John Gorenfeld's book on the empire of Rev. Sun Myung Moon is out today.
What Congressional investigators in the 1970s called "the Moon organization" has played a malevolent role in American politics since the 1960's. And yet politicians from both parties (but mostly Republicans), and religious, academic and media leaders who really should know better, have taken Moon's largess, lent their good names to his enterprizes and looked the other way as his South Korea based agency interfered in American public life. (There is even a Moon/Farrakhan connection.)
I don't have a copy of Bad Moon Rising: How Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right and Built an American Kingdom, but I am looking forward to it. I know John's work, and I expect a first rate eyebrow and sometimes hair-raising read. (I am looking forward to seeing John's posts back at Talk to Action again soon as well, now that the book is done and out.)
Here is the publisher's blurb:
On March 23, 2004, Reverend Sun Myung Moon was proclaimed "King of Peace" at a coronation ceremony held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. In attendance were twelve U.S. lawmakers. In his speech, Moon proclaimed himself "humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
John Gorenfeld broke the story. With original reporting and new information available nowhere else, Bad Moon Rising introduces readers to the bizarre world of Moon, founder of the Unification Church and ultra-conservative owner of the Washington Times and United Press International. Many Americans remember Moon forcing teens to sell carnations at bus stops and airports during the 1970s. Since then, Moon has stealthily accrued power in Washington and claimed posthumous endorsements from George Washington, Confucius, and Martin Luther.
Here for the first time is the story of Moon's quest for influence in Washington, with a growing media empire rooted in the heart of the GOP message machine. Gorenfeld uncovers Moon's support for Republican operatives and politicians--including the Bush family--and reveals a hidden saga of political corruption and megalomania.
About the author: John Gorenfeld is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Salon, Wired, the UK Guardian, Reason, and Australia's HQ. He used to be a crime reporter for the Modesto Bee. In 2004, he was featured on ABC News Tonight With Peter Jennings and made the front of the Washington Post after exposing a secret crowning ceremony for a cult leader held in the Senate offices. He's been on a bunch of radio shows, including NPR's "All Things Considered" and "On the Media," "The Al Franken Show," the CBC's "As It Happens," Pacifica's "Counterspin," WorldNetDaily's "RadioActive," and others.
And here is an excerpt from John's interview with Buzzflash.
BuzzFlash: How does one begin to summarize what the Reverend Moon is about? Can you rise to that challenge?
John Gorenfeld: It took a long time just to get a grip on that. It's such a massive subject with so many angles. The way I chose to start was with this bizarre ceremony that happened. Jon Stewart talked about it on "The Daily Show." It was a ritual coronation that they held for Reverend Moon at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, which is on Capitol Hill. I sort of start with the question, well, who is this guy that Congressmen can sit by while there's a crown put on his head, and he announces that he's the messiah?
BuzzFlash: Okay, so The Washington Times is sort of a go-to outlet, along with Fox News, owned by Murdoch, The New York Post, owned by Murdoch, and Drudge, and Rush Limbaugh -- these are kind of the go-to places when the right wing and the Republicans want to get their message out. Although, of course, The Washington Times has a little bit more of an imprimatur than Drudge, but not by much. What sort of circulation does it have?[Crossposted from Talk to Action]
John Gorenfeld: The circulation is not very impressive, though. But what is impressive is the rate that it gets quoted. That is what demonstrates the importance of The Washington Times. You know, another newspaper started, The Washington Examiner, owned by a hard-right owner, but still a pretty respectable newspaper in that the coverage is measured and balanced, and it's the number-two paper in Washington, D.C. Yet the number-three paper now, The Washington Times, is still far more quoted than The Examiner because it's used to float whatever story that the right wants to get out.
Its companion magazine, sort of their version of Parade, is Insight magazine. And Insight was responsible for being the first publication to print the claim that Barack Obama had been educated in a hard-line, Islamic madrassa. And the amazing thing is, when you look at how all these stories play out, things that appear in The Washington Times get tremendous play all over the conservative blogosphere.
BuzzFlash: The Washington Times is sort of a like The Drudge Report, basically accomplishing the same goals.
John Gorenfeld: Yes. The thing is that even The Drudge Report can't link to itself. It has to link to somebody's story. And so The Washington Times is usually this sort of fake originator of supposedly respectable reporting that the other stations can now say, well, it's reported in The Washington Times.
Here's a great example. There was a story around the time that the Iraq war was starting that there was a human shield protester named Ken Joseph. The idea was that Ken Joseph was determined to use his body, and sacrifice himself if necessary, to stop the bombing of Iraq. He goes over to Iraq -- according to The Washington Times -- and to his surprise, he meets these Iraqis who say that they want the war, and they want it now, and if the bombing doesn't start, then they're going to commit suicide. He writes about how he was amazed, and he realized that the Iraqis want the shock and awe to start.
And lo and behold, after the story appeared in The Washington Times, it was all over, from Fox News to the White House website. Jeff Gannon, the White House prostitute-slash-reporter, talked about it. He had all these people in the conservative blogosphere talking about how they like these stories that match their view of reality. They were saying, look, these protesters are really starting to get it. They're starting to understand that it is going to improve the lives of the Iraqi people for this war to start.
So its reach is just tremendous, and the circulation is not the major factor.
BuzzFlash: It does have influence. They tend to place very significant pro-Republican, pro-right-wing headlines above the fold. And as we point out in our Media Putz of the Week column, they recently placed two pictures, which are called in press parlance "hangdog pictures," of Clinton and Obama above the fold. This was something that would be displayed in the news vending machines in Washington, D.C. for everyone who was walking around Washington to see.
John Gorenfeld: The newspaper is also hand delivered to thousands of people on Capitol Hill, so inside-the-Beltway, it's almost considered a message board.