While I am sure the Republicans are more interested in the pornographic nature of the publication, as a recent survey suggests, Playboy is also good at investigating stories. The whole “I get it for the articles” thing does have some merit to it, and this piece by Playboy hits a homerun on that very notion.
But was Santelli’s rant really so spontaneous? How did a minor-league TV figure, whose contract with CNBC is due this summer, get so quickly launched into a nationwide rightwing blog sensation? Why were there so many sites and organizations online and live within minutes or hours after his rant, leading to a nationwide protest just a week after his rant?
What hasn’t been reported until now is evidence linking Santelli’s “tea party” rant with some very familiar names in the Republican rightwing machine, from PR operatives who specialize in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns (called “astroturfing”) to bigwig politicians and notorious billionaire funders. As veteran Russia reporters, both of us spent years watching the Kremlin use fake grassroots movements to influence and control the political landscape. To us, the uncanny speed and direction the movement took and the players involved in promoting it had a strangely forced quality to it. If it seemed scripted, that’s because it was.
What we discovered is that Santelli’s “rant” was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a “Chicago Tea Party” was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.
This entire post deserves a good reading, but a basic summary would be this. A Rick Santelli, who was facing his contract being over in two months, made a big name for himself by a “spontaneous rant” against the homeowner bailout. This instantly turned him into a hero for the right, and ironically enough evidence exists to show that this movement was actually underway since August of last year.
There’s much more to it though, including some big right wing organizations tied to the entire thing. There’s even this evidence I posted on Friday, where MSNBC was still coining the tea party thing as a “populist” movement, which is sad in and of itself considering that only 24% of the people oppose the homeowner bailout. I don’t know what language CNBC’s sister station MSNBC practices, but 24% sure doesn’t sound populist to me or anyone else I know.
And what of Washington, D.C. where 9,000 conservative “activists” showed up for CPAC?
Barely 300 committed conservatives showed up across from the White House to protest Obama’s policies. No doubt WH staffers were having a good time standing at the windows ridiculing the “revolution” that was going to transform America.
This story hit on a Saturday, meaning it will most likely grow this week, resulting in pressure on CNBC to explain exactly what happened. The feasible outcome of this will be that Santelli ends up without another contract and no prayer of returning to any respectable media outlet due to the mounds of egg on his face. That will leave him resorting to a career in right wing talk radio or FOX news, places well known for manufactured outrage.