Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

The Glue that Binds the Movement

They are the glue that binds American conservatism—in all its flavors: neoconservative, libertarian, evangelical, triumphalist—into an...

They are the glue that binds American conservatism—in all its flavors: neoconservative, libertarian, evangelical, triumphalist—into an effective political conglomeration. They fund the right’s magazines, the think tanks, the policy institutes, the writers, and the advocacy groups. They help spearhead public policy campaigns as well as idea networks. And they seem to never take their eye off the ball. They are the conservative foundations—the expansive trough of cash that nourishes much of the right-wing’s political infrastructure.

They are also the envy of liberals and Democrats. “The right has done a marvelous job,” says Rob Stein, a former Clinton administration official who heads up the liberal Democracy Alliance. “They are strategic, coordinated, disciplined, and well financed. And they are well within their rights in a democracy to have done what they’ve done.” (New York Times, May 29, 2005)

The conservative foundations have been so successful, in fact, that one of their most important members, the John M. Olin Foundation, announced in May that it was closing down, claiming that most of its goals had been achieved. “I guess I would say, looking back on this period, that it’s worked out a lot better than we had any right to expect when we started,” James Piereson, Olin’s executive director, told the New York Observer. “I’m sure some stuff failed or didn’t go anywhere, but not a lot of it.”

Not that Olin’s conservative brethren are resting on their laurels. Just the opposite: Having tasted victory on everything from the nation’s response to terrorism to the effort to push faith-centered enterprises, the foundations are aiding efforts to push through a slate of rightist social policies, including abstinence-only programs, anti-tax initiatives, and campaigns to block stem-cell research and same-sex marriage. The culture wars, it would seem, are as hot as ever.

The latest battle in this war is the burgeoning debate over the teaching of evolution. Headquarters of the effort to push so-called Intelligent Design (ID) is the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based public-policy institute—and former branch of the Hudson Institute—which uses the largesse from an impressive list of conservative donors to lead what one observer calls “the modern right’s war on science.” Taking its cue from the right’s tried-and-true method of waging a “war of ideas” to impact the direction of government and public opinion, the Discovery Institute, writes Chris Mooney in a recent article for the American Prospect, is leading “a specifically intellectual attack on evolution … [that] epitomizes how today’s political right has developed a powerful infrastructure for battling against scientific conclusions that anger core constituencies in industry and on the Christian right.”

According to Stephen Meyer, director of Discovery’s Center for Science and Culture—“the ideological and strategic backbone behind the eruption of skirmishes over science,” according to the New York Times—the institute aims to “have an effect on the dominant view of our culture.” “We are in the very initial stages of a scientific revolution,” Meyer told the Times in August.

Discovery’s strategy: Don’t fight the teaching of evolution; just get public schools to adapt their curriculum to highlight “controversies” in Darwin’s theories. It is an idea that has taken hold, as evidenced by President Bush’s recent announcement that “both sides out to be properly taught.” As Mooney puts it: “I D hawkers have crisscrossed the United States arguing that public schools should ‘teach the controversy’ over evolution—a controversy they themselves have manufactured.”

According to the so-called Wedge Document, a widely cited 1999 strategy memo produced by Discovery, ID is supposed to “function as a ‘wedge’” that can “split the trunk” of what it terms “scientific materialism.” ID “promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

Behind this campaign is money—lots of it. According to the New York Times, Discovery “has provided an institutional home for … dissident thinkers, pumping $3.6 million in fellowships of $5,000 to $60,000 per year to 50 researchers since the science center’s founding in 1996.” Some 40 percent of the $9.3 million spent by the science center has gone to strict research, which includes paying universities to allow professors to devote time to ID studies, financing laboratories, and undertaking “field research” in biology, paleontology, biophysics, and a host of other academic disciplines in both the sciences and the humanities.

When the Times queried Discovery’s president, Bruce Chapman, about the institute’s funders, Chapman demurred, arguing that he did not want to give details “because [supporters] get harassed.” But an analysis of the institute’s tax documents, according to the Times, reveals that it received a total of $4.1 million in 2003 from more than 20 foundations, “at least two-thirds of them with explicitly religious missions.” Among its backers are the Anschutz, Ahmanson, and Scaife Foundations . It also receives $1 million a year from the Gates Foundation, although a Gates’ officer was quick to note in a Times interview that its donations are “exclusive to the Cascadia project,” a Discovery initiative on regional transportation issues.

Another Microsoft executive, Mark Ryland, also funds the institute through his AMDG Foundation, the initials of which stand for “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” Latin for “To the Greater Glory of God.” And the Stewardship Foundation, which according to its web site “ provides resources to Christ-centered organizations whose mission is to share their faith in Jesus Christ with people throughout the world,” has provided more than $1 million.

All the attention, however, is causing some mainstream funders to distance themselves from the institute. Denis Hayes of the Bullitt Foundation, which provided money in 2001 for the institute’s transportation project, wrote in an email to the Times that Discovery was “the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell. … I can think of no circumstances in which the Bullitt Foundation would fund anything at Discovery today.” The Templeton Foundation, which funds efforts to find “new insights between theology and science,” has also stopped providing support. Templeton’s Charles Harper said that Discovery had become too political. Although they “always claimed to be focused on science, what I see is much more focused on public policy, on public persuasion, on educational advocacy, and so forth.”

The growing controversy seems to have spurred Discovery to distance itself from the campaign to have ID taught in schools, focusing instead on refining its arguments about purported controversies in evolution, promoting what one observer calls “creationism light.” They have also tried to put room between themselves and their supporters on the Christian right. Says John Calvert, head of the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network, “They want to avoid the discussion of religion because that detracts from the focus on the science.”

But whatever its intentions, Discovery seems to have turned ID into a crusade with its own momentum. As Thomas McCallie, executive director of the MacLellan Foundation, which donated nearly $500,000 to Discovery, said: “We give for religious purposes. This is not about science, and Darwin was not about science. Darwin was about a metaphysical view of the world.”

Michael Flynn is a freelance writer and an IRC research associate.

 

For More Information Guidestar.org Charity Research
http://www.guidestar.org/

Mediatransparency: The Money Behind Conservative Media
http://www.mediatransparency.org/

National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy
http://www.ncrp.org/

 

 

Citations

Michael Flynn, "The Glue that Binds the Movement," IRC Right Web (Somerville, MA: International Relations Center, September 8, 2005).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share