When Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal there was anxious speculation about what would become of the respected financial clarion. Many critics (myself included) predicted that the paper would devolve into a partisan tool for the advancement of Murdoch’s uber-conservative agenda. Now we have confirmation of the worst of our reckoning.
A few weeks ago, the Journal’s Kimberley Strassel wrote a column complaining about an Obama campaign web page that identified a few of Mitt Romney’s wealthy donors and described their inherent interests in helping Romney to buy the presidency. Strassel’s take at the time was a departure from rational thought as she dredged up delusions about McCarthyism and enemies lists. She portrayed the introduction of Romney’s contributors as an attempt to intimidate them, as if being branded a Romney supporter was in itself an insult from which they must be shielded.
The truth is that Strassel was acting as a defender of the super-rich who prefer to operate in anonymity in order to achieve their self-serving ends. And while criticizing wealthy Republicans was tantamount to treason, she had no such sympathy for the likes of George Soros or George Clooney who somehow deserved the exposure and criticism they endured. Strassel is nothing but a mouthpiece for her boss, Murdoch, who is rushing to aid his aristocratic comrades. That explains how Strassel’s looney observations traveled so briskly from the Journal to Fox News and other right-wing media.
But apparently her article didn’t do the trick. So yesterday she followed up with another piece that sought to shelter one particular Romney supporter from the slings and arrows of outrageousness due to his vast fortune. Frank VanderSloot is the CEO of Melaleuca, an Amway-ish multi-level marketing enterprise. He has been described as an ultra-conservative and virulently anti-gay activist who generously spreads his wealth in pursuit of his politically narrow and socially constricting goals. [For a revealing look at VanderSloot see Glenn Greenwald's excellent and in-depth essay in Salon].
The focus of Strassel’s new column is her dismay that VanderSloot is the subject of research by presumably Democratic operatives. Once again, the notion that wealthy power-players should be exempt from scrutiny is the core of her complaint. She even begins her article by saying…
“Here’s what happens when the president of the United States publicly targets a private citizen for the crime of supporting his opponent.”
First of all, VanderSloot is not what any objective person would describe as just a “private citizen.” He is a prominent, big-money backer of political issues and candidates and he is the national finance co-chair of the Romney campaign. That makes him a very public person whose activities are relevant. Strassel’s position is that he is off-limits for public discourse despite making himself a notoriously vociferous spokesperson for his conservative views. This is a common stance from the right wherein they assert that they can say anything they want about anyone, including slanderous attacks on the President, but if the targets of these attacks dare to respond they are guilty of intimidation and suppression of free speech.
Just as with her previous column, this one also made the journey from print to television. Fox News committed significant airtime to the story. Megyn Kelly interviewed Strassel in one segment of her program, then came back with another segment pitting a couple of political analysts against each other. Later, Neil Cavuto did a report on the subject for one segment, and returned to “interview” a couple of right-wing, Fox legal contributors. That’s a lot of airtime to devote to protecting a billionaire from having to be accountable for his political actions.
Poor Frank VanderSloot. What a burden it must be for him to have people discover what he’s up to with his campaign spending. And what a blow to his dignity that he should have to answer questions from the peasants he is seeking to control through disbursement of his wealth. It’s a good thing he has Rupert Murdoch, and the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News to cover for him because he surely doesn’t have any means of defending himself. He can now join the Koch brothers who were aided by the Murdoch Machine earlier this year when the Journal gave space to their attorney, Ted Olsen, to make largely the same arguments that Strassel is making about McCarthyism, just because they experienced some push-back for their right-wing advocacy.
It’s startling how thin-skinned these billionaires are. With all of their financial resources, media access, and Washington connections, they still cry like babies when confronted. And it’s pathetic what the Wall Street Journal has become as it seems to be destroying it’s reputation for the sake of a few wealthy patrons.