The Blogging of the President: 2004
[This story was written by Matt Stoller and posted to BOP News.com on August 7, 2004. The original post still remains at BOP News.com, however it has been damaged and is now very difficult to read. Michelle Malkin Watch is reproducing this important story here in its entirety so that Stoller's scholarship and insight into Malkin will not be lost. The story's appearance here constitutes Fair Use.]
So, let us hail the diversity of everyday Democrat donors: The pardon-pushing socialite. The Communist-coddling corporate sellout. The reckless Asian-American rainmaker. And the nicotine-stained heiress/almost-felon who keeps on giving.
When she goes on TV to promote her book, she'll be placed against people who will attempt to debunk her work. Maybe she'll come out on top, maybe not, but it's interesting how the blogosphere replicated those same dynamics, only faster and more completely. Her thesis, that the internment camps of Japanese Americans during WWII were essential to national security, sparked a mini-volcano online. Eric Muller, professor and guest on the well-respected Volokh Conspiracy led a rebuttal of the points in her book with an eleven part series (her response is on herblog). Muller, a credible academic, debated Malkin on the blog, and it was loose, unruly, and fascinating. Ed Cone thinks she lost, summing up the conflict as follows: "[Malkin's] contempt for people who disagree with her turned into hubris: she knows she's right, and they're wrong, so the facts will obey her commands. But facts are stubborn things." Cone seems to be right - even the right wing Instapundit backed away from Malkin. Cone goes even further than that, and discusses the institutional response to her book on the part of bloggers. "It's another fine moment for the blogosphere -- a scurrilous and potentially dangerous book by a well-known author pretty much discredited before it is officially released, because of the rapid deployment of intellectual firepower on the web."
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin just came out with a book called 'In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror'. Asian American rights groups are already incensed and protesting, and she's sure to spark substantial debate when she goes on her book tour. As someone trained in the arts of how to get exposure, she'll have plenty of media time to give her point of view. Malkin is in fact already well-known as both a conservative columnist, and a moderate one. Her conservative self sits on Townhall.com, whereas her moderate demeanor as a simple and concerned 'security mom' comes out in Op-Eds in mainstream publications like USA Today.
Cone's point is interesting. Unlike TV debates, a passionate defender of the historiography of the time took her on without going through any media gatekeeper. One part of the story not yet told is the background on what Malkin materially gets out of having this debate. For it is not too hard to trace the links and find out that Malkin has built a profitable career out of hewing to a specific ideology. She does not just use sloppy and biased research methods in her academic work, it seems like she is actually just paid to update the right-wing isolationist ideology by those who helped propagate it from the 1930s to the 1960s.
But let's find out who this Malkin is.
Production of Ideas
Michelle Malkin began her career as a columnist in 1992, working for the Los Angeles Daily News until 1994. She made very little money, living on cheap food and cheaper bedding. In 1996, after a gap of two years, she moved to the Seattle Times, where she worked as a columnist until 1999. Both newspapers are mainstream papers, though her editorial stances were generally hard-right. In 1999, she quit mainstream editorial writing and started ranting about Clinton, HOV lanes, Britney Spears, taxes, and immorality. Her career as a right-wing pundit quickly took off.
Malkin's column is now syndicated by the Creators Syndicate, which mostly sells right-wing content (which is a reflection of editorial tastes of the papers who buy from them, not a specific ideological bent on the part of the Creators Syndicate). She writes for the Heritage Foundation's Townhall.com, comments for Fox News, and published her first book, "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists Criminals & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores", in 2002, courtesy of Regnery Publishing. Her books are distributed through the Conservative Book Club, membership 75,000 (a spinoff of the Goldwater candidacy of 1964 which sells conservative books to its member for $1 apiece). To promote her first book, she got interviews from Enter Stage Right, the National Review Online, C-SPAN, , Insight magazine, Right Wing News, and reviews from the American Conservative, VDare, Mark Krikorian, the National Review, Reason, David Limbaugh, James Edwards Jr., and Frank Gaffney at Fox News. Yes, her book was basically reviewed only by partisan sources.
The intent of her book is not to right history, but to advance a right-wing agenda. Read the bullets on the review of her book from the Conservative Book Club, and you'll see very quickly that her claims that Japanese Americans needed to be imprisoned is actually an unsubtle general attack on 'leftists' who advocate for civil liberties. In fact, the owner of her publishing house has a long history of rewriting history in favor of reactionary ideas, specifically those surrounding the legacy of WWII and its modern impact. But we'll get into that in a moment.
The important part is to note that Michelle Malkin is being gradually inserted into the mainstream press, through Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, and now USA Today. Muller shows that in the debate in the blogosphere, she essentially concedes that her thesis is untenable. Still, whether she believes her own stuff at this point is irrelevant, because her career and livelihood is entirely tied up in the right-wing superstructure of financial and media support. While real thinkers are able to change their minds (and sometimes do), Malkin doesn't have that luxury, not if she wants to keep her career (one could say she has 'right-wing tenure'). Regardless of whether she is debunked, she can't relent, because the right-wing superstructure won't let her, and it is those people who are selling her books and making her career.
