White House Communications Director Anita Dunn told a group of high school students last June that former Chinese communist dictator Mao Zedong was one of her two favorite political philosophers, and you could tell she was speaking from the heart. Her earnest appeal to the teenagers to fight their own wars, as Mao had counseled when challenged within his own party, was clearly meant as a call to activism. "You fight your war and I'll fight mine," she quoted Mao as saying, because apparently Mao was all about personal choice.
Of course, Mao's usual response to those who questioned his authority was to have them killed, but mentioning that inconvenient truth might detract from Miss Dunn anointing him a philosopher.
Miss Dunn's quotation of Chairman Mao as one of the two people she "most turns to" has created a media sensation. A bewildered Miss Dunn, discovering that not everyone reveres mass murderers as sources of valuable life lessons, claimed she was only quoting late Republican political operative Lee Atwater's views on the Chinese Communist Party chairman. But there is a significant difference between uberconservative Mr. Atwater making a joke about Mao and reverential views coming from one of President Obama's mouthpieces.
"What would Mao do?" seems to be the guiding question in White House communications strategy. Miss Dunn bragged that during the 2008 presidential campaign, "very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn't absolutely control." The Obama White House continues this drive for control using the tools of government, seeking to harness all means of communication and organize a Cultural Revolution Lite.
A push for control is revealed in attempts to organize Hollywood to help convey party messages and to use the National Endowment for the Arts to promote Obama policy initiatives. The Federal Communications Commission is considering content regulations on radio stations under the guise of promoting "diversity." The White House convinced television networks to embed themes of "service and volunteering" all this week, and tried to rebrand Sept. 11 as a Day of Service. This reminds us of Mao's admiration for the Soviet "subbotnik," or voluntary (actually forced) labor program. The fact that the White House communications director finds inspiration in the words of the man who gave the world brainwashing is cause for concern.
The current war with Fox News - which Miss Dunn called "opinion journalism masquerading as news" - shows the White House commitment to controlling the press. Among Fox News' crimes was when Chris Wallace fact-checked controversial statements made on his program by Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth. Yet to Miss Dunn, the media should serve as what Vladimir Lenin called "transmission belts," simple purveyors of whatever the White House dishes out, uncritically and unthinkingly. How dare Fox News check facts. No one fact-checked Mao.
On "This Week" on Sunday, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod lectured George Stephanopoulos on how ABC should treat Fox. Any news shop that follows the White House line will be seen as an extension of Miss Dunn's information machine. Meanwhile Fox's ratings continue to go up.