.

What is happening to the Republican Party is historic, and mainstream news organizations are missing the story. They are missing the story because they are a part of a governing-media complex that revels in its centrality to power and the clubbiness of its associations. Nowhere is this clubbiness more seductive and debilitating of the journalistic mission than among the Washington and national political press corps. Of course, there are many journalists who are exceptions. Of course, reporters break exposes and embarrassing stories. Too often they are late, miss the greater story, and do not persevere.

The Sunday morning and many cable news shows are prime examples, and the problem is symbolized by the “roundtable.” As a Sunday morning staple, the roundtable began on David Brinkley’s This Week. Then, and for years, it consisted of journalists, notably, for many years on This Week, George Will, Sam Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts. Later the pol turned journo George Stephanopoulos joined the mix. With the show’s success, soon enough the other Sunday programs adopted the feature, and it spread beyond them. One element changed with time, though. Always in pursuit of the new thing, the spice of a more varied mix, the shows began to include active political players among the roundtable participants: campaign managers and consultants, press secretaries and communications managers, political party chairman, and politicians themselves, always when “out of office,” but always, we know, in the game. The problem with this arrangement is not simply that many of them are always spinning, and certainly, when not, consistently tendentious in their arguments – the greater problem is the final elimination of any symbolic – symbols possessing, let’s recall, actual meaning – barrier between the newsmakers and news shapers and those who are supposed to report on them.

What happened at the CPAC conference two weeks ago began two years ago, when the John Birch Society was invited, for the first time, to be a formal sponsor. The JBS was back again last year, though it was not extended an invitation this year. This year, CPAC invited the participation of Bob Vandervoort, director of ProEnglish. Vandervoort organized events with Chicagoland Friends of the American Renaissance, (American Renaissance) which, as Charles Johnson put it, is

an absolutely open white supremacist group that often held meetings with the Council of Conservative Citizens.

In fact, ProEnglish shares office space with NumbersUSA, a highly influential anti-immigration organization founded by Roy Beck while he worked for John Tanton. Tanton, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center,

is the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement. He created a network of organizations – the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA – that have profoundly shaped the immigration debate in the United States.

As the SPLC tells us in another of its ongoing reports on the man and the movements, The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance,

Three Washington, D.C.-based immigration-restriction organizations stand at the nexus of the American nativist movement: the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA. Although on the surface they appear quite different — the first, the country’s best-known anti-immigrant lobbying group; the second, an “independent” think tank; and the third, a powerful grassroots organizer — they are fruits of the same poisonous tree.

FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA are all part of a network of restrictionist organizations conceived and created by John Tanton, the “puppeteer” of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots. As the first article in this report shows, Tanton has for decades been at the heart of the white nationalist scene. He has met with leading white supremacists, promoted anti-Semitic ideas, and associated closely with the leaders of a eugenicist foundation once described by a leading newspaper as a “neo-Nazi organization.” He has made a series of racist statements about Latinos and worried that they were outbreeding whites. At one point, he wrote candidly that to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required.

Also invited to participate at CPAC was the student organized Youth for Western Civilization, which defines what it represents as

a cultural compound of Christian, classical, and then the folk traditions of Europe…we don’t define it as just ‘democracy’ or ‘rule of law,’ these universal institutions, we say it’s a specific culture that comes from a specific cultural experience.

Participating, too, was Peter Brimelow of VDare. VDare’s site brims with nativist zeal and offers Brimelow’s proud distinction between white nationalism and white supremacism. You will also, not coincidentally, read a paean to the same Sam Francis whom Vandervoort memorialized with Chicagoland Friends of the American Renaissance. Here is Francis in his own words.

Middle American Radicals are essentially middle-income, white, often ethnic voters who see themselves as an exploited and dispossessed group, excluded from meaningful political participation, threatened by the tax and trade policies of the government, victimized by its tolerance of crime, immigration and social deviance, and ignored or ridiculed by the major cultural institutions of the media and education.

This is a notable, characteristic representation of how nativist groups perceive and describe the social problems against which they historically react: they are the powerless and ignored middle in all respects (with, often, more financially comfortable leaders) reacting against perceived dispossession in their own land.

In “The Vice of the Extremes,” I wrote of the transformed GOP that

we have a major political party … that has descended to levels of anti-intellectual ignorance, corporate plutocracy, chauvinism, xenophobic and racial hostility, and militaristic belligerence that have probably not been seen from a major political party in a putative democracy outside of the Balkans since the early 1930s.

The Balkans reference is instructional, for Serbian nationalism – to refer back to Vandervoort and ProEnglish – has its roots in the politics of language.

The Serbian linguist Vuk Stefanović Karadžić is commonly considered the father of Serbian nationalism.[1] Karadžić created a linguistic definition of the Serbs that included all speakers of the Štokavian dialect regardless of their religious affiliation or geographical origin.[1]

Similarly, France’s National Front, famously led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, presents a

political profile … based on French nationalism. Its current policies include economic protectionism, a zero tolerance approach to order issues, and opposition to immigration. Since the 1990s, its stance on the European Union has grown increasingly eurosceptic. The party’s opposition to immigration is particularly focused on non-European immigration, and includes support for deporting illegal, criminal, and unemployed immigrants

The party promotes more

generally the creation of a “French and European renaissance.

These elements do not simply exist in the United States – one will find them anywhere – they are invited into the contemporary conservative movement, and no GOP leader or presidential candidate repudiates them.  Of course, in contemporary America, given the decades-long drive toward a more enlightened, equal apportionment of human dignity, and the felt need among nativists to obscure their true nature and lineage, they will now claim to be racialist not racist, white nationalist, not white supremacist, and amid all the threads of connection, cavil a new net of lies to deny connection.

Where, amid all this, do we find our mainstream news media? Nowhere. I was led to much of my information by Osborne Ink and Little Green Footballs. The rest is easily found on the internet. Notably, it was a Tweet from ProEnglish that bragged misleadingly about Bob Vandervoort having dinner with Rick Santorum. The access to a major presidential candidate was clearly of great significance to ProEnglish. The organization understands the achievement of the access and acceptance among conservative ranks. Yet a week ago Sunday, the Sunday after CPAC, when Santorum appeared on both This Week and Meet the Press, neither George Stephanopoulos nor David Gregory raised the subject. Though the matter of Santorum’s “dining” with Vandervoort was resolved into the less damning matter of Vandervoort’s presence among a few score at a luncheon, it still provided appropriate opportunity for Stephanopoulos and Gregory to question Santorum about the propriety of Vandervoort’s invitation to the event and CPAC. It provided the opportunity to explore the whole devolution of the conservative movement and the GOP into reaction that was symbolized by the initial invitation to the JBS, and to get Santorum on record in responding to these developments.

We never saw this. Instead, what we saw were the same old questions leading to the standard follow up, to seemingly press the candidate, but never getting past the canned evasion and preferred response. The relationship between the press and political leaders should resemble that of the U.S. and Soviet ambassadors near the end of the Cuban missile crisis: inherent foes committed to mistrust in fulfilling their commitments, yet tasked to liaise with one another while seeking to avoid disaster. The relationship the press too often displays is the chummy comfort of connection to power, of pleasure in the game, and delight at its seating in a luxury box. Instead of any interrogation of current conservative ideology, we got David Gregory inviting the pal-sy humor of sharing with the candidate a Rick Santorum sweater vest.

AJA

Enhanced by Zemanta

4 comments

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: