This interview is a special report, only for readers of the daily mull. It ran a bit longer than I expected, so I'll be releasing it in three parts.
Johnson N. Masters is a compelling personality, in spite of his diminuative appearance. From his understated comb-over to his crisply pressed polyester sportscoat, he is the model of the insider conservative academic.
We chatted in his spacious and well-appointed home in the San Fernando Valley.
TDM: I feel privileged to get this inside glimpse into the top secret braintrust of the conservative movement.
JNM: This interview is completely off the record, right?
JNM: And You-know-who has really okayed it?
TDM: Of course.
JNM: I just wouldn't want to jeopordize our funding.
TDM: So you are the founder of...
JNM: The official title of the organization is the Seminar for Encouragement of Conservative Society, but it's really a think tank, perhaps the only conservative organization actually worthy of the name.
TDM: How's that?
JNM: Well, as you probably know, most conservative think tanks don't actually do any reality based research. They're more "spin tanks", aimed at finding ways to spin the movement for political success. It's one of our chief advantages over liberals. Their think tanks actually do research, and so they become evidence whores, constantly being seduced by reality. But then, they don't have the funding advantages we do.
TDM: Funding advantages?
JNM: The conservative movement has two bases: the religious right, of course, and the one percent. The think tank money comes from the one percent, and they are pretty clear about their agenda. If you research or write for the right, your books are pretty much guaranteed to sell—either because they'll be pushed by right-wing media or because they'll be bought in bulk and given away. So your salary, and your publishing success, pretty much depends on coming to the right conclusions. It keeps us from wandering off after every stray fact that gets "proven".
TDM: I see. But SECS is different?
JNM: Well, there are certain areas in which the movement has to have some reality contact, and our specialty is a prime example. The religious right is the voting base of the movement, but the real base—the one that calls the shots—is the other one.
TDM: The one percent.
JNM: Exactly. And they need to have real information about the voting base, in order to stay one step ahead of them.
TDM: And this is where your organization comes in?
JNM: Yes. I recognized the need for advance information about where the right wing is headed.
TDM: Doesn't that require you to be something of a fortune-teller?
JNM: It would be impossible if I hadn't developed the Heuristic for Understanding Moral Patriotism.
TDM: And that is...