There was a time, back in the 1990’s, when it was fun to read the American Spectator magazine. Three things stick in my head about it. One is the fact that they would fail to print some months or it would be very late. They always had money trouble. The other thing was the irregular size of the thing. Of course, in the 90’s, the distinguishing feature was the Clinton-hating. The only person who hated the Clintons more than R. Emmett Tyrrell, was his financier, Richard Melon Scaife. Those two really hated the Clintons.
I think the last time I bothered to subscribe was maybe a decade ago. I hit the website once a week, but a search through my logs tells me I have never posted about anything contained in the American Spectator. The only writer I recognize while scanning the site is Ben Stein, who I’m glad to see is still alive. For some reason I was under the impression he was dead. Apparently, it remains popular. I checked the Alexa rankings and it is ranked #13,562 in the US. That means it is as popular as the most read alt-right web sites.
That’s a good entry point for understanding the commentariat. The Spectator is actually owned by a 501(c)(3) named The American Alternative Foundation. That appears to be a trade name. The real name is The Alex C. Walker Educational and Charitable Foundation, founded in 1968. A look at their tax returns says they have about nine million in assets and they take in about half a million in contributions. There are no paid employees listed on the tax return, so it is probably run by family members of the founders.
The interesting thing is the foundation’s mission, according to the website, is to promote environmental cleanup in Pittsburgh. How the American Spectator fits into that is a mystery, but it is a reminder that that these sorts of organizations take on a life of their own, usually becoming something the founder never intended. The reason for that is they are vehicles for rich people to funnel money into activities that they would just as soon not see their name attached. Then their is Robert Conquest’s Second Law.
Anyway, that is one reason publications like the American Spectator survive, despite not having many paying subscribers. They exist as a platform to promote ideas popular with rich people. It’s not just the underlying funding mechanism. It is the nexus of not-for-profit think tanks and educational outfits. For example, here is a story that I spotted in the Spectator the other day, about the decline in test scores. This is an increasingly popular topic with the people highly skilled at not to noticing things.
At first blush, it looks like the sort of banal political blathering that makes up most of the commentariat. “We have to fix the schools” is one of those phrases that has become a bit of joke on the Dissident Right, but it remains wildly popular with Progressives and Conservative Inc. One reason for this is it helps finance that nexus of non-profits and unread publications that keep an army of liberal arts majors in six figure positions. The article in question was produced by an outfit calling itself the American Principles Project.
The American Principles Project is a 501(c)(3) think tank founded in 2009 by Robert George, Jeff Bell, and Frank Cannon. According to their mission statement, they are organized to promote immigration reform, education reform and religious liberty. I’ll note that what they mean by immigration reform is open borders. The foundations Latino Director is former Bush hand Alfonso Aguilar, who argued after Romney lost that immigration restriction positions would cost the GOP the 2016 election. Ooops!
If you look at their tax filing, you’ll see they take in a couple million a year in grants and donations. This is enough to pay six “scholars” an average of $140,000 per year, plus expenses. One of the scholars appears to be Maggie Gallagher. Double and triple dipping is a common practice in the think tank game. Having a spot at a foundation, plus a contract with a cable outlet and a range of side projects, means even a C-list chattering skull can live a very comfortable life, without having to work very hard.
Normal people wonder why the media is so corrupt and the answer lies in the financial arrangements. Cable news channels exist only because cable monopolies exist. The monopolies exist because they are sold by the government. The rich people who own these channels hire people to extol the virtues of rich people. The think tanks and foundations provide the content and experts, so the news presenters can have an easy time celebrating the rich people. It is a closed loop designed to close off alternatives.
The same is true on the print side of the media. The small sites like the Spectator cannot afford to pay writers, so they let think tanks post their agit-prop on their site, posing it as commentary. This helps promote their causes and it helps promote the people, who can decorate their CV with a long list of publications that have found their work so compelling, they just had to publish it! The media, at all levels, is a racket financed by monied interests in order to promote the policies and programs that are good for rich people.
There is a lesson here for the alt-right. The reason the people in charge are so desperate to demonize critics and declare their issues taboo is they want to scare away the financial support. There are a lots of rich people who sympathize with the alt-right, the Dissident Right and immigration patriots. What they need is a way to support the people they wish to support, without it being very obvious. That’s the reason the 501(c)(3) was created. The political class wanted to conceal their money laundering from the public.