When the news broke Tuesday that Brent Bozell faces three federal charges in connection with the January 6 assault on the Capitol, students of the U.S. right’s past might have wondered: Which one?
It turns out that this particular Bozell was Brent Bozell IV, a Brent Bozell who previously had not made as much of an impact on politics as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather — all also named L. Brent Bozell. But now Bozell IV — accused of obstructing an official proceeding, engaging in disorderly conduct at the Capitol, and entering a restricted government building — takes his place in the family tradition.
If the Bush family is the top GOP family dynasty, one that has produced several kings, the Bozells are a few rungs down the ladder — dukes always prepared to ride off to battle in defense of their liege lords. It’s tempting to see the progression of the Bozells as a tale of the devolution of U.S. conservatism, from intellectuals debating over ideas to street brawling. In reality, it’s a largely a story of stasis, one that shows that the mainstream of American conservatism has always been extreme and reactionary.
The Bozell saga begins with Brent Bozell Sr., born in Kansas in 1886. After working as a reporter and becoming city editor of the Omaha Daily News, he took a prototypical conservative path, moving from penurious journalism into the lucrative world of advertising and public relations. He co-founded a firm that still exists today and is still named after him: Bozell. It’s famous for coming up with such marketing slogans as “Pork. The other white meat” and “rich Corinthinian leather,” which is a made-up term for regular leather. His first wife died in 1918, almost certainly from the Spanish flu.
Bozell Sr. fought in World War I and on his return become a prominent member of the Omaha branch of the American Legion. In 1925, he helped bring the Legion’s national convention to Omaha, where President Calvin Coolidge was the keynote speaker.
While it’s considered impolite to mention it, the American Legion has always been extremely right-wing. At the 1925 convention, the program declared that the Legion’s purpose was “to maintain law and order [and] to foster and perpetuate a one hundred per cent Americanism.” Alvin Owsley, who’d been head of the Legion just a few years before, explained that “the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States.” Bozell Sr. later became a director of an Omaha streetcar company, which hired 390 private guards and paid for guns, ammunition, and tear gas for the Omaha police to crush a strike in a particularly ugly way in 1935.
Next up was Brent Bozell Jr., born in 1926. He would become, as National Review editor Rich Lowry puts it, “central to the founding of the conservative movement.”
Bozell Jr. attended Yale, where he became best friends with William F. Buckley Jr. and eventually married Buckley’s sister Patricia. After college, Buckley and Bozell Jr. wrote a stirring defense of Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the leader of an anti-left crusade so intellectually bogus it generated its own noun, McCarthyism. “It is still only Communist ideas that are beyond the pale,” Buckley and Bozell Jr. explained. “Some day the patience of America may at last be exhausted and we will strike out against Liberals.”
Bozell Jr. then joined McCarthy’s staff on Capitol Hill. After McCarthy’s death, he worked for Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater and ghostwrote Goldwater’s famous 1960 book, “The Conscience of a Conservative.” Around this time Bozell Jr. began to go off the rails, to the degree the conservative movement had rails to start with.
In 1962, Buckley and others around Goldwater tried to gently nudge the John Birch Society out of the GOP coalition — over Bozell Jr.’s opposition. For Birchers, communists were everywhere. Dwight Eisenhower was a communist, Richard Nixon’s dog Checkers was a communist, and Pat Nixon’s cloth coat was probably a communist too.
Bozell Jr. then moved his family to Spain, a land where men could breath free under fascist dictator Francisco Franco. While there, Bozell Jr., who suffered from manic depression, eventually denounced the U.S. conservative movement, the United States itself, and capitalism. He did eventually return to America, where he died in 1997.
Then came Brent Bozell III, currently the most famous Brent Bozell. Bozell III was born in 1955 and founded the Media Research Center in 1987. The MRC’s core mission is to uncover the natural liberal bias of multinational corporate news outlets. One of its main financial backers is Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire who has also supported President Donald Trump and an Oregon scientist who is stockpiling huge amounts of America’s precious bodily fluids.
A representative sample of the MRC’s work can be found here. It’s a study of coverage of the Iraq War on the nightly news for the first nine months of 2005. It found that 61 percent of the stories about Iraq “focused on negative topics or presented a pessimistic analysis of the situation.”
The unsophisticated might suspect this reflected reality in Iraq, and that most journalism about the war was pessimistic because there was little to be optimistic about. But the MRC realized that reporters were concealing the good news, probably because of their hatred for America. We can see now how right the MRC was, given that the Iraq War was soon wrapped up as a total success.
The MRC used the same tactic in a report that found that news networks presented an “overwhelmingly one-sided picture of the global warming debate.” This showed the obvious bias of the news, rather than representing the fact that evidence about global warming is overwhelmingly one-sided. MRC has received at least $50,000 from ExxonMobil.
Bozell III also founded the Parents Television Council, which adheres to the same intellectual standards as the MRC. In 2002, the PTC was forced to pay $3.5 million to World Wrestling Entertainment for falsely claiming that the WWE caused the deaths of four children when their friends imitated moves they saw on WWE shows.
Finally, Bozell III sometimes expresses his more personal insights, as when he said that President Barack Obama looks “like a skinny, ghetto crackhead.” According to public records, Bozell III was paid $488,000 in 2018.
That bring us to today. After the attack on the Capitol, Bozell III did strongly condemn it. It remains to be seen whether he will specifically condemn his son or realize that in fact Brent Bozell IV is merely carrying on the family legacy of far-right provocation.
There is currently no sign of a Brent Bozell V, but it seems inevitable that one will eventually spring into being, if only due to momentum.