments of the population belies Obama's promise of bringing people together.
There is still a thing called presidential decorum. Sending out a taxpayer-paid partisan to attack a network, and by extension, its viewers, is not presidential.
Set aside the idiocy of suggesting administrations aren't allowed to criticize unfair press, and that Democratic administrations are simply supposed to roll over and allow Fox News air as many lies has possible without ever hearing a peep of protest. More importantly though is this: Where, exactly, is Raasch's proof that Obama or anyone else at the White ever, ever, ever attacked Fox News viewers; that anyone attacked "whole segments of the population" when it recently criticized the purposeful misinformation produced by Fox News?
If the Obama White House wanted, for whatever foolish reason, to attack Fox News viewers, they would have. But the White House didn't, so why did Raasch concoct the claim that it did? Why is Raasch criticizing Obama for doing something he never did?
From an October 16 Washington Times editorial:
Fifty-three Republican congressmen yesterday demanded that President Obama fire his embattled "safe schools czar," Kevin Jennings. Mr. Jennings' bizarre sexual agenda for American grade schools is one reason the president should dump this dangerous radical.
Mr. Jennings wrote the foreword to a 1998 book titled, "Queering Elementary Education." The book he endorsed was a collection of essays by different authors who supported teaching young children about homosexuality. Mr. Jennings' foreword explains why he thinks it is important to start educating children about homosexuality as early as activist-educators can get away with doing so. "Ask any elementary-school teachers you know and - if they're honest - they'll tell you they start hearing [anti-homosexual prejudice] as soon as kindergarten." And "As one third-grader put it plainly when asked by her teacher what 'gay' meant: 'I don't know. It's just a bad thing.' "
As another author in the book notes: "Any grade is 'old' enough [for the proper education] because even five-year-olds are calling each other 'gay' and 'faggot.' " Other writers claim there apparently is no problem getting into these discussions because, "The belief that children are not sexual beings is not substantiated by research."
The authors of "Queering Elementary Education" don't seem to be bothered by the dearth of evidence to justify their position in favor of teaching children about homosexual relationships. Because they do not provide the names of teachers who told various anecdotes included in the book, there's no way to check how many of the stories are secondhand exaggerations or even pure fiction.
One author in the book attacks the conservative notion that "artificial insemination, transient relationships, same-sex marriages and tangled family structures are not issues children should have to know about." Others contributors advocate that "sexual-diversity issues are central to multicultural education" and that schoolchildren should sing songs such as "In some families we have two Moms." Mind you, the authors don't provide scientific evidence that their policies accomplish the strange goals they push.
"Queering Elementary Education" argues consistently that children should be taught that same-sex-parent families are as normal and common as the traditional two-parent family or single-parent families. But it is one thing to argue certain behavior is acceptable; it is quite another to distort basic facts in an effort to change the worldview of children.
Mr. Jennings is one who claims that homosexual couples are more common than they actually are. One of his books titled "One Teacher in Ten" claims that 10 percent of people are homosexuals. Almost no one defends the old Alfred Kinsey survey that Mr. Jennings relied on to make this claim. That 1948 survey interviewed a high percentage of prison inmates and known sex offenders. There's plenty of more objective studies out there. For example, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that the number of homosexuals in America was less than 1 percent.
Advocating the indoctrination of kindergarten children based on anecdotal evidence or flawed science isn't Mr. Jennings' worst offense. But it's certainly not what Americans expect from a White House "safe schools czar" who is responsible for making policy decisions that impact children's safety.
Given his 60-minute rant attacking White House communications director Anita Dunn for pointing to Mao Zedong as one of her favorite political philosophers, it's worth asking: Does Glenn Beck know what his own guests have previously said?
A May 1995 Roll Call profile of then-Speaker of the House and current Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich reported:
While Gingrich, who made his reputation by attacking the ethics of fellow Members, did call the House a "personable place" where colleagues use "friendship to minimize friction," the overall theme of his remarks was downright martial.
