Welcome to the first (and hopefully last) installment of the Drowning in Junk Mail Book Club.
This is a review of the 2004 classic America’s Right Turn by Richard A. Viguerie and David Franke. I got it for a penny + shipping. Which is about what it is worth. It has been scanned into Google Books.
It is the harrowing tail of Richard A. Viguerie collecting all the names and addresses of conservatives in the 60’s and 70’s, spamming their mailboxes. Then getting Reagan elected. I would recommend this book to a political science major who is getting a minor in communications. No matter what side of an issue you are on the techniques they use will work on whatever cause you are trying to promote. For me as a normal human that doesn’t like politics, politicians or the ideological garbage they put in my mailbox I give it 2 stars. Mostly because the editing was good and the quality of the physical book was so nice. It was printed by Bonus Books (Wiki page). Even after 10 years the pages are still white and don’t smell like a fire.
Mr. Viguerie promoting his book on the Daily Show.
Here he is on CSPAN’s Booknotes promoting the same book.
Off the top there is some lingo you must learn:
- Alternative media: is anything that is not the nightly news from a big 3 network, or a major newspaper.
- A package: is a solicitation letter that they send to you.
- Pull: money that a letter brings in. That package had a good pull.
- Conservatives are not the same as Republicans. These 2 terms are not interchangeable.
Here is a quick summery of the book:
They start off with a short history of the printing press, Martin Luther, and how revolutionary americans like Thomas Pain used pamphlets spread the word of their cause. Then we skip up to 1955 and how “liberalism reigned supreme” over America, and the defeat of Barry Goldwater. After the election in 1964 a young plucky Richard A. Viguerie went down to the clerk of the House of Representatives with a gaggle of secretaries to take down Goldwater’s donors who gave $50 or more. Out of 15,000 names they only got 12,500 before someone kicked them out. That list of names became the backbone of his direct mail firm, The Viguerie Company that became American Target Advertising. After gathering up the conservatives they set their sites in the Religious Right helmed by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Then Phyllis Schlafly stops all the momentum of the Equal Rights Amendment. And they get Ronald Reagan elected. That is the core of people who form all the modern conservative mailing lists.
This is where they start to loose me: in 1985 the FCC killed the Fairness Doctrine (if you have a liberal on, you must also give a conservative equal time on air) and conservative talk radio exploded with Rush Limbaugh as the top dog. Mr. Limbaugh goes on to write a New York Times bestseller. Fox News is founded and is number 1 in the ratings for a 24 hour news channel. How can you claim that you are using “Alternative media” to get your message out if your main promoters are being broadcast on major media outlets, and first in their categories?
When the internet, Matt Drudge (Wiki page) and blogging come on the scene as a tool to promote the conservative cause I am right with them again. There is nothing more alternative than a person taking the time to write a blog about a niche subject, that will have a audience of themselves and maybe a few friends. They begrudgingly give credit to Howard Dean for being the first presidential candidate to utilize all the tools the internet had to offer at the time. I would like to know the author’s opinion on the campaign strategy used by Barack Obama. But that would mean reading more drivel written by these two.
Some fun facts:
- Your name and address is worth about 15 to 20 cents.
- People with disposable money are older – usually 50 and above.
- A milti-page pitch in a package will pull in more money than a one page pitch will.
- A package about the rainforest or a cute animal will do better then a cause closer to home like toxic spills polluting your water.
- They all share/sell their mailing lists with each other. The DNC uses the list for National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare for certain packages.
- Over the past 40 years Mr. Viguerie has sent out over 2 billion letters.
The book was well written, but they had the bad habit of calling Hillary Clinton by her first name and in the same sentence using the last name of her conservative equals. They also mentioned an interview with Tom Brokaw that took place the Thursday after the November election in 1978, where Mr. Brokaw points out that, Mr. Viguerie used the same package for 2 brothers Phil and Dan Crane who were running for Congress at the time. I couldn’t find a record of that interview happening on November 9, 1978 at the Vanderbilt University Television News Archive. I was really hoping to use that bit of video, but it is lost to the sands of time. I wanted more samples of vintage junk mail, especially ones from the campaign Mr. Viguerie helped orchestrate with Phyllis Schlafly to stop the ERA. The only sample they give is from 1952’s presidential campaign for Robert Taft. Even then it is only a headline “WILL YOU VOTE TO CONTINUE CODDLING THE RUSSIANS?”
The one thing that they did do great, was breaking down how a movement starts and why that movement would want to use alternative media to get their message out. I am just going to give the bullet points.
Issues that motivate:
A perceived crisis
Threats to a way of life
Idealistic revulsion against corruption
Idealistic projections of a better life
OMG this is every piece of junk mail I get!
Then you need:
A dedicated vanguard
Self-identification as a movement
Money to fund the revolution
Why direct mail is so powerful for insurgents:
Helps to find the conservatives among the millions of Americans.
Informs conservatives as to which battles must be fought today, this week or this month.
Advises conservatives where conservative candidates are running and that they need help.
Brings the conservative message to tens of millions of Americans who have never read any of the conservative periodicals or websites-people who are conservatives in their hearts but don’t realize it until they get a letter in the mail that catches their attention and awakens the conservative within.
How did direct mail bring conservatism to power, under the radar of the liberal media?
Direct mail gave conservatives a way to bypass the liberal “gatekeepers” at the liberal mass media.
Direct mail greatly expanded the nation’s base of active citizenship and gave conservatives a voice in setting the nation’s political agenda.
Thanks to direct mail, conservatives-and their candidates-were able to become an independent, vibrant force, free of the fetters imposed by the Republican political hierarchy and the liberal media.
Direct mail freed conservatives from dependence no big corporations that had traditionally financed GOP and Democratic politics (and which expected to be paid back with favors).
Direct mail can bring a conservative candidate over the top to victory, by adding a critical 5 percent of the vote based on single-issue appeals.
Now go and start your own cause. Just make sure that your devotees get at least 2 pieces of junk mail a week from you.