Choosing Sides : Right-Wing Icons in the Group Research Records

Envisioning Enemies > Individuals

3 Good Reasons to Read MediaWatch. Media Research Center; H. Payne (illustration), c. 1988-99.

The Alexandria, Virginia-based Media Research Center ("MRC") published its MediaWatch newsletter from 1988 to 1999, when it began to focus more heavily on developing an online presence for its mission. Still active, conservatives headed by L. Brent Bozell, III (also known for creating the Parents' Television Council) founded the MRC in 1987 in order to demonstrate their belief that "within the national news media a strident liberal bias existed that influenced the public's understanding of critical issues."

MediaWatch was one of the MRC’s most important vehicles for publicizing this view, as its monthly issues featured analysis of news coverage from around the country, stories highlighting politicians active as commentators in the news media, and a regular prize for the "most biased story of the month." By virtue of their positions as hosts of the three major network’s primetime news broadcasts, the three reporters pictured in this advertisement (left to right: Dan Rather, Sam Donaldson, and Tom Brokaw) were the perfect representative images for MediaWatch to pick on.

I'm Not Fond'a Hanoi Jane. Gaetano "Guy" Russo, c. 1987.

While the slogan on the pictured bumper sticker alludes to actress Jane Fonda’s famous 1972 visit to Hanoi, Vietnam--during which she participated in radio broadcasts condemning the United States for its role in the Vietnam War--it was her visit to Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1988, that sparked the production of this item. Retired Major General in the Connecticut National Guard and Waterbury resident Gaetano "Guy" Russo printed these stickers as part of a campaign to stop the filming in Waterbury of scenes for 1990’s Stanley & Iris in protest over Fonda’s starring role. Though Russo’s activism sparked a flurry of national interest in late 1987 and early 1988, filming of the movie proceeded with only minor demonstrations. The durability of Jane Fonda as a flashpoint for conservative anger and ridicule is represented not only by Russo’s stand against her long after the end of the Vietnam War, but also by his bumper sticker’s longevity. Outgrowing Waterbury, the particular sticker pictured here was collected by Group Research, Inc. at the 1990 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC.

Choose Ye Your Drink and Future. DuMont Distributors, c. 1964-65.

This postcard advertised two sodas that capitalized on the 1964 US presidential race between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. Distributed by Chicagoan Bob Du Mont rather than either presidential campaign, Johnson Juice was billed as "a drink for health care," while Gold Water was "the right drink for the conservative taste."

While both items became widely-recognized campaign symbols for their respective candidates, this postcard demonstrates the tension between Du Mont’s politics and his business sense. On the one hand, the ad copy for Johnson Juice mocks the president’s program of a "Great Socialistic Society" and endorsement of "Big Brother," while Gold Water is more flatteringly described as being "for supporters of the 'Great Free Society' and . . . individual liberty under Almighty God." On the other hand, Du Mont continued to sell Johnson Juice until at least 1967, literally capitalizing on the president's success even as he discontinued Gold Water in the face of declining sales.

Dump Lindsay. Creator unknown, 1968.

John Lindsay was a three-term Republican member of the House of Representatives from New York from 1959-1965 and then mayor of New York City for two terms from 1966-1973. His years as mayor were beset by turmoil, as he governed through major strikes from the city’s transportation and teachers’ unions, as well as precipitous rises in both crime and the city’s budget deficit. Criticism of Lindsay by conservatives began during his Congressional career, when he often sided with Congressional Democrats in support of John F. Kennedy’s initiatives, most notably the imposition of more robust ethics rules for Congressional legislators. During his mayoral years, Lindsay’s vocal anti-Vietnam war activism and his struggle to balance the city’s budget brought him more criticism, especially from conservative members of his party. As a result, he became a Democrat in 1971.

During Lindsay’s tenure as mayor, New York City’s debt rose from $2.5 billion to $9 billion, and his efforts to balance the budget through tax increases (most notably a 1966 increase in the city’s income tax rates) seems the likely inspiration for these poster stamps. In addition to the "Dump Lindsay" slogan appearing at the bottom of each one, the silhouette features the words "I Am the Mayor" underneath it, and is surrounding by a ribbon repetitively featuring the word "tax." The silhouette is wearing a laurel wreath, meant to caricature Lindsay as a Caesarian dictator. Intriguingly, these stamps were found in Group Research, Inc.’s folder of ephemera collected from Ronald Reagan’s headquarters at the 1968 Republican National Convention. Their association with Reagan in 1968 suggests an eye towards national political issues even as Reagan was only one year into his first elected position as governor of California.

Wanted for Impeachment: Earl Warren. American Nationalist, date unknown.

This flyer played on the common conservative theme of opposing the decisions of US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, best-known--and frequently reviled by conservative activists--for guiding the court through a number of landmark civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. Its visual reference to a criminal "Wanted" poster (including two mug-shot like photographs) clearly portrayed Warren as an enemy of the people and the state. The poster’s text further supported this characterization, warning that "Warren is considered to be a dangerous and subversive character," that he "is a rabid agitator for compulsory racial mongrelization," and that "Earl Warren is a fanatic who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals." By passively failing to attribute any of these statements to specific accusers, the flyer's author rhetorically suggests the idea that its contents are unassailably and recognizably true.

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