From a right-wing think tank, a chilling pseudo-intellectual case for Trumpism

Photo (cc) 2021 by Blink O’fanaye

I don’t think any of us believe that Trumpism is going away. To the extent that we take any comfort from the current chaotic state of the Republican Party, it’s that it seems mainly to be defined by the QAnon craziness of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the alleged perversion of Matt Gaetz and the cartoonish cynicism of Josh Hawley. Yes, we need to keep an eye on them. But they’re so out there on the fringes that the amount of damage they could do would appear to be limited.

Which is why an essay published recently by Glenn Ellmers of the Claremont Institute should chill you to the bone. Running at more than 3,200 words, Ellmers’ screed is nothing less than an assertion of authoritarianism and white supremacy, dressed up in intellectual garb. I don’t mean to suggest that he advances a coherent argument — he keeps telling the reader that he’s going to explain what he means, and he never actually gets around to it. But Ellmers can write, and he’s got a worldview that he wants to impose on all of us. “Pure, undiluted fascism,” tweeted my GBH News colleague Adam Reilly.

Ellmers begins by asserting that more than half of his fellow countrymen are “not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term.” And what does he mean by that? Well, he wants you to know that his definition of not-Americans goes well beyond those he bluntly labels as “illegal immigrants” and “aliens.” He writes:

I’m really referring to the many native-born people—some of whose families have been here since the Mayflower—who may technically be citizens of the United States but are no longer (if they ever were) Americans. They do not believe in, live by, or even like the principles, traditions, and ideals that until recently defined America as a nation and as a people. It is not obvious what we should call these citizen-aliens, these non-American Americans; but they are something else.

So who are the real Americans? Why, Trump voters, of course. That is, “the 75 million people who voted in the last election against the senile figurehead of a party that stands for mob violence, ruthless censorship, and racial grievances, not to mention bureaucratic despotism.”

There’s the hate, right out in the open. I really don’t need to quote any more except to say that Ellmers goes on at great length, in pseudo-intellectual language, to tell us that action must be taken. What kind of action he doesn’t say. But I would assume that his only regret about the insurrection of Jan. 6 is that it failed.

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What’s especially chilling about this is that there’s none of the unseriousness that often defines hardcore Trumpism — no pedophilia rings masterminded by Hillary Clinton and George Soros, no claims that the election was stolen. Just a pure will to power, which is a defining characteristic of fascism.

If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I recommend this analysis by Zack Beauchamp of Vox. Under the headline “The conservative movement is rejecting America,” Beauchamp writes:

Ellmers’s essay should be taken seriously because it makes the anti-democratic subtext of this kind of conservative discourse into clearly legible text. And it is a clear articulation of what the movement has been telling us through its actions, like Georgia’s new voting law: It sees democracy not as a principle to respect, but as a barrier to be overcome in pursuit of permanent power.

The Claremont Institute, based in California, is what might be called a right-wing think tank that at some point in recent years abandoned ultraconservatism for something much more dangerous. In 2016 it published a pseudonymous essay called “The Flight 93 Election,” arguing that — just like the passengers who brought down a planeload of terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001 — voters had to vote for Donald Trump lest they allow Hillary Clinton to destroy the country. As Conor Friedersdorf explained it in The Atlantic at the time:

The most radical, least conservative people in American politics right now are the so-called conservatives who are imprudently counseling the abandon of core values and norms to avoid a point-of-no-return that is a figment of their imagination, often with rhetorical excesses that threaten the peaceful transition of power at the core of America’s success insofar as the excesses are taken seriously.

I couldn’t find a whole lot about Ellmers other than his bio at the Claremont Institute, which describes him as a visiting research scholar at Hillsdale College, another bastion of the far right, as well as a minor politico of sorts. Of local note: According to the bio, he holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Boston University.

More than anything I’ve seen since Jan. 6, though, Ellmers’ essay defines and explains the ongoing threat we face from Trumpism.

President Joe Biden speaks often about his desire to unite the country, and poll numbers suggest that he’s having some success. Until and unless the fever breaks, though, it’s clear that a large minority of Americans — 25%, 30%, 40% — are going to regard themselves as the only true patriots and the rest of us as the Other.

