Kersten and the conservative echo chamber: a brief case study


About a week ago I was perusing Power Line when I came across a bit about an anti-abortion activist who was denied space for her speech at the University of St. Thomas — in part because the group bringing the speaker in was also responsible for a controversial visit by Ann Coulter. A day later a colleague forwarded to me a press release from the Young America’s Foundation about the same issue. I was surprised to see that press release reformulated into a column a few days later by Katherine Kersten, then a post about the Kersten column on Powerline, the originator of the story (personal friends of Kersten’s, as they often boast; the site’s authors call her Kathy). The episode demonstrates Kersten’s vital role in the right-wing echo chamber: Power Line => press release => Kersten column => Power Line.

Kersten’s column and the YAF press release are similar — one could even say remarkably similar. A quick review of passages from each shows that while Kersten was careful to paraphrase the points from YAF’s release, she was not exactly doing any intellectual heavy lifting:

From the press release:
“On April 21, 2008, Star — the best-selling author of numerous books — was slated to speak on campus about the devastating impact abortion has on minority communities.”

From Kersten’s column:
“Star Parker is a bestselling author who travels the country speaking to young audiences about the harmful impact of abortion, especially in minority communities.”

From the press release:
“Jane Canney told Katie and her sister, Amie Kieffer, a senior at St. Thomas and editor of the St. Thomas Standard, “As long as I am a vice president at St. Thomas, the Young America’s Foundation will not be allowed on campus.”

From Kersten’s column:
“Katie Kieffer, an alumna who helped plan Parker’s visit, says that Vice President for Student Affairs Jane Canney, who oversees the committee, blocked the way. “She told me, ‘As long as I’m a vice president at St. Thomas, we will not deal with Young America’s Foundation,'” said Kieffer.”

From the press release:
“Liberals speakers at St. Thomas receive full support from the school’s administration. Just this past year Canney’s Student Life Committee approved the appearances of Al Franken, the bombastic liberal commentator, and Debra Davis, a transgendered activist.”

From Kersten’s column:
“St. Thomas seems comfortable with speakers from the liberal side of the political spectrum. In 2007, for example, the school hosted DFL senatorial candidate and satirist Al Franken, who is known for harsh attacks and raised eyebrows in January at Carleton College for mocking the speech and gestures of a conservative student. Last year, the university also showcased transgender activist Debra Davis, a former male high school librarian who “transitioned,” as she says on her website, to the female gender and now speaks nationally about the experience.”

The story simply served to springboard a flurry of blog posts that ultimately forced St. Thomas to change its mind. St. Thomas will now fund the appearance by Star Parker taking the Young American’s Foundation out of the equation.

Below-the-jump bonus: Kersten is also, of course, a nationally recognized authority on the Muslim threat. Just ask CNN’s tub-thumping xenophobe, Glenn Beck. See video of her 2007 appearance on Beck’s show.

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