25 April 2004


In The American Prospect a couple of years ago, Robert Borosage wrote an interesting essay about David Brock's memoir Blinded By The Right. Many commentators, quite rightly, focused on the disingenuousness of Brock's mea culpa, with its spooky resemblance to the work he did as a deceitful hatchetman for the right. But Borosage talks about the thing which struck me most reading Brock's book, its view from inside the right's media machine, Hillary Clinton's “vast right-wing conspiracy,” which Borosage calls the “Mighty Wurlitzer.”
With all that ideological money, institutional heft, coordination, and credentialing, the right has perfected what the CIA used to call a “mighty Wurlitzer”—a propaganda machine that can hone a fact or a lie, broadcast it, and have it echoed and recycled in Fox News commentary, in Washington Times news stories, in Wall Street Journal editorials, by myriad right-wing pundits, by Heritage seminars and briefing papers, and in congressional hearings and speeches. Privatization of Social Security, vouchers for school, Vince Foster's supposed murder, Hillary's secret sex life, you name it—the right's mighty Wurlitzer can ensure that a message is broadcast across the county, echoed in national and local news, and reverberated in the speeches of respectable academics as well as rabid politicians.

With no factual basis, Brock trashes Hill—“a little slutty and a little nutty” was the quote chosen for effect—in The American Spectator, with a circulation of 30,000. Rush Limbaugh then reads from the article on his radio show, broadcast to two million people. Conservative pundits recycle the charges in columns and radio shows across the country. Brock turns the article into a book at the Free Press, which gets George Will to hype the book in a column. The Wall Street Journal devotes virtually an entire editorial page to excerpts. That ensures that the book is treated seriously in The New York Times Book Review and kindred publications. And so it goes.

Some lefties also refer to the minions of this not-so-vast right-wing conspiracy as “flying attack monkeys,” in a reference to The Wizard of Oz.

But interestingly, the Wurlitzer is strong on attack, but weak on defense, which lead Brad DeLong to recently refer to the “circular firing squad of flying attack monkeys” as, in their panic, the pundits start to contradict one another.