Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 10, 2008

Marc Cooper: a true Annenbergian

Filed under: cuba,press,Venezuela — louisproyect @ 9:16 pm

Walter Annenberg: after Rupert Murdoch bought the TV Guide from him, it became more liberal

When the ultraright was pursuing a guilt by association attack on Obama for serving on the same board of directors as “terrorist” Bill Ayers, his supporters pointed out that it was the late Walter Annenberg who launched the nonprofit dedicated to improving public schools upon whose board they served. Since Annenberg was Richard Nixon’s Ambassador to Great Britain as well as a close friend of Ronald Reagan, how could anybody accuse Ayers or Obama of being some kind of dangerous radical? Considering the assault on public education that the Republican Party right has led since the early 1970s, it might seem a bit of contradiction for Annenberg to be lavishing his millions on such a project. Of course, if your goal is to eliminate state funding of public schools and replace them with a “thousand points of light” type charities, then Annenberg’s largesse begins to make sense.

Annenberg became one of America’s top philanthropists in the 1980s, using the profits of an ill-gotten media empire to finance a host of “do gooder” projects. There is obviously a long tradition of unsavory capitalists trying to burnish their reputation through such deeds, the most famous example being Andrew Carnegie. If the board of directors of Carnegie-Mellon Institute or Carnegie Hall ever thought much about their institutions being financed by the blood money drained from the dead bodies of steelworkers, they probably would have never ended up on such a board to begin with. Nominations to such boards are carefully vetted to make sure that the candidates are carefully trained in the core values of the capitalist system, evidence of which is most manifest in the inclusion of solid citizens like Bill Ayers and Barack Obama.

Like many other members of the American ruling class, Walter Annenberg was born rich. His father Moses “Moe” Annenberg published the Daily Racing Form, just what one might expect from a career criminal who worked as a circulation manager for William Randolph Hearst. In the circulation wars of the early 20th century, Moe and his henchmen used “robber baron” type tactics. Newsboys were beaten, newsstands torched, and delivery vans overturned if they were identified as working for Hearst’s competition. Moe Annenberg was convicted of tax evasion in 1939 and his son, now a company VP, was indicted on charges of “aiding and abetting.” In a deal struck with prosecutors, Walter’s charges were dropped in exchange for his father’s guilty plea.

Moe Annenberg died a few weeks after being released from prison and Walter Annenberg took over the family business, which now included two Philadelphia dailies, the Inquirer and the Daily News. The Philadelphia Daily News distinguished itself by boosting the career of Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo, an out and out racist who eventually became mayor. Rizzo’s cops carried out a raid on the Black Panther Party on August 31, 1970 that included a strip search of the arrested men, a picture of which ran on the Philadelphia Daily News front page the next day and that was then circulated around the world.

The Philadelphia Inquirer was not much better. In 1966, Annenberg used the paper as a cudgel against Democrat Milton Shapp, who was running for governor. Shapp made the mistake of opposing a merger of the New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad, a corporation that counted Walter Annenberg as the largest individual stockholder. Annenberg had one of his reporters ask Shapp at a press conference if he had ever been a patient in a mental hospital. Since he had not, he simply replied “no”. A day later, a front page Inquirer headline screamed: “Shapp Denies Mental Institution Stay.” Shapp lost the election largely because of this smear.

While TV Guide, a property that Annenberg acquired in 1952, might seem to be last place to serve as a rightwing outlet, he used it to rail against the liberal media culture. This led Jack Shafer, author of a 2002 Slate obit titled “Citizen Annenberg: So long, you rotten bastard” to opine that “TV Guide may be the only publication to become more liberal after Rupert Murdoch purchased it.”

