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When Satire Becomes Irrelevant


Chris Hayes wrote a quite compelling article on the Democracy Alliance in ITT last month.  It provoked many interesting conversations, and much food for thought amongst folks working for progressive change.  It was a really well-researched and thoughtful article about the challenges faced by liberal organizations that are all going to the same funding sources (quite meagre next to their conservative counterparts).  

As Hayes notes, the right has been spending on infrastructure with political objectives for decades.  The left has quite a different model:

The majority of this money comes from just a few large foundations In a recent study of social justice philanthropy, the Foundation Center noted that two foundations, Ford and Robert Wood Johnson, provide 25 percent of foundation grants for social justice work. “That’s a tremendous concentration of influence,” Faber says. “And the problem with the mainline foundations is that they don’t attack social problems in political terms. They look at them in terms of providing services—so they look at them in isolation.”

A program director at one major foundation that funds a wide variety of progressive groups agreed with Faber. “I can’t think of any topic we work on domestically where we feel like we want to build a movement,” she said.

This attitude comes from the reformist culture of philanthropy, which grew out of a distinctly apolitical belief in noblesse oblige and neutered “charity.” But it also results from a concerted effort by conservatives to bully and intimidate foundations away from funding groups that seek to build political power. Foundations like Ford, which funds hundreds of very progressive groups, live in fear of being hauled before Congress, nailed by the IRS or mau-maued by right-wing critics for any perceived political project. (A recent cover story in The Nation recounted the latest dust-up over Ford’s funding of a U.N. conference on racism that exploded into a controversy over anti-Semitism and -Zionism.)

Things are quite different on the right. Partly because conservatives felt shut out of major foundation funding, a network of conservative family foundations grew up in the ’60s to fund the nascent movement. And unlike their mainstream counterparts, the Olin, Scaife, Coors and Heritage foundations all proudly view themselves as funders of the conservative movement.  (my emphasis)

In other words — liberal philanthropy lives in fear of right-wing bullies and is reluctant to fund programs with a political objective.

So humor me here.   Let’s say you wanted to re-write Chris’s thoughtful article on the Democracy Alliance in the style of, oh I don’t know, the Washington Post.  Written by a couple of chuckleheads who have been hammered, whipped and beaten to a pulp by wingnuttia, so accustomed to repeating the narratives of the kool-aid chuggers that they don’t have the slightest idea how thoroughly they’ve internalized them.  

Seeing the words "George Soros," you go charging straight for a title breathless with hyperbole:

A New Alliance Of Democrats Spreads Funding
But Some in Party Bristle At Secrecy and Liberal Tilt

Good lord, who will save the babies.

Then, before you get too far down the page, your eyes must bug out like Lou Dobbs at the specter of the mongrel hordes rushing over the border:

Democracy Alliance also has left some Washington political activists concerned about what they perceive as a distinctly liberal tilt to the group’s funding decisions. Some activists said they worry that the alliance’s new clout may lead to groups with a more centrist ideology becoming starved for resources. 

Jump up and down and start drooling profusely at the specter of the Big Bad Liberal Boogeyman, toss in the names Hillary Clinton and Peter Lewis, and voila!  Byron York has a new chapter for his ongoing Vast Left Wing Conspiracy series.

These guys need to get themselves gigs at The Onion.  Honestly, this is just embarassing.  

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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