It’s a horrifying dilemma, and there’s no clear path forward.

Henry Santoro joins WGBH Radio as a news anchor

Henry Santoro
Henry Santoro

Big news from my other employer, WGBH: Henry Santoro will be joining WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) as a news anchor. Henry announced the move this morning on The Boston Globe’s online radio station, RadioBDC, where he had worked since 2012.

Henry and I worked together for years at The Boston Phoenix, where he was the morning news guy on WFNX Radio. His then-future wife, Thea Singer, showed me the ropes when I started as a copy editor at the Phoenix in 1991. When ’FNX closed three years ago, the Globe responded by creating RadioBDC — and hired Henry, Julie Kramer and other longtime ’FNX people. I enjoyed my occasional appearances with Henry on ’FNX, and it would be fun if we could do it at ’GBH as well.

WGBH has proved to be a magnet for members of the Phoenix diaspora. Henry joins WGBHNews.org senior editor Peter Kadzis, staff reporter Adam Reilly, political commentator David Bernstein and me. Congratulations to Henry, for whom I have one piece of advice: in public broadcasting, we spell it D-E-A-D.

Here’s the memo to the staff from WGBH Radio general manager Phil Redo:

Hi all:

I am very happy to announce that Henry Santoro will be joining our daytime line-up of news anchors.

Since Jordan [Weinstein]’s departure both Cristina Quinn and Lynne Ashminov have been handling anchor responsibilities — I thank them both for their excellent work and I’m pleased they will each continue to be part of our on-air news team.

Henry joins us from The Boston Globe’s radio property “RadioBDC” where he has been news director since 2012….

Before The Globe, from 1983 until 2012, Henry was a fixture on the morning radio dial, serving as the award winning news director and morning news anchor for WFNX-FM, owned by the Boston Phoenix. He worked very closely with several of our current WGBH News staff and contributors, including Peter Kadzis, Adam Reilly, David Bernstein and Dan Kennedy.

During the more than 30 years he has been a morning anchor, Henry has brought to audiences many of the most significant stories of our era beginning with the AIDS crisis in the early 1980’s to 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, the first election of Mayor Menino to the election if the first African American President. Along the way he has interviewed cultural and political personalities as wide ranging as Andy Warhol, Mitt Romney, Allen Ginsberg and Yoko Ono. And, so important to us, he is extremely plugged in to the local scene and should help us continue to deepen our commitment to being Boston’s LOCAL NPR. We may even consider bringing to WGBH his popular feature about community happenings called “Henry in the Hub.”

A strong communicator with a very conversational delivery, Henry has done both long and short form content and is a big proponent of the team approach within newsrooms, critical to our continuing development.

For ten years Henry was an Adjunct professor at Emerson College where he taught radio and journalism courses. He is himself a graduate of Emerson [see correction below], and also an Associate of Arts in Communication and Journalism from Northeast College of Communications.

He is an art collector ( he lectures on Andy Warhol 2-3 times a year), loves cooking ( he owns more than 5-thousand cookbooks!) and music.

Please join me in welcoming Henry Santoro to WGBH News. His first day will most likely be Tuesday, April 21st.

P

Correction. Henry posted this on Facebook: “Just for the record, I am not a graduate of Emerson College. I did teach there for over ten years, and I am an honorary member of their Phi Alpha Tau fraternity. I am a graduate of the now defunct Northeast College of Communications. That is all.”

Photo via LinkedIn.

Boston.com retracts claim about racist email from professor

The tale of the Harvard Business School professor who flipped out because he’d been overcharged $4 by a Chinese restaurant took an ugly turn Wednesday night. Boston.com, which first reported the story, posted a follow-up claiming that Ben Edelman had sent a racist email to the restaurant owner — and then replaced the follow-up with an “Editor’s Note,” explaining that the authenticity of the email couldn’t be verified. The Boston Herald has a summary of what went wrong. (Boston.com is part of The Boston Globe’s network of websites.)