Shafer describes Annenberg’s retirement years as follows:

President Richard Nixon rewarded Annenberg for his anti-communism and pro-Vietnam-War views by appointing him ambassador to Great Britain, where he attacked U.S. student radicals in his first speech. Ambassador Annenberg, as he thereafter preferred to be called, returned to the States and expanded both his media properties and burgeoning art collection. He also entertained the flow of human sewage that visited him at his own Xanadu, a mansion set on 250 acres (complete with its own golf course) in Palm Springs. There at “Sunnylands,” he hosted the disgraced Nixon (“Life is 99 rounds,” he told Dick), the detestable Frank Sinatra, and offered refuge for his political soul mate, the shah of Iran. Talk about guilt by association.

Among the institutions that have been the benefactors of Annenberg’s deep wallet is the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication, reflecting its founder’s ostensible commitment to the mass media.

Marc Cooper: on the side of American interests in Cuba and Venezuela

Among the faculty is Marc Cooper, who, like Bill Ayers, can be described as a chastened 1960s radical. One has no idea how Cooper comports himself in the classroom, but his public utterances on Latin America can certainly be described as Annenbergian. For quite some time now, Cooper has carried out a campaign against Cuba and Venezuela in print and electronic publications that can scarcely be distinguished from what you would read in the mainstream media. When actor Sean Penn had the temerity to write about his trip to Cuba in the pages of the Nation Magazine, Cooper fulminated on his blog: “But now Penn pops up giving his own tongue bath to Raul — complete with poems and everything.”

Considering the fact that Cooper suffered a massive heart attack in 2007, he might be well-advised to shun articles that have the capacity to make him so upset. Since I am forced to read 100 anti-Cuba articles (including an interminable piece by Roger Cohen in the Sunday NY Times Magazine section) in American newspapers for every one praising Cuba, I should be under much more stress than him. Of course, I make sure to stay away from 3rd dessert helpings.

Using his credentials as a veteran journalist, Cooper focuses his attack on media censorship in Cuba and Venezuela. It does not matter to him that much if poor people have access to education, health care and a home for the first time in their lives if the freedom of Venezuelan TV stations that participated in a coup attempt against the elected president is threatened. After all, the rights of the Venezuelan Annenbergs are much more important than those of the slum dwellers.

Cooper’s latest rant against his radical neighbors to the south can be found on the Mother Jones website, where he takes up the cause of a blogger who has run afoul of the Cuban authorities.

It seems that the Cubans are always curtailing the rights of writers who feel compelled in some way to cooperate with the country that has tried on and off for nearly a half-century to violently overthrow its government. Try and put yourself in the shoes of a Cuban leader. You have just seen the United States allow Luis Posada Carriles, a man convicted of blowing up a civilian airliner filled with your countryman, to go free. As a mental exercise, let us imagine that a Cuban national who blew up a TWA airliner in 1976 (a real stretch since the Cubans are opposed to terrorism) is allowed to go free once he is back in Cuba.

As another stretch of the imagination, let’s say that the Cubans are allowed to continue operating a quasi-embassy in the U.S. where American writers hostile to capitalism go for weekly visits to get political directions and buckets of money. How long would it take for the U.S. to crack down? In the real world, such comparisons do not obtain because the U.S.’s GDP is a thousand times larger than that of Cuba’s. When there is such a mismatch in military and economic power, naturally the bigger country can bully the smaller country. Apparently Marc Cooper enjoys making the case for bullies, just as another one-time Nation Magazine (to their credit, the Nation has found little motivation in publishing Cooper lately) contributor Christopher Hitchens does.

For Cooper, Cuba and Venezuela serve as some kind of evil twin example of socialism that is always compared unfavorably to its good twin brother-Salvador Allende’s Chile. The fact that Allende was very friendly with Fidel Castro has never bothered Cooper who is as adept at cherry-picking facts as Judith Miller.

Another fact that Cooper cannot be bothered with is Allende’s crackdown on the imperialist-backed media that in its day was exploited by enemies of the Chilean experiment just as Cooper is doing today. According to Ralph McGehee, former CIA agent, the CIA literally purchased Chile’s largest newspaper, El Mercurio, and turned a paper once considered the “New York Times” of Latin America into a screaming scandal sheet in the Philadelphia Daily News mold. El Mercurio’s radio stations also attacked Allende daily.