Schools do a bad job of teaching students about Congress, said the former college history professor, because they emphasize lessons about how things get done, rather than how Members fight. The two houses of Congress, said Gingrich, are "arenas for conflict" where "we sublimate civil war to bring people together."
Gingrich even quoted a political leader not previously known to be one of his influences. "War is politics with blood; politics is war without blood," said the Speaker, citing the late Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse-tung. [Roll Call, 5/29/95 (accessed via Nexis)]
Gingrich regularly appears on Fox News' Hannity, The O'Reilly Factor, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, and Fox News Sunday, and according to a search of the Nexis news database, he appeared on the February 3 edition of Beck's Fox News show.
The Times has a big article today which stresses the connections between ACORN and Democrats. (Headline: "Acorn's Woes Strain Its Ties to Democrats.") The daily emphasizes that Dems "have been put on the defensive over past relationships with the group."
Yet look at who makes a cameo appearances right in the lede [emphasis added]:
Last December, in one of his last acts as New York City's top urban development official — and just days before President Obama nominated him as the federal housing secretary — Shaun Donovan attended a groundbreaking ceremony in the South Bronx.
A complex of 125 apartments had fallen into such disrepair that Bush administration housing officials had foreclosed on the building and transferred it to a group they and Mr. Donovan had come to trust: the New York Acorn Housing Company.
Readers quickly learn that Obama cabinet member Donovan served "five years as [Republican] Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's housing development commissioner."
And oh yeah, this:
Even Bush administration HUD officials came to view some Acorn divisions as credible, awarding more than $40 million to national affiliates.
Under its leader, Ismene Speliotis, New York Acorn Housing Company Inc. developed an expertise that even officials in the Republican administration of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — no fan of the group — grew to respect during the 1990s.
Yet despite the cross-party ties, the Times article shows no interest in examining the political ramifications of ACORN's Republican or Bush-era connections. The Times writes ominously that Donovan "is unwilling to speak publicly about that project or any other work with Acorn." But did the Times ever try to talk to those "Bush administration housing officials" about their dealings with the group?
Following the lead of "conservatives," the Times is only interested in the narrative of whether Dems are on the "defensive" regarding ACORN. The Bush administration "had come to trust" ACORN (it was "credible"), but the org today is cast only as a thorn for Democrats.
The Times sees no contradiction whatsoever.
Still convinced that millionaire players and owners in the NFL summarily rejected Rush Limbaugh's ownership bid because of a couple of disputed race-baiting quotes, even thought Limbaugh has a whole library of verifiable ones (see here), right-wing bloggers are now lecturing everyone about how unfair and sloppy journalists are who use disputed facts and quotes. (Oh, the irony.)
The Weekly Standard embarrassed itself by claiming CNN was guilty of "libel." Oh my. And now Hot Air jumps in and plays dumb about CNN's Rick Sanchez, whose program aired one of the quotes earlier in the week.
Hot Air claims Sanchez, when notified about the quotes, "kinda sorta apologiz[ed] — on Twitter." Gee, that doesn't sound fair. Sanchez aired the disputed quote on national television, then only "kinda sorta" apologized "on Twitter." Liberal bias!
Well, actually that's not accurate. When CNN's Sanchez heard about Limbaugh's denial regarding the quote, Sanchez returned to the airwaves and informed CNN viewers:
Among the news organizations that reported that [quote] yesterday was our show at 3:00. Limbaugh's response to this is -- and I -- we want to be fair to Rush -- he says: "We have gone back. We have looked at everything else, and there is not even an inkling that any of the words in that quote are accurate. It's outrageous." So, Rush Limbaugh is denying that that quote has come from him.
Uh-oh. Sanchez did exactly what any responsible journalist would do in his situation. But that doesn't fit the 'liberal bias' narrative, so Hot Air shoves that part down the memory hole and pretends Sanchez only "kinda, sorta" apologized online.
On with the pity party!
UPDATED: If right-wing bloggers really can't sleep at night knowing that falsehoods might have been used in a pitched political battle, than they ought to start an online petition today urging Glenn Beck to emphatically apologize for falsely claiming Van Jones "is a convicted felon."