Billionaire Populism

by digby

It's Thanksgiving, not Halloween, but ghosts and ghoulies are still on my mind. Jamison Foser alerts us to the next wingnut media mogul, one who is actually far creepier than Rupert Murdoch because he's a homegrown wingnut who, as part of the conservative billionaires club, may just be willing to spend vast amounts of his own money to keep the "movement" alive for the sake of moneyed interests everywhere:

In recent years, Anschutz has turned his attention to his media holdings, including his movie production company. And he is building a news-media empire, as well: he bought the San Francisco Examiner in 2004 and launched the Washington Examiner the next year, while trademarking the "Examiner" name in more than 60 cities. And earlier this year, Anschutz purchased The Weekly Standard from Murdoch.

Anschutz and the people in his employ are quick to counter suggestions that his right-wing politics drive editorial decisions at his newspapers. A 2007 profile of Anschutz in American Journalism Review included a Washington Examiner editor stressing that Anshutz had told him "All I want to do is put out quality newspapers." A 2004 Washington Post article quoted another Anschutz employee stressing that Anschutz had "taken no hand in the operations, nor in demanding any particular editorial policy."

But Anschutz's publications certainly do reflect his conservative views.

Earlier this year, Media Matters' Terry Krepel detailed the right-wing tilt to the Washington Examiner's staff, including alums of the National Review, The Washington Times, NewsBusters, Robert Novak's newsletter, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.

And those kinds of staffing decisions lead to headlines like these, all featured on the front of the Washington Examiner's web page Wednesday afternoon:

* Are Democrats exiting the sinking ship?
* Inside the numbers: How Obama has fallen
* Global warming industry becomes too big to fail
* Youngest voters spurn Obamacare
* Damn the deficit: Full speed ahead on health care

Then there's the Opinion section, which features such gems as:

* Gene Healy: Obamacare is unconstitutional
* Grace-Marie Turner: Ten reasons public won't buy Senate health care plan
* Dr. David Gratzer: Medicine isn't perfect, Obamacare is even less perfect
* Ken Blackwell: Obama's indecision is hurting foreign alliances

If Anschutz's right-wing politics were shaping only the Washington Examiner, it might not matter much. Washington has plenty of conservative media; how much damage can one more do -- particularly given that The Washington Times (another newspaper controlled by a right-wing billionaire) is in danger of imploding?

But remember: Anschutz trademarked the "Examiner" name in more than 60 other cities. And he is making a push into the "hyper-local" news market with his sites.
If he's able to pull this off in a time of waning revenues for mainstream journalism, it could end up turning far more of the media into FOX style conservative news organs throughout the country. It's not that local news hasn't always been controlled by wealthy people. It usually has been. But this is a different thing altogether --- it's an effort to homogenize the local news, which has been happening for some time but not in an overtly political way. Hopefully the internet can mitigate this a bit, since there are lower barriers to entry. But local portals with all kinds of nifty local information interspersed with right wing political propaganda is a good idea. All it takes is money and these rightwing aristocrats always have plenty of that.

Yesterday I heard Tony Blankley make the astonishing remark that Obama had "confiscated" General Motors. (It was so astonishing even Chuck Todd was taken aback.) And it occurred to me that all this absurd, over-the-top talk of socialism and "big government takeovers" may not just be being used by the big money boyz to keep the rubes confused, but may also be being used by wingnut welfare queens to scare the big money donors. After all, the ideas expressed in The Powell Memorandum would never have been taken seriously if there hadn't been a feeling of chaos in the air and impending social and economic change. The left is failing to deliver on the social chaos this time, so it must be delivered by the right. And the paranoia undergirding the memorandum can still be relevant if they can persuade enough conservative donors that the Obama administration is the second coming of the Bolsheviks.

In any case, the fact is that billionaires (with some exceptions) are almost always most concerned with keeping as much of their money as possible and the wingnuts give them the political cover to ensure that the government works for their benefit. (One would think they would be more concerned about the gambling addicts who run the financial sector, but evidently they can't quite wrap their minds around the fact that all those smart young fellas aren't as smart as they need them to be.) Just as the teabaggers are susceptible to talk of FEMA camps and Kenyan jihadists in the White House the billionaires are susceptible to tales of government "confiscation" and worry about the center right Democrats getting uppity. I'm guessing we will see more blatant political moves from the malefactors of great wealth in the coming months.