Sunday, March 1, 2009

Your Vast Right Wing Conspiracy at Work

One of the more annoying tropes of political argument is to deny an assertion, by asserting that it is predicated on a "conspiracy theory". The recognition that politics is driven by purposeful mass movements, with considerable organzation, is suppressed and denied by the charge that recognizing political and Media reality would involve us all in counting shots on the grassy knoll. It was a charge made famous in the right-wing and Media attacks on Hillary Clinton, for her reference to the role of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy in promoting the so-called Whitewater scandal.

Barry Ritholtz at Big Picture passes on what Playboy magazine is charging about Rick Santelli and his "tea party" rant:
“How did a minor-league TV figure, whose contract with CNBC is due this summer, get so quickly launched into a nationwide rightwing blog sensation? Why were there so many sites and organizations online and live within minutes or hours after his rant, leading to a nationwide protest just a week after his rant?

What hasn’t been reported until now is evidence linking Santelli’s “tea party” rant with some very familiar names in the Republican rightwing machine, from PR operatives who specialize in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns (called “astroturfing”) to bigwig politicians and notorious billionaire funders. As veteran Russia reporters, both of us spent years watching the Kremlin use fake grassroots movements to influence and control the political landscape. To us, the uncanny speed and direction the movement took and the players involved in promoting it had a strangely forced quality to it. If it seemed scripted, that’s because it was.

What we discovered is that Santelli’s “rant” was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a “Chicago Tea Party” was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.” . . .

“Within hours of Santelli’s rant, a website called sprang to life. Essentially inactive until that day, it now featured a YouTube video of Santelli’s “tea party” rant and billed itself as the official home of the Chicago Tea Party. The domain was registered in August, 2008 by Zack Christenson, a dweeby Twitter Republican and producer for a popular Chicago rightwing radio host Milt Rosenberg—a familiar name to Obama campaign people. Last August, Rosenberg, who looks like Martin Short’s Irving Cohen character, caused an outcry when he interviewed Stanley Kurtz, the conservative writer who first “exposed” a personal link between Obama and former Weather Undergound leader Bill Ayers. As a result of Rosenberg’s radio interview, the Ayers story was given a major push through the Republican media echo chamber, culminating in Sarah Palin’s accusation that Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” That Rosenberg’s producer owns the “” site is already weird—but what’s even stranger is that he first bought the domain last August, right around the time of Rosenburg’s launch of the “Obama is a terrorist” campaign. It’s as if they held this “Chicago tea party” campaign in reserve, like a sleeper-site. Which is exactly what it was.

This is pretty serious stuff, and like Ritholtz, I don't know if it is true in all its details. I do know that the news Media functions as the false front of a Hollywood set for a lot of Public Relations, that most of what we see on cable news and read in a newspaper or magazine was originally written or staged or "suggested" by PR professionals, on behalf of a corporate client. Even a fair amount of video footage is produced by PR pros, and not by the cable news and tv stations presenting it as their own product. This aspect of how our world works is completely neglected by the news Media, in the interest of preserving the illusion, which it has become their job to maintain.

Rather than being the exception, "conspiracy" in this sense, is the rule.

Update: Here's a link to the original source of the reportBackstabber: Is Rick Santelli High On Koch? - The Playboy Blog

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