Instead of tolerating these attacks in the meretricious spirit of “free speech” and “democracy” that Cooper wants to foist on Cuba and Venezuela, Allende–to his credit–took action. When he did, Juan de Onis, who played the same role with respect to Chile that people like Juan Forero and Marc Cooper play today with respect to Venezuela, raised a stink in the N.Y. Times. In an article titled “Chile Suspends a Radio Station” that took up the cause of the poor, repressed Christian Democratic Party, de Onis helped the CIA make its case. As a defender of freedom of the press and democracy just as vigilant as Marc Cooper today, de Onis called attention to Radio Balmaceda being shut down and how the legal powers of Allende to act against hostile newspapers and radio stations were being expanded. De Onis pointed to the harassment of El Mercurio, whose offices were being visited on almost a daily basis by tax inspectors. El Mercurio and other anti-government newspapers were on a campaign against Allende, who had declared his intentions to nationalize the major private manufacturer of newsprint, a sure sign that the country was on the road to a totalitarian dictatorship of the kind that the Castro brothers were running in Cuba.

If Allende is to be faulted for anything, it is not being repressive enough. When your country is being subverted by the CIA, Henry Kissinger, ITT and the Chilean bourgeoisie, it is in the interests of democracy and human rights to stamp out counter-revolutionary newspapers. Indeed, the sad and inescapable conclusion one must draw from Cooper’s incessant attacks on Cuba and Venezuela is that he hopes that they will suffer the same fate as Allende’s Chile. When Cooper was younger and less established in his profession, he would have understood what a tragedy that would be. Now that he is older and a faculty member at a prestigious California university, he could care less-an example once again of the primacy of class.


  1. Poor louis. You seem mewntally ill. Sorry to disappoint but I have never had a heart attack. That seems like the only thing is the screed worth commenting on. You need help old fella

    Comment by marc cooper — December 11, 2008 @ 6:26 am

  2. Poor louis. You seem mewntally ill. Sorry to disappoint but I have never had a heart attack. That seems like the only thing is the screed worth commenting on. You need help old fella

    Comment by marc cooper — December 11, 2008 @ 6:28 am

  3. Marc: Nothing more to say?

    Funny everyone concentrates on Bill Ayers, when Dohrn was higher up in Weathermen, and more influential politically.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — December 11, 2008 @ 8:36 am

  4. I get it , its a screed when you don’t like what its saying!

    Comment by SGuy — December 11, 2008 @ 9:42 am

  5. Looking at Cooper’s typos, mangled prose and refusal to engage with the issues, I’d say that this only confirms my characterization of him as Annenbergian.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 11, 2008 @ 2:06 pm

  6. I worked at KPFK Pacifica radio news in Los Angeles during 2003. Cooper hated everything we did. Our coverage of the war was smart and snarky, and I dare say we did a lot more good for the country than all of Coopers’ written and media work. Add in all of his students who become mouthpieces for corporate media, and I’m sure we did more good. We had an email exchange where, I’m sure because of my ivy league email address, he tried to get me on his side of “moderation.” The guy deserves to be ignored.

    Comment by Solar Hero — December 11, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

  7. It’s not surprising that someone like Cooper would prefer the social democrat Allende to the revolutionary Castro. After all, Allende disarmed the workers politically and militarily and his “peaceful road to socialism” led to Pinochet and the Santiago soccer stadium. Fidel took the opposite approach and the imperialists and their gusano allies got their butts kicked at the Bay of Pigs. Too bad Cooper, Hitchens and the rest of the renegade “left” weren’t around back then to form a Friedrich Ebert/Gustav Noske international brigade to storm the beaches with them. Well, they can always form one for their new hero, Barack Obama, and enlist in his Afghanistan war for “human rights.” To quote Woody Allen’s mother in “Love and Death,” I hope they put them in the front lines.

    Comment by MN Roy — December 11, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  8. Proyect: “Since Annenberg was Richard Nixon’s Ambassador to Great Britain as well as a close friend of Ronald Reagan, how could anybody accuse Ayers or Obama of being some kind of dangerous radical?”

