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Messengers of the Right

Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics

Nicole Hemmer
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Messengers of the Right
    Book Description:

    From Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to Glenn Beck and Matt Drudge, Americans are accustomed to thinking of right-wing media as integral to contemporary conservatism. But today's well-known personalities make up the second generation of broadcasting and publishing activists.Messengers of the Righttells the story of the little-known first generation.

    Beginning in the late 1940s, activists working in media emerged as leaders of the American conservative movement. They not only started an array of enterprises-publishing houses, radio programs, magazines, book clubs, television shows-they also built the movement. They coordinated rallies, founded organizations, ran political campaigns, and mobilized voters. While these media activists disagreed profoundly on tactics and strategy, they shared a belief that political change stemmed not just from ideas but from spreading those ideas through openly ideological communications channels.

    InMessengers of the Right, Nicole Hemmer explains how conservative media became the institutional and organizational nexus of the conservative movement, transforming audiences into activists and activists into a reliable voting base. Hemmer also explores how the idea of liberal media bias emerged, why conservatives have been more successful at media activism than liberals, and how the right remade both the Republican Party and American news media.Messengers of the Rightfollows broadcaster Clarence Manion, book publisher Henry Regnery, and magazine publisher William Rusher as they evolved from frustrated outsiders in search of a platform into leaders of one of the most significant and successful political movements of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9307-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Part I. Networks
    • Chapter 1 The Outsiders (pp. 3-27)

      Pride. There was no better word to describe how Clarence Manion felt as he rolled into Lowry Air Force Base in August 1953. The Summer White House, the press called the base, because of the man Manion was there to meet. It was a remarkable day for the former law school dean. In just two short years, Manion had climbed his way from an academic post in South Bend, Indiana, to the inner sanctum of Washington political life. He had a best-selling book, a steady lecture schedule, and a Rolodex filled with some of the richest and most well-connected men...

    • Chapter 2 The Outlets (pp. 28-48)

      Henry Regnery flipped through his notes a final time as he waited for the rest of the group to arrive. In a few minutes Room 2233 in New York City’s Lincoln Building would be packed with some of the brightest lights of the conservative movement, gathered together at his request. Writers, publishers, and editors made up most of the guest list, including William F. Buckley Jr., the enfant terrible of the right; Frank Hanighen, cofounder ofHuman Events; Raymond Moley,Newsweekcolumnist and author of the anti–New Deal bookAfter Seven Years(1939); and John Chamberlain, former editor of...

    • Chapter 3 The Obstacles (pp. 49-72)

      On October 20, 1957, Dan Hutchings twirled his radio dial to 570 AM and settled into his living room. It had been a cool, clear day in Alderwood Manor, the small town near Seattle where Hutchings made his home. His family joined him for his Sunday evening routine, listening to theManion Forumover Seattle’s KVI radio station, an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting System. At quarter to nine, Hutchings heard the announcer’s familiar voice. But instead of introducing the program as he always did, the announcer informed listeners, “The Manion Forum of Opinionoriginally scheduled for this time will...

  5. Part II. Leaders
    • Chapter 4 The Movement (pp. 75-90)

      It was an unseasonably warm September day in San Luis Obispo, California, when Olive Marcom sat down to write to Clarence Manion. She hadn’t known much about theManion Forumwhen she tuned in to his television program a few days before. A friend encouraged her to watch, saying Manion delivered “the low-down on what’s really happening behind the headlines and news reports.” In September 1964, that low-down largely concerned communism. In the context of the coming presidential election, Manion had turned his attention to victory in the Cold War and threats of subversion at home. His warnings of communist...

    • Chapter 5 The Millstone (pp. 91-106)

      Writing to Gina Manion, Clarence’s wife, in 1961, Peggy Cies recounted an inquiry she had sent toHuman Eventsa few years earlier, after she and her husband, William, joined the John Birch Society. Cies had asked the editors what they thought of the organization’s founder, Robert Welch. “What Bob Welch says, you can trust,” they replied. Cies told Gina her experience confirmed this. She and William, who ran a successful real estate company in San Marino, California, had been poring over back issues ofAmerican Opinion, the society’s magazine, and marveled how Welch had gotten it right, time and...

