Paul Weyrich, called by some the founding father of the religious right, is dead at the age of 66.
America is fortunate that Weyrich was born too late, because what he could have done with the Internet, oh Jesus!
The D.C.-based Weyrich has been out of the mainstream news for years now, but he was a very big deal before and during the Reagan era’s Great Leap Backward. In those glory days, he was a combination of cruise director and mailroom supervisor for the religious right, a behind-the-scenes guy who liked to think of himself as a thinker.
Energetic and argumentative, Weyrich was known, especially to himself, as someone who was right about every issue. He spent his whole life networking with others to prove it.
Before everybody went web-mad, Weyrich was exploring every opportunity to fight God’s battles electronically. Take a look at my February 1994 story “Passing on the Right: Conservative strategists gear up for the information highway.” Miraculously, you can find the long, long ago piece online. (You can tell how old the story is by my incessant use of the phrase “information highway,” for which I apologize.)
Writing at the time for the Denver alt weekly Westword, I stumbled upon a coven of religious-right folk having some embryonic satellite broadcasts beamed into their brains by one of Weyrich’s creations: an electronic conservative video/TV network.
I talked with Weyrich at some length about his new network — it sounded staggeringly boring and wonky. Here’s how I started the piece, which was only slightly less so:
The information highway begins with a sharp right turn just outside Windsor. From the roof of the Windsor Center, a small office building on the edge of this farm town fifty miles north of Denver, your brain will board a parabolic dish paid for by beer prince Jeffrey Coors and travel 23,000 miles above the planet to an orbiting satellite.
An instant later you will beam back down to Earth and the Washington, D.C., studios of National Empowerment Television, the newborn brainchild of former Denver newsman Paul M. Weyrich, who years ago coined the term “Moral Majority” for Jerry Falwell.
Many people will remember Weyrich for his having founded — with millions in beer money from Coors — the Heritage Foundation.
I’ll remember him for producing some really bad TV.