The Manhattan Declaration — a 2009 anti-gay manifesto by right-wing persecuted hegemons — collected half a million names and addresses.
That’s quite a mailing list. More importantly, it’s a mailing list of reflexively fearful white Christians who have already proven they can be easily manipulated by scary stories about the Big Gay Menace, the Satanic baby-killers, and the evil secularists threatening Christian America.
And that was the whole point of the original declaration.
A list like this is a money-making machine. Quarterly fundraising letters sent to a list of 500,000 scared donors. Plus the usual guarantee of grant money from the right-wing donor machine — the DeVos, Koch, Scaife, Ahmanson, Bradley, etc., foundations that have, for decades, taken a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to reactionary capacity-building. You’re looking at, potentially, a $5 million annual budget with no expenses except compensation for staff, conference travel, and the seed money for all that lucrative direct mail.
The primary function of groups like this is fundraising. Manhattan Declaration Direct Mail Fundraising Inc. will push to get media appearances for its staff, and it will pretend that such appearances have something to with advancing its purported agenda of defending America from the scary secular gay abortionists. But those media appearances only exist because better name-recognition boosts the rate of return on those quarterly direct-mail solicitations.
That’s why the insular, preaching-to-the-choir nature of such media appearances — guest spots on Fox News or Christian radio — is a feature, not a bug. They’re not trying to influence the broader culture by getting their message and their arguments out to the widest possible audience. The widest possible audience has already heard that message and those arguments and is, correctly, unimpressed and unpersuaded. The fundraising organizations’ main focus, instead, is just on fleecing their base of conservative, fearful, anxious, white Christians.
One challenge for MDDMFI is that it’s entering a crowded market — one that seems like it’s already saturated with more than enough third-tier fundraising scams targeting the same niche of scared white Christians. Milking that niche is also getting harder every year, since this fundraising base, first tapped back in the 1980s, is quite literally dying off.
But then the market isn’t actually as crowded as it seems. It’s like when the new Taco Bell opens in the same block as the KFC and Pizza Hut. That may look like a lot of competition for the same fast-food dollars, but really it’s just three different faces of the same conglomerate.
That’s why the fledgling MDDMFI is being nurtured and groomed through staged events like this recent “panel discussion” reported on by the Christian Post. This is basically a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. The “panel” was a chance for Eric Teetsel — the young new director of MDDMFI — to workshop his media persona and audition his new catch phrases (“Oprah-doxy!”) in a safe environment alongside middle-managers from other brands of the conglomerate, including the Institute on Religion & Democracy, the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, and the Christian Post.
Where did this “panel” discussion take place? The Christian Post article doesn’t say, but based on the photo, it looks like it was held in a conference room at IRD. (I’ve visited the headquarters of IRD, Heritage and the Family Research Council, and Heritage and FRC have much nicer conference rooms than that.) The Post’s evasion of the most basic questions about this panel — what, when, where — hint that this wasn’t a public event.
It’s hard to say what kind of incompetence is displayed in that Post article. It’s possible that “Napp Nazworth, Christian Post Reporter” is simply incapable of elementary reporting. Or it’s possible that Nazworth deliberately omitted that basic information in an attempt to make this “panel discussion” seem like a newsworthy event — in which case including that awful photo shows an utter lack of stagecraft.
Either way the Christian Post report, like the “panel discussion” itself, highlights another challenge for lower-tier right-wing fundraiser start-ups like MDDMFI: It’s hard to get competent people to work for groups like this. Neither IRD nor the Christian Post is well known, but among anyone who knows them, neither is well-regarded or respected. Both are notorious for transparent hack-work and their inability to establish any credibility or legitimacy despite decades of generous foundation subsidies.
From the sounds of young Mr. Teetsel, MDDMFI is headed in that same direction. His audition as right-wing pundit did not go well. Teetsel begins with an attempt to establish his “intellectual” credentials:
“Orthodoxy,” Teetsel said, “requires the cultivation of what my professors at Wheaton called the ‘life of the mind.’ When considering an issue, orthodoxy lays out first principles and are non-negotiable truths, with the Bible as a touchstone, creating a framework through which the merits of ideas can be considered and their consequences evaluated.”
And then he rolls out his first attempted catch-phrase:
“Oprah-doxy, on the other hand, allows us to respond to issues without the hard, time-consuming work of thoughtful consideration. There are no immutable principles. Instead, we start with a base set of emotions, positive and negative. Love, justice, inclusion, authenticity and equality – these are good. Judgment, rigidity, stratification – these are bad. People and ideas are judged accordingly.”
Did he just say that love and justice are unprincipled emotions? Yes. Yes he did.
That slapping sound you hear is the entire faculty of Wheaton College collectively face-palming in embarrassment.
It won’t really matter, though, if its young “director” isn’t ready for prime-time. MDDMFI can still depend on that lucrative mailing list and on the largesse of those right-wing foundations, and those will be more than enough to keep it in “business” for years to come. Just look at IRD.
Beats working, I guess, if you don’t mind the damage it does to the world, to the people you’re scamming, or to your own reputation and soul.