At ThinkProgress, Zach Beauchamp tells the amazing story of Allen Baler, a marketing entrepreneur who sells “survival foods” and crummy advice to very gullible right wing paranoiacs by pretending to be one himself. We recommend that you read the whole thing, but we want to highlight the penultimate paragraphs:
The interesting innovation in Reboot’s Patriot Alliance is that they’re not selling a product wrapped in ideological garb; they’re selling ideology itself. “I’ve never been so passionate about anything in my life,” the Bates character promises, pitching what’s essentially a conservative newsletter with scattered survivalist tips. Judging from the writing in the letter, it seems like Baler has struck gold again. “Bates’” fearmongering about Obama’s America is nearly indistinguishable from some of the red meat that frequently appears in the respectable kind of conservative outlet.
What Allen Baler has done is expose the danger tolerating his ilk poses for the conservative movement. The more mainstream the hucksters are allowed to become, the greater the financial temptation there will be for mainstream people to imitate the hucksters. It’s something conservative leader Bill Kristol has fretted over in print, worrying that “major parts of American conservatism have become such a racket that a kind of refounding of the movement as a cause is necessary.”
Beauchamp discovered this story in a National Review email sales pitch, which tells you just how far the one-time gatekeeper of the conservative movement has fallen. There is a direct relationship between the Patriot Alliance ads on the one hand, and climate scientist Michael Mann’s libel suit that threatens to destroy National Review on the other hand. As Alex Pareene put it so well,
The thing about this grand bamboozling is that the marks want to be bamboozled. When you tell them that Glenn Beck is paid to have certain opinions, they truly do not care. Sending people money to fight for a cause you strongly believe in feels good. The apocalyptic pitches may be obviously manipulative to anyone outside the target demographic, but they obviously work.
The marks want Allen Baler to lie to them. His lies feel good to them. They will ignore stories and pitches that fail to resonate with this paranoid streak of apocalyptic fervor. Mark Steyn, the National Review writer who brought Mann’s libel suit down on the publication by comparing the climate scientist to a pedophile, was feeding that same appetite for red meat when he did it. The marks love it when Steyn lies to them about climate scientists, and a writer who does not attack the subject as aggressively will not excite them nearly as much. The Circle of Scam rewards its worst actors the most. To make a buck by selling the rubes food, you must decry “communist food brainwashing.” Nothing less will do.