The original story about Edelman, by Boston.com’s Hilary Sargent, had gone viral. Who, after all, can resist reading about a privileged Harvard professor threatening legal action against a hard-working business owner because the prices on his website hadn’t been updated for a while? So when Boston.com retracted its explosive allegation (carrying Sargent and Roberto Scalese’s bylines) that Edelman was not just a contentious jerk but a racist as well, Twitter exploded.

So what did Boston.com publish? It wasn’t long before screen grabs started to make their way around the intertubes. J. Alain Ferry posted a copy here. What happened was that after Edelman apologized to Ran Duan, whose family owns the Sichuan Garden restaurant in Brookline, someone claiming to be Edelman sent another email to the restaurant owner, writing, “You may have won the battle Duan, but at least we can agree your menu is a little less slanty-eyed.” That’s followed up by an apology for accidentally sending what was meant as a private joke, which has the effect of making the mail seem more authentic.

Edelman’s domain name, benedelman.org, is easily found on the Web, and it’s not difficult to send an email using any address you like. The Sichuan Garden website offers an email form that lets you do exactly that. One clue is that all of the legitimate emails Boston.com has posted from Edelman are marked as coming from “Ben Edelman,” whereas the racist email and subsequent apology were from “ben@benedelman.org.”

Despite the retraction, Boston.com as of this moment is still all-in on the rest of its Edelman package. We’ll see what, if anything, comes next.

Update: Kyle Alspach just posted on this at BostInno. He’s got some really interesting technical stuff.

Update II: Here’s a screen image of a tweet Sargent sent out last night that she subsequently took down:

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.23.52 AM

Peter Canellos to be Politico’s No. 3 editor

The big local media news this morning is that Peter Canellos, who recently took a buyout offer from The Boston Globe, is moving back to Washington in order to become Politico’s executive editor. He will be number three under Susan Glasser, who has only held the number two spot for a few weeks. (The editor-in-chief is John Harris. See correction below.)

Do the Glasser-Canellos moves signal a shift toward substance and away from Politico’s infamous “win the morning” orientation? Let’s hope so. At the Globe, Canellos was known for taking a cerebral approach in his stints as Washington bureau chief, metro editor and, finally, editorial-page editor. He also oversaw the Sunday Ideas section.

In 2009, several months after Canellos was chosen to run the editorial pages, my WGBH colleague Adam Reilly profiled him for The Boston Phoenix. Canellos told Reilly his goal was to make the pages smart and unpredictable:

“Opinion is free. What we have to do is emphasize anything that rises above that cacophony,” says Canellos. “That means our columnists have to have a much more distinctive voice, and our columns and editorials have to be much better written than the cacophony — more authoritative, more credible, more reliable.”

This is good news for Canellos and for Politico.

Correction: I originally reported that Canellos would be the No. 2 editor.

Presenting the 17th Annual New England Muzzle Awards

Muzzles logo
Click on image to read the Muzzle Awards.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz (again) might consider running the other way when we try to present them with our coveted statuettes for dishonoring the First Amendment.

The 17th Annual New England Muzzle Awards are now online at WGBHNews.org and The Providence Phoenix. They should be up soon at The Portland Phoenix as well. This is the second year that WGBH has served as home base following 15 years at the late, great Boston Phoenix.

As always, the Muzzles are accompanied by an article on Campus Muzzles by my friend and sometime collaborator Harvey Silverglate. There are a couple of new touches this year as well: the WGBH design is responsive, which means it looks just as great on your tablet or phone as it does on your laptop; and WGBH reporter Adam Reilly, WGBHNews.org editor Peter Kadzis and I talk about the Muzzles on “The Scrum” podcast, which of course you should subscribe to immediately.

Peter, by the way, is a former editor of the Phoenix newspapers, and has now edited all 17 editions of the Muzzles.

Finally, great work by WGBH Web producers Abbie Ruzicka and Brendan Lynch, who hung in through technical glitches and my whining to make this year’s edition look fantastic.

Adam Reilly is leaving the Phoenix

Adam Reilly

My friend and former (and future!) colleague Adam Reilly is leaving the Boston Phoenix to become an associate producer for “Greater Boston,” at WGBH-TV (Channels 2 and 44).

