Marc Cooper

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jun 11 13:24:07 MDT 2001


I was so, so disappointed to discover that he has put me into a killfile.
There were so many things I wanted to discuss with him. It isn't every day
that you get the chance to have an intelligent conversation with a Nation
Magazine editor. Well, Doug Henwood drops in every time in the same kind of
unhinged, bruised-ego manner as Cooper but he is not nearly as passionate
or entertaining as Cooper, even on his best days.

What I would have loved to talk to Cooper about is his connections with
Arianna Huffington, a frequent guest on his Radio Nation program.
Huffington was married to Michael Huffington, a rightwing billionaire who
ran for office in California. After their divorce, she not only won a
handsome settlement but began shifting to the left in somewhat the same
manner as George Soros and around the same issues. She is dead-set opposed
to the drug wars and to poverty. Nothing gets her more worked up than the
fact that there are poor people. I had a rabbi who used to get worked up
like that also.

She made her entrance into politics in a grand fashion, co-hosting a cable
tv show with Al Franken, SNL alumnus and author of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big
Fat Idiot". The camera trained in on the two in bed. While clad in pajamas,
they reviewed current events. This reminds me why I never invested in
cable. It was around this time when some of the Nation Magazine editors
began to woo her. This led Alex Cockburn's niece Laura Flanders to opine
the following:

In These Times, May 1, 2000

Arianna's Change of Heart

LAURA FLANDERS

Establishment lefties are saying that Arianna Huffington has changed her
tune. In her seventh book, How to Overthrow the Government, she endorses
direct action, third parties, media boycotts and campaign finance reform.
Has this former Gingrich girl turned into a progressive populist?

The Nation trio of Micah Sifry, Marc Cooper and David Corn thinks so. She
has had a change of heart, they say, and she's putting her money where her
mouth is. Indeed, she's wild for Public Campaign, the campaign finance
reform group where Sifry is a senior analyst. She gave Cooper free copies
of her book, which he promoted to entice contributions to his radio show on
Pacifica in Los Angeles. She even invited her well-connected crowd to a
Washington party promoting Corn's political thriller, Deep Background. "She
got a physical distance from the Republican crowd," Corn told the New York
Observer's Joe Conason.

Responding to complaints from his colleague Katha Pollitt, Corn moaned,
"Some lefties, alas would rather have targets than allies, maintain enemies
rather than welcome converts."

I guess I'm one of those lefties, too. Try as I might to catch Huffington's
new tune, all I hear is a familiar drone.

To recap: Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington -- born in Athens, transplanted
to London -- first made waves attacking feminism. The Female Woman was
commissioned by the publisher of Germaine Greer's Female Eunuch as a
conservative counter-offensive (which it was).

She stayed in the spotlight through the men in her life: Her dates have
included est founder Werner Erhard, media magnate Mort Zuckerman, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown and, of course, her ex-husband Michael
Huffington, heir to the Huffco oil fortune. It is kind to attribute such
liaisons to strategic rather than erotic choice. (She was divorced in 1997,
and her ex-husband later came out in the pages of Esquire.)

In 1994, after Michael's failed Senate race, Arianna relaunched herself.
Huffington won conservative influence in the capital and helped advance the
Beltway career of Marvin Olasky, whose Tragedy of American Compassion
inspired Newt Gingrich's Contract with America.

Huffington's 1994 book, The Fourth Instinct is full of what Gingrich and
Olasky were full of: pushing charities, not government, as the poor's
salvation. With Olasky, Huffington founded the Center for Effective
Compassion, an innocuous-sounding conduit for right-wing dollars to reach
strategic conservative causes like the Center for New Black Leadership
(CNBL), a kind of media platform for conservative Blacks like Alan Keyes
and Rep. J. C. Watts (R-Okla.)

Huffington now seems to have jumped ship. But her "transformation" is
questionable. She's still a conservative activist. She's a pal of David
Horowitz, whose magazine Heterodoxy has been a longtime outlet for her
writing. Again this fall, she will address Horowitz's "The Weekend"
retreat. She's still on the boards of CNBL and Hollywood Concerned -- a
group, founded by Watts among others, that supports "tax incentives for
inner-city renewal" (that's corporate tax breaks) and vouchers to help a
handful opt out of bad public schools.

Huffington's also a borrower. In Overthrow it's as if she trawled
left-of-center Web sites and reprinted long tracts of research by the
Center for Public Integrity, Public Campaign and the Sentencing Project to
make her case that change is due. The "action directory," of groups in her
book lists some progressive think tanks, but the "activist" groups she
endorses are conservative, engaging in spiritual renewal, mentoring and
charitable giving.

Huffington's plan? Bring "government dollars" together with "individual
engagement." She's pretty specific about the individual -- give to good
causes, volunteer -- but she barely touches government. There's no talk
here about workers rights, affirmative action, health care, income supports
or, heaven forbid, income taxes. It's like her "answer" to corruption in
media: not restrictions on corporate dominance, but "civic journalism"
(i.e. listing worthy organizations in newspapers).

Huffington rails against "false speech," but it was she who floated the
allegation that former U.S. Ambassador Larry Lawrence was buried in
Arlington because President Clinton slept with his wife (who sued her). She
accused the author of a critical book about the Movement of Spiritual Inner
Awareness cult she had belonged to of being a pedophile (he sued, too).
Campaign manager Ed Rollins reports that during her husband's 1994 Senate
race, Arianna deployed private investigators to dig up dirt on opponent
Dianne Feinstein, as well as a journalist writing for Vanity Fair.

With her access to the media, Huffington is putting arguments for change
out there. That's good. But there's a danger, too. Pro-status quo media are
always looking to pad their center-right debates with acceptable
alternatives to real progressives. Who is more acceptable than a
conservative with lefty support like Huffington? Salon recently launched
its campaign 2000 Web site with a banner ad that promised such a debate:
Horowitz vs. Huffington.

Like that other Greek high-flier Icarus, Arianna too will fall from grace.


Louis Proyect
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