So if Malkin is doing bad history to advance an extreme and partisan political agenda, who is paying for her to make a controversial and easily debunked splash? All I have to say is, well, get ready for crazy city.
Regnery Publishing is the publisher of her books. The publishing house has John Birch society ties, the Birch society of course being the 1950s group so extreme in their right-wing ideology that they thought Eisenhower was a communist stooge. Alfred Regnery, the owner of the publishing house, is close friends with both Ken Starr and Lucianne Goldberg. There are rumors the CIA helped subsidize the publishing house, which would not be surprising considering the strongly pro-German interests of the founders of the CIA (documented extensively by Kevin Phillips in American Dynasty) and their ties to the right-wing. The following passage is the best summary of Regnery I have found, though the details are quite freely available around the web elsewhere:
William Regnery was also one of the founders of the American Security Council - he was later replaced by his son Henry. Regnery and two other isolationists began broadcasting Human Events and in 1947 started the Regnery publishing business. Interestingly enough, the first two titles published by Regnery were critical of the Nuremberg Trials. The third book Regnery published was another pro-Nazi book attacking the allied air campaign. In 1954, Regnery published two books for the John Birch Society. He was also the publisher behind Buckley's God and Man at Yale. In light of the publishing of the pro-Nazi books it is interesting to note that Regnery Publishing was subsidized by the CIA, according to Howard Hunt. The reader is reminded to remember this point in a later chapter concerning the CIA and itsOne of the first books published by Regnery was The Nuremberg Trials, a 'detailed critical examination of trials by the U.S., including problems with procedure, jurisdiction, punishability, substantive law, etc.'. The publishing house also put out books stating that Clinton would put a blanket over himself and drive downtown while President to go whoring, and that Clinton was a cocaine addict. Regnery's appointment by Reagan, the vicious anti-Clinton tracts, and his family's ties to right-wing extremism and WWII era pro-Nazi isolationism lead naturally to the institutional support of Malkin's 'In Defense of Internment'. She literally couldn't have found a better publisher, and Regnery couldn't have found a more fitting book to put out.
involvement with Nazi war criminals. Henry Regnery along with Bunker Hunt funded Western Goals, an organization that is now dead. Western Goals was
another group that reportedly compiled list of people they deemed
subversive. In 1986, Reagan appointed Alfred Regnery to help dismantle the
Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice. In the 1990s, the Regnery
publishing house has been the publisher of numerous venomous smears attacking President Clinton.
Ok, so we have a CIA-subsidized Nazi-apologist right-wing extremist publishing house on tap - what's next? Ah, the Heritage Foundation, the publisher of Townhall.com and employer of Malkin (as a columnist). Heritage is an extraordinary institution, dedicated as much to selling its policies as creating policies that make sense. They have enormously useful content and training, such as how to plan an event in eight weeks, and how to work with the media to get effective placement of ideas. The primary goal of the Heritage Foundation is to serve as the armory for the war of ideas, building relationships with media personnel and using those relationships to further policy goals. Much of this work requires pseudo-academic experts, and media friendly pundits like Michelle Malkin.
Townhall is one of their fastest growing outlets. Just how important is Townhall.com, and how important is Malkin to Townhall? Good question. Let's read Heritage's Annual Report to find out.
"Online since 1995, townhall.com gained its 100th member organization in 2003. It ended the year with more than 110 partners, ranging from National Review to the Federalist Society to the Young America’s Foundation.As you can see from the chart (linked here), Townhall is the Heritage's most direct channel to the public, with 25 million visits last year (and an ambitious community building strategy through Meetup,which so far has 27,000 members). Townhall.com, with its extremist rantings defending the Confederate flag, Japanese internment, neo-eugenic pseudo-science, racist behavior, attacks on liberals, and anti-Muslims propaganda, is often fodder for the even more extremist right-leaning community site, the Free Republic.
Townhall.com also delivers daily, via e-mail, one of the Web’s best opinion pages, Opinion Alert. With a lineup of more than 70 conservative ommentators—including Mona Charen, Charles Krauthammer, Michelle Malkin and Cal Thomas—it provides the context and conservative insight often missing in the news."
Here are a few highlights from Townhall.com:
From Kathleen Parker on Falluja:
I suppose it would be considered lacking in nuance to nuke the Sunni Triangle.
From Sam Francis on South Carolina's flying of the Confederate Flag:
The state's Democratic Senate has already passed a bill that would take the flag down and put it in "a place of honor" on the capitol grounds. But the NAACP's race warriors will have none of that; they want the flag not only taken off the capitol but consigned to oblivion. "Your heritage is our slavery," they and their followers like to rant at demonstrations against the flag.
Of course, in saying that, they are actually saying that American blacks are not really part of American civilization, which is defined in large part by the heritage its past created. If all black Americans can see in the American past is their own slavery, oppression and exploitation, how can they claim to be part of the nation? And why would they want to be?