Adam has ably handled the media beat since 2006, writing the “Don’t Quote Me” column and the media blog. Before that, he’d served as the paper’s political columnist.

Since the late 1980s, just three people have covered the media for the Phoenix — Mark Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington; yours truly; Mark again; and then Adam. For a press critic, it’s one of just a handful of jobs in the country where you really get a chance to make a difference. No doubt a long line of applicants will form outside the Phoenix’s door.

Good luck and best wishes to Adam, a transplant from Minnesota who’s managed the difficult trick of establishing himself as a true Bostonian.

Glenn Beck’s paranoid religiosity

Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck

It strikes me as overly cynical whenever I hear someone argue that Glenn Beck’s just an entertainer who doesn’t mean half the things he says. I find it hard to believe anyone could spew that much toxic rhetoric just for laughs (and money).

Now the Boston Phoenix’s Adam Reilly has advanced an alternative explanation, based on some pretty extensive research. According to Reilly, what animates Beck may be an out-there, retro strain of Mormonism he has embraced with a convert’s zeal.

Unlike mainstream Mormon public figures like Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch and Harry Reid, Beck, Reilly argues, harks back to the virulent 1950s anti-communism of Ezra Taft Benson, a member of President Dwight Eisenhower’s cabinet who later became head of the LDS Church.

And when Beck says the Constitution is “hanging by a thread,” he’s not just indulging in a cliché — he’s invoking the very specific language of a particular type of religious paranoia.

Reilly’s piece is well worth your time.

A low whine from the Naked City (II)

Alan Mutter, one of the best newspaper analysts in the blogosphere, shares Adam Reilly’s and my skepticism about Douglas McIntyre’s list of doomed newspapers. Mutter calls McIntyre “a friend,” but adds that there is “no hard data or deep analysis to support his findings.” He continues:

Although some of the papers one day may succumb to anemic readership and revenues, there is not enough information or analysis underlying the scary list to support the proposition that the publications are more or less doomed than any of 10, 20 or 30 other papers that might have been named, instead.

What Mutter’s got to say about Boston is especially interesting:

Even though weak economies are hardest on the No. 2 papers in two-newspaper towns, Doug predicts the demise of the print edition of the Boston Globe while saying nothing of the apparently fragile financial status of the far smaller Boston Herald.

Over at the Phoenix, Reilly responds to the Inside Track’s criticism.

Update: Paul McMorrow nails it.

A low whine from the Naked City

Is this what the Boston Herald calls a correction?

The Herald’s Inside Track chides the Phoenix’s Adam Reilly and Media Nation today for questioning a blog post by financial analyst Douglas McIntyre placing the Boston Globe on a list of 10 newspapers that may go out of business or go online-only by the end of the year.

What’s really amusing, though, is the way the Track quietly corrects an error made earlier this week on Jessica Heslam’s Messenger Blog. The error — which had Time magazine predicting the Globe’s demise — remains uncorrected.

As Media Nation was the first to report, Time, like several other media outlets, was merely running the feed from McIntyre’s 24/7 Wall St. blog on its Web site. Naturally, the Track takes Reilly and me to task for not doing any “reporting,” which it conveniently defines as not calling the Globe in order to get a “no comment.”

Finally, the Track manages the neat trick of lampooning Reilly’s and my skepticism over McIntyre’s claim that the Globe is worth only $20 million while simultaneously acknowledging that the paper’s real estate and other assets are probably worth more than $100 million.

The plain fact is that the most recent analysis anyone has seen is one put out by Barclays Capital analyst Craig Huber, who estimates the paper’s value at $192.8 million.

The newspaper business is in unimaginably bad shape, and the Globe is as vulnerable as any paper. If being cautiously optimistic about the future of the Globe makes me hopelessly naive, then I offer my deepest apologies.

Then again, I’m also one of the few media-watchers I know who predicts that the Herald will also survive. I suppose I could be wrong about that, too.

More: WBZ Radio (AM 1030) still has a Tuesday report up on its Web site wrongly attributing McIntyre’s item to Time magazine. Come on, folks. This isn’t that hard.