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Peaceful Tomorrows, Leftist Todays By: Thomas Ryan
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, March 17, 2004


A flood of anti-Bush headlines poured across the news outlets last week like a tidal wave: “Sept. 11 Families Disgusted By Bush Campaign Ads;” “Bush Ads Using 9/11 Images Stir Anger;” “Bush Exploiting 9/11;” and “Has Bush No Shame?” Morning and evening editions of national newspapers led with the story, and the major news television networks revisited the debate every half an hour like clockwork.

 

The controversy arose from Bush’s presidential ad campaign, which depicts brief images of the World Trade Center after the tragedy of 9/11. Colleen Kelly, who lost her brother Bill Kelly Jr. in the attacks on September 11th, told reporters, "I am afraid these ads, and others to follow, will be part of an ugly political jousting match between candidates, where one side attacks the other as somehow indifferent to the horrors of the day. President Bush can responsibly promote his ideas for confronting our threat from terrorism without overwhelming people with the very sacred images of our loved ones’ murders." Kelly continued, "It makes me sick. Would you ever go to someone's gravesite and use that as an instrument of politics?" What Kelly did not tell the media is that she is the New York area coordinator for a group called September Eleventh Families For Peaceful Tomorrows. Peering under the veil of this media outbreak aimed at condemning the ads is this organization and a longtime leftist activist named David Fenton. The irony of Kelly’s remarks is that Peaceful Tomorrows is precisely an “instrument of politics.”

 

Peaceful Tomorrows; which is coordinated by leftwing public relations specialist David Fenton, and funded by the left grant-giving Tides Foundation; is an antiwar support organization founded by individuals who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of September 11th. To date, Peaceful Tomorrows is comprised of 120 family members of 9/11 victims, as well as supporters and volunteers ranging in the thousands. Formed as a supposedly nonpartisan group opposing the War on Terror, Peaceful Tomorrows has taken its message across the country and around the world, with members of the group speaking at universities, participating in the antiwar marches in Washington, D.C., and taking to the airwaves whenever a media occasion arises. Their founding mission is to “break the cycle of violence and retaliation engendered by war.” However, their focus in the last week has shifted from protesting the War on Terror, to protesting the President’s recent ad campaign.

 

Added to their lengthy résumé, which includes participating in the “No More Victims Tour,” the "Not In Our Name" rally and a series of other antiwar demonstrations, Peaceful Tomorrows is the recipient of funding from the Tides Center, which is dually funded by the Vira Heinz Endowment and the Howard Heinz Endowment – chaired by Teresa Heinz Kerry.

 

According to a report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, John Kerry’s wife, Teresa, channeled endowments in the millions into the parent foundation that supports Peaceful Tomorrows. “Between 1995 and 2001, $4.3 million of that money [given to Tides] came from the Howard Heinz Endowment,” the report states. “In 2002, it and the Vira Heinz Endowment blessed The Tides Center, a San Francisco spin-off of the Tides Foundation, with another $190,000 while the two endowments gave $1.6 million to the new Tides Center for Western Pennsylvania." A statement released by Peaceful Tomorrows last week reads, “Peaceful Tomorrows has no connection with the Heinz or Kerry families through Tides Foundation, the Tides Center or any other entity.” This is blatantly contradictory to their own website, which informs donators, “Contributions by check can be made out to 'Peaceful Tomorrows/Tides Center.’” The mainstream media has conveniently ignored this link in their coverage of the group. In fact, this appears to be a case of a client organization doing the work of its benefactor, although the media does not seem interested in this conflict of interest.

 

The Tides Foundation itself is just another foundation in a lengthy line of liberal grant-giving groups that finance far-left causes and organizations, with agendas ranging from driving President Bush out of office to promoting policies which would make it easier for terrorists to enter the country. Their recipients include such notables as: the Institute for Global Communications, a far-Left Internet propaganda dissemination machine; and the Independent Media Center, which served as a conduit for the planning phase of the antiwar protests last year. Tides also provides support to Islamic Networks, Inc. – a public relations institute whose aim is to convince Americans that Islam doesn't oppress women, despite the evidence to the contrary. In addition, Tides funds the Democratic Justice Fund, founded in cooperation with George Soros’ Open Society Institute. The goal of the fund is to support Muslim and Arabic political groups that sponsor policies granting Muslim terrorists easier access to the United States. Also receiving grants from Tides are such bigwigs as various chapters of the ACLU and The National Lawyers Guild, and such relative newcomers as MoveOn.org, which has compared our Commander-in-Chief to Hitler.

Heading up the direction of Peaceful Tomorrows’ media blitz is David Fenton. Fenton has had his hands in all things big and small with regards to the media campaigns of some of the aforementioned liberal activist groups. Fenton had a humble start as a high school dropout and 60’s radical/anti-war protestor. He began his “journalism” career as a photographer and media specialist for the Liberation News Service, which was named in admiration of and loyalty to the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. The anti-American, Communist movement Fenton and his colleagues emulated called for the “overthrow [of] the camouflaged colonial regime of the American imperialists and the dictatorial power of Ngo Dinh Diem, servant of the Americans, and [to] institute a government of national democratic union [in Vietnam].”

Aside from simply covering various aspects of the counter-culture and anti-war movements, Fenton and his Liberation News Service associates, headed by Allen Young and George Cavalletto, were sympathetic to the radical anti-establishment organization Students for a Democratic Society, and set out to run their own group with the goal of effecting political change to the tune of their overtly Marxist philosophy. Fenton’s political ideology, as well, found him as a member of the White Panther Party, the Caucasian counterpart of the infamous Black Panthers. In the 60’s and early 70’s, Fenton also snapped photographs for the Weathermen, a Communist-driven splinter faction of Students for a Democratic Society, whose anarchistic national views led to their bombing of the National Guard offices in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Capitol building, the New York City Police Headquarters and the Pentagon.

