Kathy Shaidle

Before Media Matters, there was Group Research, Inc. (part two)

Posted on December 31 2009 1:15 pm
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."
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Rush Limbaugh: "Doctor of Democracy"

It feels strange writing about the left’s countless vain attempts to silence conservative talk radio, on the morning after Rush Limbaugh was hospitalized with chest pains.

As I write this, his condition has been upgraded from “serious” to “stable”, and a statement at says the veteran host is “resting comfortably” and “appreciates your prayers and well wishes.”

Of course, not everyone was wishing Rush well last night, but at least the “compassionate progressives” at Media Matters haven’t posted any vitriol about him — yet.

Yesterday, I wrote about Group Research, Inc., the unofficial “predecessor” to Media Matters. As with the George Soros Steno Pool, Group Research, Inc. appointed itself an anti-“right wing” “watchdog.”

But back when the organization began in 1962, the conservative media and activist universe was much smaller than it is today. Comparing that relatively tiny network of print newsletters and budding kitchen table political groups to Fox News, talk radio, National Review and other magazines, and the blogosphere is an education in itself.

That’s why I was taken aback to learn that Group Research, Inc’s papers, which are archived at Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library, total 200,000 items in 512 boxes, spanning 215 linear feet! They’re also dated from 1955, not 1962.

Columbia’s bio of Group Research, Inc. founder Wesley McCune describes him as a “successful journalist for such magazines as Newsweek, Time Life and Changing Times as well as a staff member of several government agencies and government-related organizations.” For whatever reason, they don’t specify that McCune served as the Executive Assistant to President Truman’s Secretary of Agriculture.

In an oral history recorded for the Truman Library in 1988, McCune explained that he’d founded Group Research, Inc. to “monitor” the “Chamber of Commerce” (?) along with “real kooky group[s]; the Ku Klux Klan or what have you” — because there’s nothing “kooky” about liberals spying on the Chamber of Commerce

McCune demures about any direct connection his group had with the Democratic Party or any Democratic administration. However, in The Death of Talk Radio? Cliff Kincaid insists that Group Research, Inc’s materials were “a key aspect to the campaign” to intimidate the “right wing” in the early 1960s.

According to Kincaid,

Kennedy and Johnson Administration officials, working with Democratic congressional staffers, the Democratic National Committee, and a liberal journalist by the name of Fred Cook, countered the influence of and even silenced conservative radio personalities. Bill Ruder, a Kennedy Administration official, admitted, “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”

As noted yesterday, a key aspect of this campaign involved the strategic placing of an article called “Hate Clubs of the Air” in The Nation magazine in 1962.  The article advised readers to “demand free time to counter some of the radical right’s wild-swinging charges” — which stations were required to provide under the Fairness Doctrine.

Campaign operatives 1,035 letters to stations demanding “equal time” to oppose “right wing” views. The letters garnered “a total of 1,678 hours of free time from stations carrying conservative media personalities.”

“These demands for equal time,” according to The End of Talk Radio? “which stations would have to provide gratis, were regarded by most of their executives as harassments they’d rather avoid. This many of them did, either by dropping the commentaries or by censoring them.”

That’s why the end of the Fairness Doctrine, which was repealed by President Ronald Reagan, led almost immediately to the rise of conservative talk radio. Talk radio was finally freed from the impractical requirement to provide “equal time” to every conservative talker’s every utterance.

Disarmed of their Fairness Doctrine, progressives like Media Matters are still trying to take down conservative media stars, through smear campaigns and failed boycotts. However, there’s a Democrat in the White House, and concerning new employees at the FCC.

Today, we need to worry about Rush, most definitely. But we also have to keep our eye on the larger picture, and remain constantly vigilant about any threat to conservative media as a whole.

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