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The Right-Wing Media Machine Has Arrived on the Internet

For years, the Right's media infrastructure had only one weak spot, the Internet, but now that has changed.

In past years when I talked to American progressives about the growing media imbalance – as the Right gained dominance in books, magazines, newspapers, talk radio and cable TV – a typical response was, “well, the Left is stronger on the Internet.” But now even that advantage is disappearing, as should have been expected.

After all, the Right built its powerful media advantage by investing billions and billions of dollars over three-plus decades, first in magazines and various print outlets; later in national talk-radio syndicates; then in making Fox News the leading cable news network. So, it didn’t take lots of smarts to figure out the Right would use its money to conquer the Internet, too.

And that is what is happening. Backed by deep-pocket conservatives, the Right has poured large sums of money into its Internet assets, integrating them with other media properties, helping star right-wing bloggers get rich, and still maintaining the veneer of “populism” – even making sure some sites look amateurish – to stay attractive to rank-and-file Americans.

As the Washington Post’s Jerry Markon noted in a Feb. 1 article, the Right is now fully “wired” to disseminate a potent political message via the Internet, as demonstrated by the Tea Party assaults on President Barack Obama in his first year and by the Internet-savvy upset win by Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race.

What Markon discovered in his reporting was an intricate web of right-wing operatives and institutions that now rely heavily on the Web to network within the Right’s expansive array of think tanks, activist groups and media outlets.

Some right-wing bloggers have found their endeavors richly rewarded as right-wing institutes create “fellowships” for bloggers; other bloggers have become influential TV personalities, the likes of Michelle Malkin; and still others, like RedState’s Erick Erickson, wield outsized political influence because their commentaries resonate through the Right’s echo chamber.

Markon traced how one Erickson blog ricocheted from the Internet site RedState to the Web site of its corporate sibling, Human Events, then to the Web site of the American Spectator, run by publisher Alfred S. Regnery who sits on the board of the publishing house that owns RedState and Human Events.

From there, Erickson’s blog post spread to radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh and then into the Right’s vast media empire.

“The ability of a single e-mail to shape a message illustrates the power of the conservative network -- loosely affiliated blogs, radio hosts, ‘tea-party’ organizers and D.C. institutions that are binding together to fuel opposition to President Obama,” Markon wrote.

The Right on the Rise

The Washington Post writer also noted that this “wired” Right is clearly in the ascendance.

“With the Democratic defeat in the recent special senatorial election in Massachusetts, engineered in part by tea-party activists working with several Beltway-based groups, the conservative movement is more energized than it has been in years,” Markon wrote.

“Learning from the Democratic ‘Net roots,’ conservatives use Twitter and Facebook to plan such events as the recent demonstrations against health-care reform at the Capitol. …

“Inside the Beltway, much of it is fueled by the Conservative Action Project (CAP), a new group of conservative leaders chaired by Reagan-era attorney general Edwin Meese III. CAP, whose influential memos ‘for the movement’ circulate on Capitol Hill, is an offshoot of the Council for National Policy, a highly secretive organization of conservative leaders and donors. …

“CAP has worked with some of the movement's key national players, who include bloggers such as Erickson and Michelle Malkin and the State Policy Network, a consortium of 57 conservative and libertarian think tanks.

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