    Hmmm, then along those same lines, who could ever consider Brock a liberal, after all he wrote those scathing things about the Clintons. Who could have ever thought FDR was a humanitarian, after all, he locked up all those Japanese-Americans during WWII. Oh, and of course, who could possibly consider Benedict Arnold a tratior after all those battles he won for the “colonies.” Silly Proyect… Annenberg doesn’t make those decisions, his board of directors does not only that, but he was indicted along with his father in 1939 which certainly makes him much more akin to democrats than you likely want to allow.

    Full disclosure: Marc is my blog daddy though I’m a full blown conservative.

    Comment by GM Roper — December 11, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  9. Full disclosure: Marc is my blog daddy though I’m a full blown conservative.

    Okay, but I don’t see the need for “though”.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 11, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

  10. good one louis 🙂

    Comment by SGuy — December 12, 2008 @ 1:01 am

  11. I must have had a couple of spastic fingers for a minute… I can’t see the reason for the “though” either. 🙂

    Comment by GM Roper — December 12, 2008 @ 2:58 am

  12. If Chavez is a socialist, the Pope is a candidate for the Knesset.

    Comment by Grumpy Old Man — December 12, 2008 @ 3:10 am

  13. Cooper claims not to have had a heart attack. Why should I believe him when he refused to withdraw false claims that George Galloway was a homophobe despite me providing Cooper with evidence to the contrary.

    The photo of Cooper above is a portrait both of a man in denial (a goatee does not make you look thinner) and a heart attack waiting to happen

    Comment by resistor — December 12, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  14. I have no idea whether this actually constitutes a heart attack or not, but let him speak for himself. Whatever happened to him, it would seem to me that he should 1) lose another 100 pounds, 2) stop getting so riled up about Cuba, that is if he wants to live as long as Fidel.

    from http://marccooper.com/heartfelt-shock/
    I suffer the same sort of occasional arrhythmia that Cheney does. If you read deep into the article linked above you’ll see he has an implanted defibrillator to guard against a very dangerous irregular heart beat that generates in the lower part of his heart. That’s the same condition I developed last year, more or less out of the blue. I’ve also got the same digital hi-tech implant (leading me to joke that I’ve always wanted a Republican heart and now I’ve finally got one).

    Mine was implanted last May after my heart, without provocation, suddenly started to race at 180 beats per minute– well more than double a healthy rate–and after I was administered the exact same sort of shock in the local ER to bring it down. The shock works, fortunately, about 99% of the time. And the defib implant is there to deliver a wallop if things again bounce out of control. In my case, I’m happy to report, my pulse has been seriously steady ever since and no such dramatic theatrics have been necessary.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 12, 2008 @ 5:23 pm

  15. Do you think that you and Mr Cooper could undergo further cyborg modification (I’m thinking Robocop) and then duke it out on top a prominent American landmark?

    Comment by Fellow Traveller — December 12, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

  16. It doesn’t seem to me, from what Louis quotes, that Cooper has actually had a heart attack, at least as that phrase is ordinarily used, viz., to refer to the unfortunate results of having one or more of one’s coronary arteries plugged up to the point where it imperils blood supply to the heart muscle. I have no medical training, but nonetheless it isn’t clear to me how clogged up coronary arteries could cause the problem Cooper appears to have, rather it sounds like a problem with the control of the heart by the autonomic nervous system.

    So far as Allende vs. Castro goes, Allende’s fate was not so much a consequence of his program as it was a matter of the policy of Nixon, Kissinger, et al. to undermine Allende’s government and push the Chilean military to carry out a coup. His circumstances were also different, coming to the Chilean presidency after 75 years of constitutional goverment, as opposed to coming to power via a popular uprising against a dictator and his mob buddies. Fidel was able to start replacing the military from the beginning when he merged the forces of the July 26th movement into what was already there.

    Comment by Feeder of Felines — December 13, 2008 @ 11:14 am

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