It’s become cliche to refer to the MAGA movement as a cult. But in the 1980s, a major funder of the further right segment of the GOP coalition was the Unification Church, a literal cult.
Dinesh, of course, makes a cameo in this 1985 article explaining why there’s nothing untoward about American conservatives being bankrolled by a cult that is using them to gain mainstream respectability.
In 1984 the Unification Church paid for a conference where conservative legislators from all 50 states were flown in to listen to a speech by far right conspiracy theorist Cleon Skousen.
The Unification Church was also instrumental in funding the Washington Times, a key pillar of a growing, alternate media universe friendly to the far right‘s world view.
TIL that James Watt, Reagan’s disgraced Secretary of the Interior, was offered the editorship of the Washington Times.
Richard Viguerie, one of the most important and effective movement conservatives of the 1970s and 80s was financially bailed out by the Unification Church in 1987.
This journalist was able to write this story in 1985 thanks to the dogged research of Group Research, Inc. it was like the Media Matters of its day, but it had a staff of two and an annual budget far south of $100K. A real David and Goliath story that remains largely untold.
In 1988 Wesley McCune, the founder and 50% of Group Research’s staff, was interviewed for the Truman library because he worked in the Truman administration back in the day.
He accumulated an enormous library of information about the US right wing basically for free, and shared it with whoever was interested. Once McCune went on Social Security he stopped taking a salary.
512 huge boxes containing McCune’s work from the 60s through the 90s are in Columbia’s library.
Here’s a photo of the dreaded McCune, the Antifa researcher of his day. He was known in DC for his impeccable bow ties.
Here's a 1966 example of the sort of reports McCune's outfit would write up. It's one of the few Group Research documents I've been able to find on the web.
Several libraries own hard copies of Group Research reports. On a lark I decided to try requesting some via ILL and voila! Coffee mug for scale.
This enormous pile of research is all from 1965-8, and is probably the equivalent of two boxes out of the 512 sitting in Columbia’s library.
In the 1980s, this two-person operation was accumulating a treasure-trove of information about the growing far right in the US, yet according to McCune, most establishment folks in the Democratic Party were like "meh, who cares."
The US Right was getting millions, probably tens of millions of dollars from the Unification Church to fund their media operation, meanwhile good old Wes McCune was working away every day, keeping tabs on them for free, in his tiny run down office in DC.
And that's not even to mention the untold millions that right wing think tanks and other institutions got every year from conservative plutocrats in the 70s and 80s. And two of the few people keeping tabs on this machinery were Wes McCune and Gladys Segal, funded at $35K/year.
William Rusher, a very influential figure who was pretty far out there on the right edge of US politics, just swats McCune away like an annoying fly, as if his diligently researched reports were just left wing tin-foil hattery.
I've seen no evidence that McCune was a conspiracy theorist. His method seems to have been to just follow the money and follow the connections, always attuned to the important differences between the people and institutions that comprised the US right.
What McCune was documenting was the gradual, right wing takeover of the GOP. Rusher regarded that takeover as normal and natural. As a key operative who devoted his life to that takeover, however, Rusher knew it was neither. So of course he called McCune "a conspiracy theorist."
This thread offers a little taste of what Rusher was up to in the 1980s. He and this fairly unsavory cohort of co-authors were hard at work, in the age of Reagan, trying to push the GOP ever further rightward.
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