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America's Right Turn
How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power
By Richard A. Viguerie and David Franke,
Bonus Books
HC, 350 pg. US$26.95/C$35.95
ISBN: 1-5662-5252-0

Conservatives and their wily use of alternative media

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted August 9, 2004

America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power"Put the four alternative media together -- direct mail, talk radio, cable news TV, and the Internet -- and you can appreciate why the Liberals are on the run. They have seen the four horsemen of the Conservative apocalypse." -- America's Right Turn

Free speech, you say? The left-wingers take their politics very seriously, and they've never had any qualms about stifling the message of their political opponents. Through considerable tenacity and innovation over the past forty-years, the conservatives have managed to outmaneuver the liberal mass media and effectively convey their winning message to grassroots America. Despite fissures among the various conservative camps, the GOP has been considered an ideologically conservative party since the Reagan Revolution. That being said, Republicans continue their valiant struggle against the Democratic Party and its powerful surrogate, the partisan media. The salient question is this: How have conservatives persevered, and even thrived, while up against this hostile media environment for many years? The answer has always been to circumvent the rascals whenever possible, and communicate directly with the people.

In their newly released tome, America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power, authors Richard Viguerie and David Franke examine the ascendancy of the New Right in America and the pivotal ways in which the conservative message has been disseminated to the public. The rise of conservatism was, and still is, predicated upon the art of bypassing the Liberal media "gatekeepers" that are intent on thwarting or twisting the conservative message. That's precisely why conservatives took to the Internet as fish to water, and right-of-center websites continue to dominate the Internet landscape.

The authors provide fascinating historical perspective on the emergence of the New Right in America. Before conservatism was perceived as a true political movement, many Americans of the mid-1950s were "stealth grumblers" of the Right who were very troubled by the spread of communism. Foremost, they considered themselves fierce anti-communists. However -- and this is key -- they did not self-identify as part of a political movement simply because no organized movement existed at the time. The "stealth grumblers" were seeking to rally around leadership, but there was none to be found. Americans of that era were surrounded by all things liberal -- liberal media, liberal labor unions, and liberal politicians such as Republican President Dwight D.Eisenhower. Right-leaning publications were essentially limited to Human Events, Freeman, and for the common man, Reader's Digest.

The authors note that a nascent political movement is well-served by a dynamic debater and activist intellectual to promote ideas. That identifiable leader spearheading conservatism appeared in the person of William F.Buckley, Jr.who created National Review magazine. William A. Rusher, who became publisher of the magazine in 1957, was also indispensable to the movement since he was "dedicated to waging political war against Liberals, rather than merely restating conservative principles in some safely abstract form." However, to advance the cause, Buckley et al. did not limit themselves to battles with liberals only. The National Review crowd made the wise strategic calculation to eject the "deviationists" that would have inevitably imperiled the conservative movement. The authors state, "The purpose of these purges was to keep the new movement on the path to power, without giving liberals handy targets for scaring the American people about a threat from the Right." Buckley and his inner circle understood that the conservative movement had to break with two particular groups, the anti-religious Ayn Rand Objectivists and the conspiratorial-minded members of the John Birch Society. These organizations continue to spew harsh rhetoric at William F.Buckley to this day.

Now let's examine the alternative media utilized by conservatives. Author Richard Viguerie was the first to employ "direct mail fundraising" in a widespread manner on behalf of conservative candidates and conservative causes. Noteworthy, Viguerie soon realized that direct mail represented "a new secret weapon" - a stealth-weapon - that operated under the radar screen, providing "unique advantages for a political movement (that was) shunned and disparaged by the mainstream media." He found that one of his initial mailing lists, comprised of donors that gave fifty dollars or more to presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, was a "treasure trove" that continued to produce political contributions for the conservatives. The purpose of direct mail was to raise monies, promulgate the conservative message, and of course to "advertise" a particular conservative candidate or organization to politically like-minded Americans. Interestingly, there was an unintended consequence to direct mail that was extremely positive for the conservative movement. Before long, Viguerie and other conservative groups were renting and exchanging lists of conservatives, creating a synergy that essentially expanded the base, and gave rise to "an ever-larger movement and enriched everyone's organization." To this day, Democrats cannot compete with Republicans in the direct mail arena, and, as noted by Viguerie, Democrats continue their dependence upon "labor unions and big special interest donors."

Regarding other alternative media that have greatly benefited conservatives, the authors examine the outstanding successes of talk radio, the Internet, and the Fox News Channel on cable television. The book quotes radio host Neal Boortz, who opines that liberals can't make it in talk radio because their politics are predicated upon emotion. Boortz states: "The Liberal ideology is, after all, based principally on emotion. Logic and fact are to the Liberal what salt is to the slug...Fact overwhelms emotion, logic trumps feelings, and the talk lefty starts to sputter and lose credibility. He's soon gone, the victim of pitiful ratings." Who can argue with those statements? Essentially, Boortz thinks that radio hosts must have the capacity to frame a logical debate, defend a position, and generate interesting radio conversation. conservatives, on the other hand, love debate of facts on a range of political and cultural/societal topics, and the medium of talk radio is naturally conducive to hashing out such issues. Not surprisingly, the majority of radio hosts are conservatives or libertarians, as are the listeners.

As to the Fox News Channel, it draws the most viewers in cable news precisely because it's not left-leaning. The authors note that "objectivity" might indeed be in the eye of the beholder. Moreover, consumers of news are disproportionately conservative, as seen in polling data. Fox is cognizant that its audience is somewhat right-leaning and probably abhors watching news and commentary presented through a blatantly liberal prism -- When it comes to news coverage, conservatives want a few dispassionate facts sprinkled in with their liberal propaganda, and CNN and MSNBC find it difficult to meet that threshold.

Regarding the Internet, Senator Hillary Clinton more than distrusts it; she clearly wants to muzzle it, stating: "There are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function…Anytime an individual or an institution or an invention leaps so far out ahead of that balance, and throws a system out of balance, you've got a problem [and] it can lead to all kinds of bad outcomes." In response, authors Viguerie and Franke assert: "Hillary doesn't like the Internet because she and her leftist co-conspirators can't control it. It's that simple." They've hit it on the head -- It irks Hillary and the other lefties when they can't dictate the flow of information. In contrast, it's easy to grasp why conservatives of all stripes have embraced the blogosphere, since it affords free speech (especially unencumbered political speech that the politicos and major media can't constrain), instantaneous communication, and a growing audience for conservative views.

Our challenge will be to fend-off the inevitable attempts to regulate the Internet. Over time, the abuses perpetrated by the liberal mainstream media have only gotten worse for conservatives and the GOP, which makes it all the more vital to tap into other alternative media, other technologies, to broaden our expanse of unfettered communication with the public. In closing, I would highly recommend this informative and fascinating book America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power. Moreover, I would rate it a "must read" for every conservative and GOP activist.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

Buy America's Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power at Amazon.com for only $18.33 (32% off)

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