Website Review: RightWingNews.com

As one who harbored dreams of stardom on the web, it was quite discouraging the other day to come across an example of the limited heights that were available to me. I stumbled upon the work of one John Hawkins, publisher of the conservative RightWingNews.com and self-described pioneer of blogging.  

Hawkins is a schlubby-looking fellow, resembling the late comedic actor John Candy (it’s hard to be schlubbier than someone who’s been dead in the ground for 16 years, but Hawkins manages). He claims to be “one of just a handful of professional bloggers” who’s been in the game since 2005, aggregating the lunatic rants of writers like “McQ From QandO” and “Sister Toldjah.”  

John is the one on the right

His website is such a busy affair that it requires two slogans — “Kneecapping Barack Obama at Every Opportunity” and “Your Ad Here for Only $75 a Month.” In 2006, he led a group of bloggers who raised almost $300,000 for conservative candidates and is currently on the board of another group that’s come up with twice that amount. He says you may remember him as a consultant for the Duncan Hunter presidential campaign, though frankly I’d barely even remember Duncan himself if it weren’t for his cake mixes.

Hawkins runs a tight ship at his blog, forbidding commenters from calling anyone “towelhead,” “raghead” or “wetback,” and rigidly policing his rules against posting off-topic, spamming or challenging anyone to a fight. Such a high-minded business plan has allowed him to ask $2,000 plus travel expenses for speaking engagements. (I personally ask $8 million for each of mine, but that doesn’t mean I get it.) His busy schedule doesn’t allow him to respond to the 1,000-plus emails he gets every week and you can send him your (doubtless) self-published book if you want but it’ll take him two weeks to read it and he’s currently backed up, probably from eating all that cake.  

“Who is really behind RightWingNews?” is a question he’s frequently asked. He answers: “The truth is that I’m just an independent operator running a blog. I don’t take marching orders from anyone, there aren’t any think tanks involved, and I don’t have any big donors giving me cash.” Then he adds the dream that we both share: “Do keep in mind that I wouldn’t mind having a large cash infusion from a donor.”  

If a success story like John’s hasn’t yet resulted in untold riches, at least it allowed him to emerge from his mother’s basement recently for the star-studded three-day FascistFest that was the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference convention. CPAC’s annual meeting in Washington last month was in the news for about 30 minutes when Glenn Beck delivered a keynote address that called Republicans “clowns” because that weren’t reactionary enough, and then a majority of attendees endorsed Ron Paul for president while a nearby majority booed the choice, and both forgot that there isn’t an election for three more years.  

John chronicles his personal experiences at the convention in a piece that gives a great deal of insight into what life is like in the stratosphere of the blogosphere.  

He started his quest wondering about the weird things his car was doing. Every week or two, the beater takes four or five tries to get cranked and occasionally cuts off while he’s doing 70. “It was probably either the fuel pump, the fuel line, a sensor or the ignition, but [the mechanic] couldn’t replicate the problem. Isn’t that just the sort of issue you want to have when you’re about to go eight hours each way on a trip?” I can’t imagine Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity letting car problems get in their way of attending, but such is the life of a Prince of the Internet.  

Once Hawkins does arrive, he recounts more issues that try to interfere with his ability to hate liberals in a supportive setting of like-minded fanatics. “I spent a good 20 minutes screwing up the color combinations on my suits,” he writes. Then, once he does manage to dress himself like a big boy, he gets lost walking from the hotel to the convention center. “Unfortunately, I got confused, and a 15-minute walk took more than 45 minutes.” Then he finds himself in a really long line to get blogger credentials, where he runs into a man he’s been bashing for months on the issue of something called the North American Union Conspiracy.  

At least he’s now in the vicinity of where he intended to be, and he’s starting to meet up with friends and associates. There’s Kristina “who is an absolute sweetheart” and she’s walking around with the “bane of Planned Parenthood, anti-abortion activist” Lila. He finds his way into the hall and up to Blogger’s Row, a large room situated over the main conference venue. Apparently, the conservatives love the bloggers.  

“Twice, I got into places that other people couldn’t go because I was a blogger,” he gushes. “I could have walked up to the podium and touched it while speakers were talking because I had a blogger pass. I flash my pass. ‘Oh, you’re a blogger! Go right ahead!'”  

The highlight of Day One comes a little later when Dick Cheney makes a surprise visit, and the crowd “absolutely ERUPTED” when he says “I think Barack Obama is a one-term President.” (I’m surprised they’re willing to give him that long).  

