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The Right Gets Itself 'Wired'

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The Tea Party movement got its start last Feb. 19 when CNBC's Rick Santelli went on a rant against government efforts to protect Americans from home foreclosures and called for "tea parties" as a means to protest against government intervention in the economy.

Next, Brendan Steinhauser, D.C.-based director of state and federal campaigns at FreedomWorks, and another FreedomWorks staffer coordinated with activists planning the first tea parties on Feb. 27, according to Markon.

"Steinhauser then wrote a tea party organizing primer, which was posted on the FreedomWorks Web site and Malkin's site," Markon reported.

Glenn Beck and other Fox News hosts also began pushing the Tea Party idea, even serving as on-air cheerleaders for some events.

"The tea party-Beltway nexus continues," Markon wrote. "Tea-party groups held a health-care town hall meeting at Norquist's offices in June." Markon quoted Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin saying that the Heritage Foundation and the National Taxpayers Union ""have been helpful, sometimes by saying, 'Here are talking points we've created.'"

"Another inside-outside force is CRC [Public Relations], the Alexandria firm headed by [Greg] Mueller, who was Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign communications director. It works with the movement's many strands, inundates journalists with e-mails and uses social networking to drive the message," Markon wrote.

CRC's clients include L. Brent Bozell III, who runs the Media Research Center, which targets mainstream journalists who are deemed to have a liberal bias. According to Markon's article, Bozell today "operates a mini-empire with seven Web sites, including Eyeblast.tv, a conservative version of YouTube."

Though progressives have regarded the Internet as their bailiwick boasting blog sites such as DailyKos and HuffingtonPost it's also true that the Right has long had an important presence on the Web, such as Matt Drudge's Drudge Report, which played a key role in harassing the Clinton administration in the 1990s and in helping George W. Bush seize the presidency in 2000.

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Plus, the Right's Web attacks on Democrats, progressives and mainstream journalists had much greater resonance because those hostile stories got picked up and amplified by the Right's talk-radio programs, by Fox News and by print outlets, such as Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times.

Bush's National Guard Mess

For instance, in 2004, a few right-wing Internet bloggers started a stampede against CBS' "60 Minutes 2" over a segment describing how Bush had blown off his National Guard duty during the Vietnam War.

The bloggers made the false claim that memos cited by CBS must have been forgeries because IBM Selectric typewriters supposedly didn't permit superscripts in the early 1970s and that therefore the memos must have been concocted much later using Microsoft Word.

In fact, Selectrics did have that capability in the early 1970s, but the bogus blog comments spread quickly through the right-wing media and into the mainstream press. The furor created pressure on the CBS brass, which responded by firing Mary Mapes (who had recently helped uncover the Abu Ghraib scandal) along with three other "60 Minutes" producers and forcing out longtime CBS anchor Dan Rather.

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The four producers and Rather saw their network careers cut short for the technical offense of not vetting all aspects of the memos as thoroughly as might be possible, even though the contents of the memos regarding Bush's insubordinate behavior as a National Guard pilot were true.

In other words, even with a lesser presence on the Internet, the Right's bloggers had an inordinate amount of influence because their claims, whether truthful or not, would be trumpeted by right-wing media outlets that reached tens of millions of Americans and thus gave mainstream news outlets little choice but to follow up.

With its vertically integrated media apparatus, rising through all forms of modern communication, the Right had achieved what corporate executives call "synergy," with one part of an operation supporting and strengthening another.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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