By Tracy Dingmann
Journal readers should probably tote a scorecard when they peruse the paper’s editorial page these days – because they really need one to keep track of all the local ultra-conservative writers and groups that have found such a cozy and welcoming home there.
Here’s the latest example: On April 19, the Journal carried a guest opinion piece by Mark Mathis, whom the Journal identified as a “Media Consultant and Film Producer.”
The guest piece, called “Halt Rail Robber In Its Pricey Tracks,” was a essentially an extended Speak Out-style diatribe against the New Mexico Rail Runner, which ended with the suggestion that the popular commuter rail train service be scrapped and the working parts sold off.
Does the author’s name sound familiar? Perhaps that’s because Mathis, a former local television news reporter, is the founder of the Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Energy – the oil and gas-funded industry organization that’s now headed by frequent (and discredited) Journal guest columnist Marita Noon.
Noon is the current executive director of CARE, a group known for calling environmentalists “watermelons” (green on the outside, Commie red on the inside, get it?) and believing that the climate change crisis upon us now is a hysterical hoax.
The Journal has been saving a nice warm spot on the editorial page for CARE guest opinions for quite some time. Before Noon came on the scene in 2007, Mathis was writing regular guest columns for the Journal from 2005 to 2007 as a “senior advisor to CARE.”
Now hold on, because this where it gets a little complicated.
Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing, who also writes frequently about public policy (including lambasting the Rail Runner) on the Journal’s editorial page, is director of the board of the Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Energy. The Rio Grande Foundation is a self-described ‘free market’ think tank that advocates controversial policies like privatizing Social Security.
Like CARE, the Rio Grande Foundation is well-represented on the Journal’s editorial page. Several of the Rio Grande Foundation’s senior fellows or other staffers appear frequently, writing about public policy – and sometimes even dabbling in state politics.
All of that adds up to an awful lot of representation for two small groups in the city’s only daily.
Observers familiar with the considerable local conservative echo chamber were not surprised that former Journal columnist, Albuquerque Tea Party booster and Rio Grande Foundation-funded blogger Jim Scarantino positively leapt to endorse Mathis’s column on the Rio Grande Foundation house blog New Mexico Liberty. Scarantino also mentioned proudly that much of Mathis’ research was taken from work Scarantino himself wrote about on HIS blog, New Mexico Watchdog.
But let’s get back to Mathis. The identifier that appears alongside his Rail Runner piece says nothing about his former association with CARE. Fair enough, I guess. It wasn’t directly about energy issues.
But what the identifier DOES say about Mathis might be interesting to readers to choose to dig deeper. It identifies Mathis as a “film producer,” so I, being a curious person, looked up what kind of films he produced.
I found this, from Wikipedia – about “Expelled,” a 2008 documentary film that trumpets intelligent design and expresses the belief that evolution is a mainstream conspiracy to keep God out of labs and classrooms. Mathis co-produced the documentary and did many of the interviews seen in the film:
The film contends that the mainstream science establishment suppresses academics who believe they see evidence of intelligent design in nature and who criticize evidence supporting evolution and the modern evolutionary synthesis as a mainstream conspiracy to keep God out of science laboratories and classrooms.
The scientific theory of evolution is portrayed by the film as contributing to fascism, the Nazi Holocaust, communism, atheism, abortion, and eugenics.
A New York Times movie reviewer described it thusly:
One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.
The science community sweeping condemned the film as “anti-science propaganda,” while other critics singled Mathis out for the “reporting” techniques he employed in making the movie.
Tea Partiers, libertarians, climate change-deniers and anti-evolutionists?
I guess the moral of the story is, when it comes to guest opinion writers on the Journal’s editorial pages, it pays to dig a little bit deeper than the information on the page. You might discover a little more ultra-conservative firepower than you bargained for.