Later, the fun really gets going when the first annual Blogbash, a “pretty serious shindig,” starts hopping at a nearby hotel with “some great eats including cake.” The appropriately named former congressman Dick Armey shows up to give John’s friend Ed a blogger award. Fox commentator Michelle Malkin was also on hand, “especially cool for the bloggers, and not just because Michelle is the biggest sweetheart you’re ever going to meet.” Michelle joined fellow zealots Tabitha, Kathleen and E.M. to pose for pictures and show off their boots, pointed just enough to give the ladies life-long podiatry problems but not before they get to kick some progressive butt.  

These boots are made for kicking

On Day Two, John has a seminar on “Jihad: What They Aren’t Telling You” high on his list of priorities. Unfortunately, the event is so popular he’d have to stand in the back, which is no way to treat a professional blogger, so he skips out. By now, Blogger’s Row is again becoming the place to be so he’s back at his computer and looking up occasionally to schmooze with Liz and Bettina and Jenny and Ashley. Then he starts having trouble with his wireless connection and has to move down to the XPAC (Xtreme Politically Active Conservatives) lounge, where actor Stephen Baldwin has installed some comfortable couches and free video games. “It cost $15 to use for the conference, unless you were a blogger,” John writes. “We got in free.”  

By the afternoon, John is preparing for two interviews he’s been commissioned to do for an outfit called PJTV. More comfortable talking to his subjects on the phone than in person, John is nervous about how he’ll do with the two big, live fish he’s landed — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Ann Coulter. “You’d think it would be simple … but I don’t normally think about moving the microphone around,” he writes. He feels his Pawlenty session is “a little sloppy looking and, in case you were wondering, the governor is running from his old pro-cap-and-trade position at full speed.”  

The Coulter talk goes a little more smoothly, since she’s “an extraordinarily nice person and it’s not just me saying that. I’ve heard at least two people talk about how friendly she was.” There’s a bit of a stumble when his John Edwards question goes awry, and he follows up asking Coulter why she hasn’t gotten into a major controversy lately. “Have you gone soft on liberals?” he asks. “I don’t want to give away the response, but let’s just say the word ‘faggot’ was used three times. (Fun fact: I’m estimating here, but Ann must be 6-2 in heels).”  

Ann's blond head nuzzles Michael Steele's bald head

By the third and final day, things are starting to wind down. Once again, most of the action is on Blogger’s Row, where one of his fellow writers is wearing slippers. Melissa and Abby and Adrienne and Brooklyn rag on the New York Times for a while, and former Sen. Rick Santorum stops by to say he endorsed fellow Pennsylvanian Arlen Specter against the advice of his wife. John wanders over to the only booth in the hall still up and running, housing members of the John Birch Society. “I flat out asked [them] what sort of conspiracy theories they buy into. He said that the Council on Foreign Relations is engaged in some sort of secret, bipartisan effort to build one world government,” John writes. “Groups like [this] shouldn’t be allowed to be a sponsor. However, I suspect the kookier fringe brings in so much money that they can’t bear to give it up.”  

The last big story out of the convention is the Ron Paul straw poll victory. “I think I was the only person in the crowd who loudly yelled ‘Mitt sucks’,” John writes of second-place finisher Mitt Romney, who he says “has no ideological core.” Sarah Palin came in third, largely because she didn’t show up, which Hawkins calls “dumb, dumb, dumb” (though I’m sure Sarah’s used to hearing that one).  

After the final speech, John and 15 of his friends meet in the hotel lobby and head to a Lebanese restaurant “so disorganized that it was like we were actually in Lebanon.” It was a good group: Molly and Steve and Aaron and the obviously uncomfortable Ali Akbar.  

Ali looking a little nervous

Wrapping up, John notes that he did make it back home alive despite the car problems, “although I left an overhead light on and the battery was dead as a doornail when I tried to leave the hotel. The car also cut off once while I was doing 70 going down the road … you don’t care that much, do you?”  

No, we do care very much about you, John. But we care even more that your blog is so successful, and that VIPs from both the right and the far right vaguely recognize your name, and that you and your netbook will soon be getting this great country turned around and back on the right track and headed in the right direction. 

Assuming its battery doesn’t die and that fuel line issue gets cleared up.

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3 Responses to “Website Review: RightWingNews.com”

  1. staxuk Says:

    Cracking writeup/review. Will now follow it up by navigating directly to RightWingNews.com. Or maybe not…

    “Then, once he does manage to dress himself like a big boy…” Class.

  2. S Fox Says:

    No-one does gentle scathing sarcasm like Davis W.

  3. Paul Dixon Says:

    Hey Davis-Not only is Ann Coulter at least 6’2″-have you ever noticed “her” Adam’s apple? (Not that there’s anything wrong with it…)

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