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Brent Bozell's Phantom Army

Let every soldier hew him down a bough
And bear't before him: thereby shall we shadow
The numbers of our host and make discovery
Err in report of us.

Macbeth: Act V, Scene IV

During Emperor Justinian I's war against the Goths, the Roman general Martinus conceived a strategy to burn as many campfires as possible so as to deceive the enemy about the size of his army. The plan worked, and the Goths fled. In the United States, Nixon invented the fictional "silent majority" of American conservatives to intimidate the progressives of his day, but Brent Bozell has probably done more than anyone to keep the campfires lit.

Best known for his work with the Media Research Center, a right-wing PR firm masquerading as a media watchdog, Bozell has spent the past 20 years working to propagate the myth of a "liberal media bias," a claim roundly debunked in investigative reporter Eric Alterman's 2003 book, What Liberal Media? Not one to surrender easily, the year after Alterman's book was published, Bozell's Media Research Center engaged in a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to keep the "liberal media" myth alive.

Apparently oblivious to irony, earlier this year Bozell's Media Research Center presented Rush Limbaugh with a "William F. Buckley, Jr. Award for Media Excellence." Bozell's most recent complaint has been that CNN hosted two Democratic debates and only one Republican debate earlier this month. This, to Bozell, amounts to "double time for Democrats," despite the fact that CNN features a daily primetime show hosted by conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck.

Another of Bozell's campfires is the Parents Television Council, a group that purports to represent "Americas demand for positive, family-oriented television programming." In 2004, then FCC Chair Michael Powell startled U.S. Senators by reporting that indecency complaints were soaring. According to Mediaweek reporter Todd Shields, however, Powell didn't tell anyone that FCC analysis found that over 99 percent of complaints came from Bozell's Parents Television Council.

Last June, Shields reported that Bozell's Parents Television Council is still manufacturing illusory outrage. Following a record FCC indecency fine, it was discovered that "There were no true complainants from actual viewers." In fact, every complaint had come from Bozell's group. Once again, many campfires, few actual troops.

But that's not all. Bozell also founded the Conservative Communications Center, a conservative messaging organization which produces the conservative web site, Cybercast News Service, famous for reporting that Saddam Hussein had both weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda. Bozell is also Executive Director of the Conservative Victory Committee PAC, and is a member of the Council for National Policy. In the past he has been National Finance Chairman for Pat Buchanan's failed 1992 presidential bid and President of the National Conservative Political Action Committee.

Last fall, at a conservative forum in DC, I overheard a panelist say, "sometimes, if you don't have a crisis, you have to generate one." This was a major facet of the conservative rise to power over the last 20 years - generating phony crises and creating an impression that the public has shifted far to the right in matters both social and economic. Brent Bozell has dedicated his life's work to generating crises where none exist, to distracting from substantive discourse and attacking the reputations of men and women who are trying to effect sensible solutions to meet America's policy needs.

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