Political Jujitsu, Then And Now

In his profile of Paul Weyrich for the DC Examiner, Lee Edwards writes:

He was born on October 7, 1942, in Racine, Wisconsin, the son of working-class German Catholics. His father tended the boilers of St. Mary’s Catholic Hospital for 50 years. He was politically active from an early age: at 19, he and his friends took over the Racine Republican party.

He worked for a local daily newspaper and then as a radio-television journalist before coming to Washington in 1967 as press secretary to Senator Gordon Allott (R-CO).

He learned how to organize from the liberal opposition. During President Nixon’s first term, he attended a meeting of key liberals planning the enactment of an open housing bill. Present were a White House official, a Washington newspaper columnist, an analyst from the Brookings Institution, representatives from several black lobbying groups, and aides to a dozen senators.

Weyrich noted that everyone took an assignment. The Senate aides promised that their bosses would make supporting statements and contact other senators. The White House official said he would keep everyone informed of the administration’s strategy.

The newspaper columnist promised to write a favorable article about the legislation. The Brookings analyst promised to publish a timely study that would impact the debate. The black lobbyists agreed to produce public demonstrations at the right time.

“I saw how easily it could be done with planning and determination,” Weyrich later recalled, “and decided to try it myself.” With funding from conservative businessmen like Joseph Coors and direct mail assistance from fundraiser Richard Viguerie, he helped start major conservative institutions such as Heritage, the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (later the Free Congress Foundation), the Senate Steering Committee, the Republican Study Committee, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Liberals as well as conservatives acknowledged his essential role. In January 1981, the AFL-CIO described the New Right and specifically the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress as smart, effective and responsible for “a whole passel of persons sitting in the U.S. House and Senate.”

The manufactured dissent that Weyrich describes witnessing in the early ’70s and emulating during its second half dovetails remarkably well with something Tom Wolfe told an interviewer about his New York Herald-Tribune salad days:

Well, one of the things is what I would call “media ricochet”, which is the way real life and life as portrayed by television, by journalists like myself and others, begin ricocheting off of one another. That’s why to me, in Bonfire of the Vanities, it was so important to show exactly how this occurs when television and newspaper coverage become a factor in something like racial politics. And a good bit of the book has to do with this curious phenomenon of how demonstrations, which are a great part of racial and ethnic politics, exist only for the media. In the last days when I was working on The New York Herald-Tribune, I’ll never forget the number of demonstrations I went to and announced that to all the people with the placards, “I’m from The New York Herald-Tribune,” and the attitude was really a yawn, and then, “Get lost”. They were waiting for Channel 2 and Channel 4 and Channel 5, and suddenly the truck would appear and these people would become galvanized. On one occasion I even saw a group of demonstrators down in Union Square, marching across the Square, and Channel 2 arrived, a couple of vans, and the head of the demonstration walked up to what looked like the head man of the TV crew and said, “What do you want us to do?” He says, “Golly, I don’t know. What were you going to do?” He says, “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. You tell us.”

As Edwards wrote, Weyrich simply took the methods of the left and moved them starboard. Something that Mary Katharine Ham notes that Rick Warren is doing in his recent interviews with the legacy media.

(Originally posted at Ed Driscoll.com)

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