Over the weekend, Radley Balko started a thread to answer this question: "Of all the shrill wingnuts on both ends of the linear political spectrum, which ones do you think actually believe their own bullshit?" He used Michelle Malkin as a test case, as she made the transition to Reason-style libertarian to quasi-authoritarian conservative in a fairly rapid fashion. Today Howard Kurtz profiles Malkin, but he spends precious little time explaining her conversion to hard right punditry.
After seven years as an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Seattle Times, Michelle Malkin moved to Washington in 1999 to work for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. She launched her blog, http://Michellemalkin.com, in 2004. Last month it drew 388,000 visitors, and it's complemented by a syndicated column that appears in 150 papers.
Her newspaper experience was crucial because "you see what a lot of crackpots and cranks are out there," says Mark Cunningham, the New York Post opinion editor, who has known Malkin for years. "She learned a long time ago to deal with sticks and stones. People read her, even if they're infuriated by her."
From 1999 to 2004, whoosh, just like that. I'm actually curious to know what changed Malkin's outlook between those years. I had assumed 9/11 "mugged" her, but her columns from before 9/11 showcase pretty ordinary social conservatism. Replace concern about news networks aiding the enemy with concern about celebrities adopting kids and you've got a typical pre-war on terror Malkin column. It's be nice for Kurtz to ask why Malkin swung right, but she doesn't seem to be as much of a "recovering libertarian" as I'd assumed.
UPDATE: Jesse Walker e-mailed to point out that Kurtz mucked up his dates: "Malkin did her fellowship at CEI in 1995, not 1999. She described herself as a libertarian when she subsequently joined the Seattle Times staff, and she voted for Harry Browne in 1996."
*Headline explanation here.