As for the "treason" of the Confederacy, someone needs to explain to Thompson and his 27 co-sponsors (mostly members of the Black Caucus) that the states of the Confederacy voted to secede from the Union peacefully and legally. You can believe in the right of secession or not, but a lot more people in North and South in the 1850s believed in it than they do today, and it's not even in the same solar system as "treason."
And then there's Malkin herself, whose attitude towards Islam nicely dovetails with her support of Japanese internment:
Sgt. Asan Akbar, a Muslim American soldier with the 326th Engineer Battalion, had an "attitude problem." According to his superiors and acquaintances, Akbar's attitude was bitterly anti-American and staunchly pro-Muslim. So how did this devout follower of the so-called Religion of Peace work out his attitudinal problems last weekend?
By lobbing hand grenades and aiming his M-4 automatic rifle into three tents filled with sleeping commanding officers at the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade operations center in Kuwait.
Akbar is the lone suspect being detained in the despicable attack, which left more than a dozen wounded and one dead. Surviving soldiers say Akbar, found cowering in a bunker with shrapnel injuries, was overheard ranting after the assault: "You guys are coming into our countries, and you're going to rape our women and kill our children."
"Our"? At least there's no doubt about where this Religion of Peace practitioner's true loyalties lie.
Naturally, apologists for Islam-gone-awry are hard at work dismissing this traitorous act of murder as an "isolated, individual act and not an expression of faith." But such sentiments are willfully blind and recklessly p.c.
Sgt. Akbar is not the only MSWA -- Muslim soldier with attitude -- suspected of infiltrating our military, endangering our troops and undermining national security.
I've been to a Townhall.com Meetup, and this attitude underlying these Op-Eds is the norm. From anti-gay zealots who want to 'cure the gay disease' to liberal haters who just like protesting and harrassing (and a few who told me they were just waiting for someone to give the order to put on the brownshirts), they are a very real face of the far right-wing. These are the people the Heritage Foundation touches most directly through a web channel controlled exclusively by Foundation itself. While Heritage also houses media friendly experts, it puts on a moderate face to journalists because it must. Here's a clip from its guide to media relations:
Maintain your own stable of credible and reliable experts to whom you can refer journalists. Remember, if they know that a call to you always nets them a snappy sound bite or an angle on a story that they hadn’t considered, or an expert contact that they might otherwise spend hours digging up, they will come back again and again for their purposes. And that is crucial when you remember that what you are after is to make your self-interest and theirs coincide.
As an aside, I should say that it will be very helpful, I’d even say essential, that you treat with respect people and ideas that you disagree with. Treat them as intelligent people whose only failing is intellectual error. When journalists call, be sure that you understand what the other side is liable to say about your position, report it respectfully, and offer them names of experts on the other side.
I say this because journalists are extremely attuned to what I call "personal energies." You want to project an image of yourself as self-confident, respectful and evenhanded, but with firm ideas of your own, thoughtfully expressed. Then, when the other guys try to trash your ideas, they look belligerent and defensive.
This is especially true if you’ve politely steered the journalist to this opposing expert. Never forget that the journalist is automatically going to seek out someone to give a different point of view whatever you do, so jump in and try to shape how the journalist is liable to receive the opposing point of view. How you handle these personal questions will affect the tone of the stories that they write.
So while it must compromise on the channels it must work through indirectly, the reality of what the Heritage Foundation is really pushing comes through the channel that it builds directly. But what is the Heritage Foundation?
Well, it was founded by Paul Weyrich, conservative organizer extraordinaire. Surprise surprise, it's also well funded. On the board of Heritage is Jay Van Andel, the founder of Amway, who along with Richard Mellon Scaife and the Coors family helped fund much of the modern right-wing. The Heritage Foundation is also in bed with Reverend Moon, the holocaust apologist who allegedly sold submarines to North Korean crazy dictator Kim Jong-Il.
There's more. A lot more. David Brock's new book is on the case, as is Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest. But the key points are simple. Right-wing institutional support, with places to house people to create ideas, outlets to distribute and promote them, and the tactics and relationships to turn these ideas into the mainstream, is breathtaking. It's not that the media is tilted to the right-wing because of ideology, but because the right has worked to make themselves useful sources to lots of journalists. At the same time, they provide care and feeding and an enormously powerful incentive to toe the line for people like Michelle Malkin, and a whole demand side for propagandizing. All people like Malkin have to do to succeed is draw attention to themselves.
In other words, this book was never about influencing the marketplace of ideas through effective logic or discourse, but through slick marketing and a host of well-oiled right-wing and mainstream channels. And the defeat in the debate in the blogosphere notwithstanding, all those channels and outlets remain standing and functioning. Because she picked a topic that got a bunch of people riled up, Malkin is just a bit better known. Maybe she lost some credibility among academics, if she had some any the first place. But the founder of Amway didn't suffer for the propagandizing he funded, even though he and his ilk are the one who paid for all the free marketing. And because of that, he's just going to to buy more.Link to original story posted on BOP News.com by Matt Stoller