As an investigative journalist, I'm not much for catchy political metaphors, but the revelation that snakes and rodents are infesting the Washington Times building as the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's newspaper sinks into a financial swamp does have some poetic justice about it.
After all, for 28 years, the right-wing Washington Times has sent disinformation slithering through the U.S. political system while creating a nest for propagandists who have befouled American democracy with irrationality and dirty tricks.
Indeed, one could say that Moon's newspaper pioneered the modern style of deceptive "journalism" that is the daily fare on Fox News, angry talk radio and right-wing blogs.
The immediate cause of the Washington Times' financial collapse is said to be the bitter succession fight among children of the 90-year-old Unification Church founder who is no longer capable of maintaining personal control over his global religious-political-business empire.
That empire has now split into competing factions, with one of Moon's children, Justin Moon, who is in charge of the Asian operations, deciding to slash the church's massive subsidy to the Washington Times headed by another son, Preston Moon.
Nicholas Chiaia, one of the two remaining members of the newspaper's board of directors, told the Washington Post that the Washington Times is up for sale. "We recently entered into discussions with a number of parties interested in either purchasing or partnering with the Washington Times," he said.
Meanwhile, staffers who have survived a series of draconian layoffs report that snakes and mice have slipped into the newspaper's building because the owners can't afford exterminators to combat the infestations.
"There was a three-foot-long black snake in the main conference room the other day," said reporter Julia Duin. "We have snakes in the newsroom."
So, although some deep-pocket conservative might step up and save the American Right's flagship newspaper, it appears that the Washington Times' extraordinary run as a foreign-controlled and suspiciously funded propaganda vehicle may soon be over.
A Curious Case
It has long been amazing that Official Washington has been so blase' about the curious case of the Washington Times, where a Korean theocrat known for brainwashing his followers and for maintaining close ties with international drug cartels and foreign intelligence agencies has been allowed to spend billions of unregulated dollars to influence U.S. political decision-making.
The fact that Moon wrapped himself in "conservative" political garb and was quick to denounce any investigations of his organization as "religious bigotry" helped fend off inquiries into exactly where his money was coming from.
But what proved most important was how Moon made himself useful to Ronald Reagan, the Bush Family and other Republican heavy-hitters often by putting into play propaganda smearing their political enemies. These Republicans, in turn, helped protect Moon, at least since the late 1970s.
During the Carter administration, the congressional "Korea-gate" probe into South Korean influence-buying in Washington revealed Moon's foreign intelligence ties and some of his criminal activities, leading to his conviction on tax fraud charges in 1982.
In that same year, however, Moon took steps to insulate himself from further inquiries, most notably by launching the Washington Times. Since then, Moon's empire from its local fund-raising scams to its international money-laundering has escaped any serious government examination.
It didn't even matter when Church insiders, including Moon's former daughter-in-law Nansook Hong, provided first-hand evidence of systematic criminality. In an era dominated by Republican control of the federal government, U.S. authorities never seemed to put two and two together.
Though Moon's operations in both Asia and South America were linked to major crime syndicates including the Japanese yakuza and Latin American cocaine cartels, federal prosecutors and congressional committees chose to look the other way.