Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Front and center on the home page of Netflix this month has been the promo for the “The Family,” a five-part documentary on the mysterious Arlington-based group called The Fellowship Foundation.

The exposé co-produced by journalist, author and “Family” alum Jeff Sharlet accuses Christian organizers of the annual bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast of cult-like propagandizing.

It was filmed in part on the grounds of the “Cedars,” built in the 1870s as the Doubleday Mansion next to Fort C.F. Smith.

In response last week, the foundation released a statement: “Though the Netflix docudrama series mischaracterizes the work of the Fellowship and attempts to portray people of faith in a bad light, we are encouraged by how often viewers are introduced to, and challenged by, the person and principles of Jesus, which are at the core of our mission and message.”

My viewing got me thinking of the many newsmaking organizations — of all political stripes — that have long populated our suburb so close to the action of the nation’s capital. Wilson Blvd. and Crystal City alone are home to enough colorful groups to generate a slew of political and public policy contretemps.

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The Trump 2020 campaign offices, you probably know, are in Rosslyn (Hillary Clinton’s in 2008 were in Ballston on Fairfax Dr.).

Among the Trump ideological allies we host are the American Legislative Exchange Council, which drafts model conservative bills for state legislatures, and the Koch Brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity, which advocates conservative and libertarian economics.

Chiming in on the agenda of curbing immigration is the advocacy group Numbers USA.

In the past, Arlington has played host to ever further-rightist groups, among them: The American Nazi Party (1958-83), and, more recently, the National Policy Institute (advocating for “people of European descent” and run by Richard Spencer). It moved to Alexandria in 2017.

Back to the mainstream, among the most important lobbyists of Congress on the annual National Defense Authorization Act are three Wilson Blvd. groups: The Professional Services Council, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Aerospace Industries Association, all of which represent contractors.

Pushing to protect the interests of military service members are the Association of the U.S. Army, the Air Force Association and the Navy League of the United States.

The conservative Independent Women’s Forum long resided on Wilson Blvd. before becoming a virtual organization in 2011. It was just blocks from the liberal Feminist Majority Foundation, still grounded here.

Arlington’s national education advocacy groups once included the American Association of School Administrators, which was in Rosslyn for three decades before moving to Alexandria in 2011. The National Science Teaching Association is still on Arlington soil. Also on Wilson is the Association of Fund-Raising Professionals.

Our environmental activists include the Nature Conservancy and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Arlington can’t claim to host a global media giant on the scale of Netflix (though half of Amazon counts for something). But we do boast two national-level players in the nonprofit media world: Shirlington-based WETA, where the syndicated “NewsHour” originates, and PBS headquarters in Crystal City.

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My nomination for our most exotic advocacy outfit is Toffler Associates Inc., a strategic advisory firm for organizations based on writings of the late author Alvin “Future Shock” Toffler. I take its presence as a sign that Arlington, as a site for movers and shakers, has a luminous future.


Our entertainment offerings demonstrate some evolution in the fine sport of bowling.

I recently sampled the new alleys at the Punch Bowl Social in Ballston Quarter.

It brought back childhood memories of the old AMF triangle-shaped automatic pin-setting machines I experienced at the long-vanished Skor-Mor and Pla-Mor lanes.

Back before World War II, the bowling alleys in Rosslyn relied on live employees called “pin boys” to reset the pins. Now the 21st-century lanes at Punch Bowl Social use pins tethered by strings — so they don’t venture far from the computerized resetter and scorekeeper.

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