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Thursday, May 04, 2006


Sometimes the Truth is Friggin' Bizarre
In David Brook's latest column titled, "The Paranoid Style," (read it free here) he writes:

Needless to say, [Kevin] Phillips's book [American Theocracy] is rife with bizarre assertions. [Phillips] writes that "many Orthodox Jewish females cannot even study the Torah," that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon "has been close to the Bush family," that the American Revolution was "in many ways a religious war."

Brook's flippant treatment of Phillips' claim about the Bush family and Sun Myung Moon illustrates how dysfunctional Washington culture is and how clueless the nation's press corps and punditocracy are about how Moon has become a huge power player in Washington.

For those of you reading this unfamiliar with Moon, here's a brief tutorial: Sun Myung Moon established the Unification Church in 1954 because he claimed that Jesus appeared to him and authorized him to do the work left unaccomplished after His crucifixion (Moon has since claimed that his messiahship was endorsed by Buddha, Muhammad, and every dead U.S. president). Moon's church grew rapidly in membership and funds even though Moon was arrested by South Korean authorities who were suspicious about Moon's rather convenient claim that God endowed his penis with the authority to "bless the wombs" of young women in his flock. In 1971, after amassing a fortune from the labors of his devotees and establishing close connections with Park Chung Hee's authoritarian regime in South Korea, Moon decided he had bigger fish to fry and moved to the United States. Throughout the 1970's, Moon courted the powerful (such as President Nixon) and the church spent millions spreading Moon's message of world unity to Americans. As a result, the Unification Church experienced a (small) influx of upper-middle class college students in its ranks.

However, by the end of the 1970's, Moon's effort to convert America to Moonie principles was a dismal failure; in a 1979 survey of American attitudes of 155 well-known people, Moon was ranked 154th--the only person ranked behind Moon was Charles Manson. The reason: Most Americans are sane people; the more they learned about Moon, the less they liked him. They didn't like the idea of a self-proclaimed messiah calling for the destruction of American democracy (which he calls "Satan's Harvest") and the establishment of a one-world theocracy in which Moon rules and dissenters are "digested." I suspect it also rankled many Americans that a messiah who had unleashed his divine blessing rod on the lotus blossoms of naive female devotees would claim that American women were descended from "a line of prostitutes." They didn't like the idea of their children being recruited to spend long hours hawking flowers and trinkets so that Moon could live like a king.

Starting in the 1980's, Moon significantly lowered his public profile and at the same time accelerated his efforts to gain power. The cult leader dumped a couple billion dollars into the quasi-newspaper The Washington Times (Brooks' colleague Paul Krugman rightfully called it the current Bush administration's "de facto house organ") and other questionable media ventures (Moon's acquisition of the news service UPI gave Moonie interests a seat on Air Force One). Moon also stepped up his efforts to court powerful politicians (overwhelmingly Republican). Former president Bush has received at least one million dollars and possibly as much as ten million dollars from the megalomaniacal would-be messiah to appear at Moonie events.

Moon has received a decent return on his investment: in addition to literally being treated as royalty on Capitol Hill, the elder Bush has given Moon credibility and video clips (Bush once called Moon, "the man with the vision") which the Unification Church uses to gain more recruits who then can solicit more money so that Moon can give more money to equally venal and cynical politicos (such as William Bennett, Jerry Falwell, Dan Quayle, and Oliver North) who, in return, appear at Moonie functions, thus giving Moon even more credibility with potential devotees (even Bob Dole--who in the 1970's held Senate hearings highly critical of Moon--recently appeared at a Moonie front group's prayer breakfast).

The current Bush administration has also accorded legitimacy to the cult leader. Under the Bush administration’s faith-based initiatives, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave a $475,280 grant to fund Free Teens USA, a Moonie-run after-school celibacy club that recruits people into the cult. (Quick note: on the issue of nonmarital sex, the former womb-blesser is now a sadistic puritan: "If your love organ," Moon once told his male followers, "does not listen to your conscience, then you should cut off the tip [with pliers].")

If what I wrote you strikes you as mondo bizarro, you get an A in Moonie Cosmology and Political Theory 101 because it is mondo bizarro. The story of Moon's emergence as a DC power player isn't just weird; it's Ann Coulter weird. Brooks' characterization of the claim that the Bush family is close to Moon as bizarre is correct, but not for the reasons Brooks gives. Brooks wants you to view Phillips' assertion as bizarre in the sense of its being absurd. It isn't. George H.W. and Barbara Bush have received compensation that is least in the six digits in order to do Moon's bidding. Unification church insiders note a quasi-familial relationship between the Moon and Bush families (more about this in a future post). The idea that the current Bush administration's cabinet level department responsible for public health would funnel our tax money to a front group run by a man who says that if a guys starts to think with his smaller head (about 95% of all men according to my estimates), he should lop it off clearly indicates a relationship with the current generation of the Bush family. Oh, and let's not forget Bush sibling Neil's relationship with the cult. Phillips' claim about the Bush family's closeness to the Moonies is a bizarre assertion only in the sense that it's bizarre that any rational person--much less a presidential family--would want to associate with someone like Moon.

What further compounds the freakiness of this situation is the relative lack of interest from the Washington press corps. I can understand why the fair and balanced network would not only turn a blind eye to Moon but give Washington Times staffers positions in their alleged news network. What is the excuse of real journalists for doing so few stories about a power hungry billionaire cult leader who has the ear of much of Washington? I wonder.

Addendum: This isn't the first time the right has misused historian Richard Hofstadter's concept, the paranoid style, for its own purposes. I wrote about how Daniel Pipes, funded by paranoid conspiracy theorist Richard Mellon Scaife, applied the label of cconspiracy theorist, not to Scaife, but to those tracking down and exposing Scaife's hired conspiracy theorists. Go figure. Remember back in 2000, when Rove and company were involved in the whisper campaign that John McCain was mentally unbalanced because of his confinement in a North Vietnam? El Rushbo made his contribution to that effort in the form of a comedy parody commercial (I use the term "comedy" lightly becuase it was as funny as a pediatric burn unit) titled "the McCain Mutiny" portraying McCain as the paranoid Captain Queeg.

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