The latter 70’s saw Fenton’s foray into the anti-nuclear movement. His left-wing work throughout the decade culminated in his orchestration of the famous “No Nukes” concerts, which were headlined by performers Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt. The Western “disarmament” movement, of course, was a favorite ploy of the Soviet Union.

By the time the 1980’s rolled around, Fenton was a hot commodity. He was recruited to shape and mold the public perceptions of Communist-led governments and Marxist guerillas alike. The year 1986 found Fenton in the throes of the Communist-led Angolan government’s Bureau of Information and Propaganda. He was hired to sully the reputation of a right-wing rebel group that the Angolan Communists had been fighting against for years. Fenton did similar public relations work for Nicaragua's Sandinistas. The Communist-backed Sandinistas regarded themselves as integral to a proletariat revolution in Nicaragua. To this end, Fenton provided necessary guidance in the public relations department in an effort to sway favorable opinion about this Marxist faction. Rounding off his Communist ties, Fenton conducted media services for Grenada’s Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop. Bishop was a staunch supporter of Fidel Castro and his Marxist government in Cuba, and sought to repeat that government’s philosophy in his own homeland. All Fenton’s work was for naught; the U.S. invasion of Granada in 1983 toppled Bishop’s Marxist regime.

For the past 15 years, Fenton and his company, Fenton Communications, has been largely preoccupied with creating media strategies for left-wing groups, including one of his primary clients, Environmental Media Services. When you hear dire warnings not to consume a certain food or because of a dangerous additive or preservative – it’s Environmental Media Services shouting the warning. In reality, Fenton’s group leaks environmentally questionable hyperbole to the news media concerning the dangers of certain products to bolster increased revenue for his other clients. This strategy has found Fenton attacking everything from biogenetic foods to the nation’s dairy industry.

The anti-biogenetic message, which claims that genetically engineered foods are dangerous to eat, has made millions for Fenton’s clients, which include such health food producers as: Whole Foods Markets, Honest Tea, Kashi Cereal, Green Mountain Coffee, and Rodale Press, which is a magazine publisher that puts out a series of periodicals concerning organic gardening and foods. Fenton has made millions for his patrons off of the misguided belief that organic foods are healthier than conventional or biotech products. “Just because something is labeled as ‘organic,’” noted former USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, “[that] does not mean it is superior, safer, or more healthy than conventional food.”

This approach has also worked in favor of ice cream producers Ben & Jerry’s, another client of Fenton’s. Starting with a series of press conferences in the late 90’s, Environmental Media Services pushed the message that a hormone given to dairy cows to produce milk could cause cancer, despite the FDA having shown the hormone to be safe. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stood to gain from the bad press aimed at the dairy industry because their ice cream is made with hormone-free milk.

Fenton’s crowning achievement was his 1989 attack against the producers of Alar, a preservative used on apples that was also erroneously reported to cause cancer. The results fed to the news media about the product were completely fabricated, having never been scientifically tested, but nonetheless triggered mass hysteria and caused the apple industry to lose over $200 million in revenue. Later, in a memo uncovered by the Wall Street Journal, Fenton bragged, “We designed [the campaign against Alar] so that revenue would flow back to the Natural Resources Defense Council from the public.” The Natural Resources Defense Council was another one of Fenton’s primary clients. 

In recent years, Fenton has expanded out from his health food and Communist clientele, and now includes antiwar and anti-Bush groups in his sizable and growing repertoire. Trevor S. Fitzgibbon, Director of Media Relations for Fenton Communications, assists in the public relations strategy for MoveOn.org, MoveOn.org Voter Fund, and Win Without War. According to Fenton Communications, “Fitzgibbon’s messaging and PR efforts on behalf of MoveOn.org have helped position the online advocacy group as a national political force in American life.” Arlie Schardt, a senior consultant at Fenton Communications and chairman for Environmental Media Services, served as Al Gore’s national press secretary during his first presidential campaign. Fenton’s recent addition of Peaceful Tomorrows to his list of clients marks yet another notch in his political bedpost, despite the claims of its members to be nonpartisan. With Peaceful Tomorrows’ members inundating the newspapers and television programs bashing the President’s campaign ad; as member Robert McIlvane did, proclaiming, “I am outraged at the Republicans for doing this;” it’s obvious that Fenton’s doing his job.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave…” And the web meticulously woven by Peaceful Tomorrows, The Tides Foundation, and David Fenton, is surely a deception, with a faux nonpartisan group coordinated by a public relations firm and indirectly funded by a presidential hopeful, both with convictions leaning well left-of-center. Making mountains out of molehills is Fenton’s game, and turning them into “mountains” of money (and publicity) for his clients, whether they’re for-profit or for politics. The Tides Foundation is also good at their game, which consists of funding groups that seem to walk a fine line between advocating a cause and advocating a presidential candidate. Topping off this list of great game players is Teresa Heinz Kerry, who, despite the illegality of financing her husband’s presidential campaign herself, has found a way of funding groups that promote his presidential plans.

What’s at stake for our country and our allies, however, is not a game. The series of ten bombs that exploded aboard the crowded commuter trains last Thursday in Madrid, killing 201 innocent people, was proof of that. The continual threat of terrorism remains, despite our aspirations and hope for peaceful tomorrows. In an address last year, President Bush said it best when he stated, “All of us want peace. The threat to peace does not come from those who seek to enforce the just demands of the civilized world; the threat to peace comes from those who flout those demands. If we have to act, we will act to restrain the violent, and defend the cause of peace. And by acting, we will signal to outlaw regimes that in this new century, the boundaries of civilized behavior will be respected.”


You may e-mail Thomas Ryan by clicking here.


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