When I was in the newspaper game, I would occasionally be invited to speak at some function or other, and invariably a starry eyed youngster would come up to me afterward with the question, “How do I become a writer?” I would ask what the kid had written lately, and sometimes I would get a blank stare. “If you were a writer you would be writing,” I would say.
Birds fly, bees make honey and writers write. When I was eight years old, I attended a tiny private school in Guy’s Hill (Jamaica) pretentiously named The Barnwell Academy. It was run by a former Methodist Minister… I think his name was Parson Sandeford and he was from Barbados. Anyway, I would write “essays” and leave them on his desk with a note asking him to “please correct.” And he would throw them in the trash. Undeterred, I would write more essays and leave them on his desk (he would throw those in the trash, too).
So, if you find yourself brimming over with words you have to spill out, you are a writer. That doesn’t mean you will be rich and famous. I didn’t say it makes you a good writer. Most writers aren’t. And even if you are good, you night never make a dime from your writing. As King Solomon said, the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance decide all things.
But I hope you will never sell your soul to succeed as a writer. I believe there’s a fiery furnace reserved for those who prostitute the talent God gave them, however small that talent may be.
I’m thinking about the army of hacks who infest the web, spinning tall tales and assassinating characters for a few pieces of silver. “Journalists” like Christopher Ruddy, who runs Newsmax. Bill Clinton mentioned Ruddy’s nefarious work on Meet the Press recently, recalling that as president he was “even accused of murder,” and warning Barack Obama to watch out for the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that still afflicts American politics.
Ruddy (above, right) plies his sinister trade at the behest of Richard Mellon Scaife (above, left), the grand nephew of the notorious right-wing zealot Andrew Mellon. A billionaire contributor to the Republican Party and right-wing think-tanks, Scaife was a primary source of the millions used to fund attacks against Bill Clinton during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals. He also purchases massive quantities of right-wing books to push them up the bestseller lists. People for the American Way estimates that the Scaife Foundations have channeled in excess of $340 million to right-wing groups over the last thirty years.
Among the organizations Scaife funds are the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Judicial Watch, and the Cato Institute. One of his pet projects was a working group within his American Spectator publication called the “Arkansas Project,” a $2.4 million project created to dig up or invent crimes by the then-president and first lady, with assistance from a cast of unsavory characters.
Now, with Scaife’s deep pockets to support him, Ruddy has founded Newsmax, which has become hugely successful. It seems there is always a lot of money to buy right-wing books and support right-wing propaganda mills, regardless of the quality of their work.
As a reporter, Ruddy has made a career out of concocting tales to smear the Clintons. His most famous fantasy concerns the death of Clinton White House lawyer Vince Foster. Writing for Scaife’s Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Ruddy popularized the theory that Foster had not committed suicide, as determined by five official investigations, but was murdered to cover up corruption in the Whitewater land deal or because of an illicit affair with Hillary Rodham Clinton – or both.
In addition to spreading paranoia about the Foster tragedy, Ruddy and Scaife played central roles in the distribution of nearly half a million copies of “The Clinton Chronicles” and other trash targeting the Clinton White House. Now, he’s back at his evil craft. And this time his target is Obama.
Newsmax, based in West Palm Beach, has become the largest conservative publication in the country, both online and in print. With 130,000 print subscribers and nearly 4 million monthly visitors to Newsmax.com, it brought in nearly $30 million last year.
And more important than its profits is its influence over “conservative” readers. Who are these readers? And why do they care so little about facts? Beats me. But they’re out there. And many of them vote. So I hope President Obama was listening to former President Clinton’s warning on “Meet the Press.” He will have to contend with a continuous crusade of lies for years to come.