    • Chapter 6 The Muzzle (pp. 107-126)

      When 2,500 Democrats gathered at the Hollywood Palladium in November 1961 to hear President Kennedy speak (a privilege for which they paid $100 apiece), they anticipated a rousing speech on behalf of Pat Brown. After a rocky first term, Brown was running for reelection as governor of California. He had shed fifteen pounds and embarked on a statewide speaking tour to prepare for battle against his most likely opponent: Richard Nixon, the man Kennedy had dispatched with in the presidential race a year earlier. The Brown portion of the speech, though, was campaign boilerplate. It was when Kennedy detoured “to...

  6. Part III. Elections
    • Chapter 7 The Purists (pp. 129-153)

      Bill Rusher was renouncing party politics.

      Having dedicated the better part of his early life to the Republican Party, relishing in the battles his faction of the Young Republicans both started and won, the young lawyer expected to spend his life as a party operative. But all that changed in the backseat of a friend’s car in the spring of 1954, as he listened to Vice President Richard Nixon denounce Senator Joe McCarthy’s freewheeling hearings on government subversion. The betrayal was still palpable two decades later. Witness:

      I can remember the exact moment. The straw that broke the camel’s back...

    • Chapter 8 The Partisans (pp. 154-176)

      In early 1963, Cletus Heibel of Dorr, Michigan, a forty-eight-year-old member of the UAW (“not by choice”), carefully cut two articles from the UAW newspaperSolidarity, then scrawled a handwritten letter to Clarence Manion. The articles were part of an in-depth investigation into what the UAW called “That Other Subversive Network”—the conservative movement. “I am enclosing the first two installments in which you have a very prominent part,” Heibel wrote. “It seems that everyone to the right of Hubert Humphrey is a right wing extremist.” The first part of the series covered the “financial ‘angels’ of the ultra-right.” The...

    • Chapter 9 The Pivot (pp. 177-198)

      “Where does the Republican party go from here?” theNew York Timesasked the morning after the 1964 election. With Goldwater going down to “pulverizing, catastrophic defeat,” the newspaper argued the election results had given the lie to the right’s claim of a hidden conservative majority: “The candidacy of Senator Goldwater, who in recent years became the hero of these old-fashioned conservatives as well as of the neo-McCarthyites, Birchites and others on the fringes of the conservative position, put this long-discussed theory to the test. The results are now apparent to everyone.” Conservatives had their chance for a choice. America...

  7. Part IV. Adaptations
    • Chapter 10 The Compromise (pp. 201-228)

      The election of Richard Nixon marked the end of conservative politics in America.

      That was the assessment of Brent Bozell, a long-faced, red-haired writer who knew a few things about conservative politics. Ghostwriter ofConscience of a Conservative, brother-in-law of Bill Buckley, founding member of Young Americans for Freedom: Bozell had the credentials to weigh in on the state of conservatism. And weigh in he did, in an open letter to movement conservatives in his magazine,Triumph: “Historians will differ as to the moment when the movement you lead ceased to be an important force in America. My own view...

    • Chapter 11 The Contraction (pp. 229-251)

      “There was a time in America—not very long ago—when only liberal voices were to be heard on the nation’s communications networks, and most national debates were limited to options which often seemed to offer little choice,” Phil Crane reminisced. It was the end of 1973, nearly a decade after Crane had writtenThe Democrat’s Dilemmafor Regnery during the Goldwater campaign. The square-jawed, well-coiffed Crane, now a congressman, had wended his way through conservative media, organizations, and politics. Now, sitting before theManion Forummicrophone, he recalled how different the landscape had appeared twenty years earlier: “Few indeed...

    • Chapter 12 The Comeback (pp. 252-276)

      “Let me now simply and briefly do what I came here to do tonight, and that is, as President of the United States, to salute the editors, associates, and friends ofNational Review.”

      Ronald Reagan, bedecked in black tie, stood before one of the friendliest crowds he would encounter in his eight years in office. It wasNational Review’s thirtieth anniversary, and Reagan was eager to fete the magazine that had been so important to his own rise to power. “The man standing before you was a Democrat when he picked up his first issue in a plain brown wrapper,”...

  8. Notes (pp. 277-308)
  9. Index (pp. 309-318)
  10. Acknowledgments (pp. 319-320)