Fox News may be starting to crumble
It seems that Fox News is finally unraveling, as Roger Ailes’ right-hand-man (a PR whiz) was sacked possibly because he fed critical info to the author of the real Ailes biography (due out in January 2014, “The Loudest Voice in the Room”).
In the preemptively-written authorized bio (as he was anticipating a bleak depiction), Ailes is portrayed as a hard-working, straight-talking tough guy with noble intentions. But as we’re soon to learn more about, he is responsible for creating pejorative noise in an expanding echo chamber around thematically-neutral topics that are not perfectly congruent with:
A) a pre-counter-culture, idealised American landscape of strong-willed individuals climbing social ladders with booming small, medium, and big business, completely oblivious and immune to satire
B) the thinly-veiled strategy, as well as the momentary impulses, of senior GOP officials who often are (or invested in) those seeking re-election
We all (or is it most of us?) know that Fox News under Ailes could not be further from actual journalism. But, its impact on policy and elections, and the nurturing of astonishingly ignorant ideas and positions, is so depressing because it is so significant.
[ Nothing needs to be said about the Glenn Becks, Alex Joneses, or Westboro Baptists of the world, because only a handful of people are actually listening. Fox News, however, will make $1.11 billion this year from subscription fees before it ever sells a single commercial (Kagan, 2013; Huffington Post, 2013). It will average over two million nightly prime-time viewers this year with a median age of almost 66. Sadly, Fox News matters.
There is plenty of commentary and analysis on the mirroring of GOP strategies by Fox News talking points (from ‘B’ above; see Media Matters for America for more). I have a few thoughts on (A). ]
It seems to me that most people who watch Fox for news do so because they know they’re unlikely to hear something they cannot understand. The ‘news’ is packaged so that it can be related to the old days. Luddites, traditionalists, religionists, old east-coast elitists believing themselves to be entrusted with the retooled legacy of European aristocracy, the mentally unresponsive, the gleeful housewife, and The Wise Hick, all gather ‘round the TV to hear Bill O’Reilly tell us how the world is changing for the worse.
The stench of nostalgia is so thick, it reinforces for me a most painful truth: human society evolves, on the whole, very slowly, but just fast enough to make it excruciating for anyone who sees the future as an opportunity to correct mistakes. When we look carefully at our past in the present, we immediately see extreme horrors and blunders (racism, sexism, war) and their legacy. And yet, it would not be difficult to find someone who believes it actually was better in the old days.
Now, this is something for small town elderly, surely. Unless, of course, you are the chief agent of the largest news group on the planet. He is actually quoted as saying [if he were president today] he:
[…] would sign no legislation, create no new regulations, and allow the country to return to its natural, best self, which he locates, with modest social amendments, somewhere in mid-western America circa 1955.
That’s about what I figured for the Fox News demographic: people who actually desire that. And, as a product, one cannot be shocked to find such a thing exists. But, for the staff to actually believe in the message? When such people have extraordinary power, well…that’s how you get a backwards-facing America with a strange and uninformed perspective potentially comprising 40% of the electorate. When the generation with the most economic power steers society towards a reenactment of some vision of their childhood, the weaker generations are forced to expend vast amounts of resources in order to recoup some of the losses.
That is one of the most interesting things about this whole mess: we’re talking about the baby-boomers, who then became the most socially-revolutionary generation in human history. This is not orthodoxy, or pure traditionalism. This is just selfishness that happens to sell well to people who are also confused. Most of the programming is basically people shouting that they don’t understand society, and their lack of comprehension makes them angry. I think that is what Roger Ailes and Karl Rove do on a daily basis. Then they go and hire confident and charismatic entertainers to relay the confusion, just like a preacher with nothing substantial to contribute. This confusion becomes a catalyst for group-identity formation, and it’s a very lucrative enterprise when they can huddle under a party banner—which Rupert Murdoch is quite happy about.
[ There are other key players here, e.g. the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who are also billionaire religious fundamentalists directly responsible for increasing violence in the Middle East. Thanks, guys. ]
The staff changes at Fox could mirror some kind of internal consternation about the need to perform better in 2016+ (again, the network’s direct link to GOP candidates), and a disagreement over which absurd programming tactics to employ whilst increasing ratings. And perhaps the ex-PR chief will comment on that later—or we read about in the book.
So, if Fox’s stranglehold on conservative America is weakening, or about to weaken, there may be room for optimism—particularly for quality conservative candidates wherever they can or may exist (e.g. where we talk about gun ownership, protectionism, or public sector reform, and NOT about an LGBT or non-Christian invasion, or ‘America the world leader’, or any use of the word ‘socialism’). Fox’s treatment of mildly-worthy conservative candidates has, historically, been awful. As Ailes’ current contract runs through 2016, it’s possible we could see a moderate turn to correct the errors of 2012. I suspect, though, that we’ll probably see them sabotage the complicated even more, with more female anchors to counter-balance the Hilary hate.