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The Radical Right's Asian Pitbull t would be easy to make cruel jokes about a Filipino American immigrants' daughter who authors a book arguing that the internment of Japanese Americans was justified by national security. Not to mention a best-seller arguing for a much tighter immigration policy. And countless weekly columns sniping at affirmative action, environmentalists, sexy pop stars, scandalous journalists, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Gary Locke, John Kerry, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and just about anything and anyone that offends radical right wing sensibilities.
To do so would only be giving Malkin what she gives others. But most readers would find that kind of adolescent vitriole less interesting than a serious effort at understanding who Michelle Malkin is, how she became that way and what she really wants.
On the level of plain, undisputed facts, Michelle Maglalang was born to Filipino immigrants in Philadelphia on October 20, 1970. Her parents had arrived in the U.S. earlier that year. Her father was a doctor in training with a visa sponsored by an employer. Her mother was a schoolteacher. After Michelle's father completed his training, the family moved to New Jersey. Michelle spent most of her childhood in the tiny town of Absecon in southern New Jersey. Like most Filipinos her family was Roman Catholic, an affiliation Michelle retains to this day. Her parents were Reagan republicans but “not incredibly politically active,” Michelle told CSPAN's Brian Lamb. “I just think that there's always been an eighth sense of gratitude toward this country and trying to give back to it.” She edited the school paper at Holy Spirit High School but without evidencing a pronounced right-wing perspective. “[I was] not really politically energized yet.”
Her first ambition was to become a concert pianist. Michelle enrolled in Oberlin, a small Ohio college with a respected performing music department. The town of Oberlin (pop 8,560) is located about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland, near the heart of a once mighty industrial region going to rust.
“I soon realized that I couldn't cut it with piano,” she told the National Review Online. Michelle Maglalang changed her major to English and, as she had in high school, began writing for the student newspaper.
Toward the end of her Oberlin career she signed on with an independent campus newspaper that was being started by a Jewish student named Jesse Malkin. Malkin would later become Maglalang's husband. He also had an immediate and lasting impact on Michelle's political views. Jesse Malkin had attended Berkeley High on Martin Luther King Boulevard in the town his future wife would later label “The People's Republic of Berkeley”. In addition to being a top student, Malkin was a distance runner who captained Oberlin's cross-country team. That combination, as well as his strong political views, helped him win a Rhodes scholarship to study for a year at Oxford University in England.
By the time Jesse Malkin started the newspaper, his conservative leanings had been well enough established for him to receive funding from an organization calling itself the Collegiate Network. The Network had formed in 1980 as a union of college newspapers funded by a neo-conservative group called the Institute for Educational Affairs (IEA). IEA had been founded in 1978 by Irving Kristol and William Simon, a leader of the modern neo-conservative movement. As Nixon's Treasury Secretary, Simon had shaped the administration's tax policy.
IEA was dedicated to “seek out promising Ph.D. candidates and undergraduate leaders, help them establish themselves through grants and fellowships and then help them get jobs with activist organizations, research projects, student publications, federal agencies or leading periodicals.” It was, in essence, an affirmative action program to help restore right wing influence on college campuses.
In 1990 the IEA was merged into the Madison Center for Educational Affairs, another neo-conservative foundation started in 1988 by, among others, William Bennett, Reagan's Education Secretary. Madison continued to fund the Collegiate Network until 1995 when its headquarters was moved to Wilmington, Delaware and placed under the financial support of another neo-conservative organization called the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). Today ISI funds about 80 right wing college newspapers.
In any event, when Jesse Malkin founded his newspaper in 1989 he became one of IEA's most academically impressive recruits. When Michelle Maglalang began working for that paper, she was on the road to becoming one of the IEA's most notorious.
Oberlin was a liberal stronghold, a college that prided itself on a history of affirmative action leadership. In 1841 it had become the first U.S. college to award A.B. degrees to women. As of 1900 Oberlin had graduated half of all African Americans with college degrees. Jesse Malkin and Michelle Maglalang were among very few students who didn't hold liberal views. “For the most part, it was an incredibly politically correct culture,” recalled Michelle Malkin.
Jesse Malkin's first assignment for his new Filipino American reporter was collaborating on an article denouncing Oberlin's affirmative action program. Fellow students found the article offensive and showed their displeasure to Malkin & Company.
“That's where I first really encountered the vicious response you can get when you stand up to a political orthodoxy,” recalled Michelle Malkin. ”It's an extremely liberal campus. Even if you tread very lightly on political sacred cows, there was a huge negative response, especially from somebody who was a minority, standing up and saying, ‘Well, all these self-appointed minority groups on campus don't speak for me.’
“It was seeing the violent paroxysms it caused on the Left that really put me on my way to a career in opinion journalism,” she stated in her chracteristically defiant and sneering tone. “I really just came into being as a political journalist towards the end of my campus experience, and it was really after I had left and started, you know, writing on my own. It was really more social conservatism than economic conservatism that I started with for my column-writing. So I was not a huge lightning rod until the end of my tenure at Oberlin.”
Whatever her inspiration, by the time Michelle Maglalang graduated in 1992, she was committed to a career in journalism. Her first choice was of the broadcast variety. She headed to Washington D.C. to intern at NBC while Jesse Malkin went to Santa Monica to continue his conservative education by working on a PhD in economic policy analysis at the Rand Graduate School (RGS). RGS was a small, little-known adjunct to RAND Corporation, a conservative think tank founded in 1948 to promote freewheeling capitalist ideals and conduct secretive research for the federal government. It gained notoriety during the Vietnam War by its involvement with some of the more sinister aspects of the war effort.
Maglalang's NBC stint ended without significant on-air experience. In late 1992 she moved to Los Angeles where she was reunited with Jesse Malkin and landed a job with the struggling San Fernando Valley-based Los Angeles Daily News as a reporter-cum-editorial writer. That job gave her the opportunity to learn a skill that would prove useful in her later career — producing quick-turnaround copy that provokes strong reader reactions. PAGE 2