Ever Wonder Where the Extreme Right's Conspiracy Theories and Paranoid Rumors Get Started? Meet WorldNetDaily
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Despite — or perhaps because of — all this, WND has had unnerving success at injecting its agenda into the public sphere. Especially since the election of America’s first black president sent the far right into paroxysms of anxiety, this far-right supermarket tabloid of the Internet has become a force to be reckoned with.
From Left to Right
Joseph Francis Farah, 57, of Centreville, Va., is a former liberal activist who as a high school student in 1971 was arrested at a massive Washington, D.C., May Day anti-war demonstration, voted for George McGovern and Jimmy Carter (twice), and says he once volunteered to serve as a bodyguard for anti-war activist Jane Fonda. In the 1980s, while working his way up the journalism food chain to become editor of the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, he became a devoted fan of Ronald Reagan, to whom his 2007 book, Stop the Presses, is dedicated.
He also found God and cultivated what he describes as a “Christian worldview.” He claims that becoming a journalist was his response to the question, “What would Jesus do?” and says that his chief influences are Watergate muckrakers Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Matt Drudge of “The Drudge Report”; Ronald Reagan; and a book called Marx & Satan, which improbably claims that the author of The Communist Manifesto belonged to a Satanic cult.
Farah became the subject of national headlines in 1990, when he was hired as executive editor of California’s conservative Sacramento Union, whose new owners hoped that fresh blood would help turn the struggling 139-year-old paper around. Instead, during Farah’s 15 months at its helm, the Union’s circulation dropped by more that 25% as he dragged it sharply to the right.
Under his direction, pro-choice advocates were described as “pro-abortion” and environmentalists were reportedly called “eco-fruities.” The word “gay” was reportedly forbidden, replaced by “homosexual” — and once, in a column by the late David Chilton (who elsewhere wrote that “The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under … the rule of God’s law.”), with “sodomite.” Farah also convinced rising conservative radio star Rush Limbaugh (who had left Sacramento a few years earlier to take his show national) to write a daily column, and ran it on the paper’s front page.
Journalist Daniel Carson described the Union as “a mouthpiece for the fundamentalist Christian right, preoccupied with abortion, homosexuals and creationism.”
“[E]ach day seems to bring a bizarre new episode,” he wrote in 1990. “Farah altered a news story to call the National Organization for Women a ‘radical feminist group.’ A front-page story speculated about whether the confrontation in the Persian Gulf is the political beginning of Armageddon.”
Editors, managers and writers reportedly left in droves. “The feeling is it’s not really an objective newspaper anymore,” a former Union reporter told The Washington Post in 1990. “We didn’t go into journalism to work for some slanted publication.”
In October 1991, Farah resigned. Twenty-seven months later, the Union — which was at the time the oldest daily paper west of the Mississippi — closed its doors for good.
But Farah kept on writing. That same year, he founded the Western Center for Journalism (WCJ), a non-profit whose purpose was “to encourage more philosophical diversity in the news media.” In 1994, WCJ was hit with a $2 million libel suit for promoting a “report” suggesting that White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster had been the victim of foul play, rather than suicide. (The suit was later dismissed.) Farah also contributed occasional op-eds to respectable outlets like the Los Angeles Times, and ran a series of “watchdog” publications focused on liberal media and culture.