Tag Archives: Fox News

Roger Ailes’ special place in hell

Roger Ailes. Photo by Ninlan Reid, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
May 27, 2017

When Roger Ailes died this month, response was mixed. For some, the man who founded and led Fox News for more than two decades deserved a “special place in hell,” for how he corrupted journalism. That was certainly the opinion of military expert and author Tom Ricks, formerly of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, who made that very statement on NPR’s Fresh Air. On the other hand, progressive stalwart Rachel Maddows had nothing but kind words for Ailes, calling him gracious and kind and crediting him with giving her good tips about how to improve her show. She added that he never made a pass at her.

I’m old enough now to realize that both of this people are probably correct. I’ve learned over the years that you have to look at a person as a whole.  No one person is all bad (with a few exceptions), or all good. Sinners have their good points, and saints have skeletons in their closets.

It was Ailes’ personal foibles that led to his downfall. His relentless sexual harassment of the women who worked for him, and the way he penalized them if they rebuffed him, went on far too long. But it’s not his personal sins that interest me. There have been far too many men who couldn’t keep it in their pants, and used their positions in society to take advantage of women for, well, centuries.

I want to concentrate on his legacy in journalism, which is where I believe he left a very dark mark. Ricks had a phrase for what Ailes introduced in the media: “thug journalism.” It’s the kind of journalism for which former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and current Fox News regular Sean Hannity are best known. But it was Ailes who made sure a continual stream of Fox News “regulars” followed this script, which he invented. It openly featured angry white male far-right conservatives (and a few women – almost always blond – plus the occasional person of color), who were often openly homophobic, misogynist and racist. (Sometimes all three at once.)

When Ailes convinced Australian publishing tycoon Rupert Murdoch to launch Fox News in 1995, there was a legitimate argument that there was a need for a more conservative voice in the media. A good friend of mine, a life-long Republican, said he had gone years without hearing more than the odd conservative voice or viewpoint on Mainstream Media, with especially few on regular or cable TV. But Ailes took that “good idea,” and twisted it and twisted it, to perfect “thug journalism.”

It was Ailes who gave Trump a national platform for his lies and birther views. It was Ailes who allowed his on-air hosts to talk about President Obama in ways often openly racist and always demeaning. It was Ailes who gave airtime to every crackpot conspiracy, anti-government theory, anti-immigrant diatribe, misogynist screed, and anti-Muslim speech imaginable.

He made a lot of money doing it. Like P.T. Barnum, Ailes realized that there is a sucker born every minute. And that he could feed them every lie he could dream up, and they would eat it up.

He played those suckers for all they were worth. He drove home every Republican talking point (many of which he came up with), and gave every elected conservative office holder and every conservative wannabe office holder a place to call home. (And they all sought his blessings before they ran.) And then to top it all off, he gave the suckers an out – he came up with a motto that helped create the illusion of Fox News as your gosh golly gee honest broker: “We report, you decide.”

It was totally bogus, just like everything else Fox News did. Under his guidance, Fox News misreported, obfuscated, ignored or just plain invented the news, for 22 years. And since his channel had way more suckers than all the other channels put together, he changed the tone of debate in the United States.

Ailes (with Murdoch — most especially Murdoch) played the largest role in creating the dysfunctional America that exists today, an America where about 40% live in a fantasy world that exists only on confirmation bias of their worst impulses. But that’s an America that is large enough to elect a Donald Trump, provided enough others stay home and pout for whatever reasons.

Few men have done more to cheapen what it means to be an American. And that is why there is a special place in hell for Ailes. Let’s hope it’s especially hot.

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

 

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Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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Trump’s gurus taken off air

Jones, O’Reilly, Ailes inspired some of 45’s wildest claims 

24 Hours of Fox News. Photo by Ed Kohler via Flickr, Creative Commons

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY
April 22, 2017

Last year brought the United States a video presidency. Many reports indicate that America’s 45th president is the first president to have trouble with basic reading above the Grade 4 level. Reportedly, he wants every issue to be reduced to no more than nine bullet points on a single page. (1)

He would rather get his information from outside sources – which has been a huge problem. For news and information, 45 relies on TV.  Interviewers often mention that 45 keeps the TV constantly blaring Fox News, which Politifact has named the least accurate cable news station.  (2)

When he’s on the Web, #45 likes Infowars, Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website, promoting theories such as blaming the US government for the Newtown school massacre, and claiming the media  deliberately don’t report terrorist incidents in order to push a diversity agenda.

 

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Some people are alarmed that Jones’ ideas have surfaced in 45’s speeches. As Jay Willis wrote in Gentleman’s Quarterly, “…. if Trump’s assertion that the press is withholding this information is pretty scary, his willingness to fill in those gaps with the dystopian fever dreams of Alex Jones is off-the-charts terrifying.”

On the other hand,  #45 is going to have to start flipping dials and searching websites for new news sources, because his favourite sources are rapidly self-destructing.

Take Roger Ailes, who (with 20th Century Fox owner Rupert Murdoch’s approval) shaped Fox News into a vehicle for white men’s revenge fantasies, as well as a very successful business, with profits estimated at more than $1 billion a year.

“Murdoch tapped Ailes to create and run the network in 1996, ushering in a controversial new era in cable news,” CNN Money reported last year. “By hiring hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and enforcing a conservative editorial point of view, Ailes developed a virtual public square for the American right and filled a void on television. It has dominated all other cable news channels for 14 years.

“The channel claimed to be ‘fair and balanced,’ but in reality its programming was tilted in favor of conservative opinions and Republican politics, reflecting the views of Ailes himself. Fox mixed daily news reporting and nightly conservative opinion in ways that many critics found to be damaging to American discourse. But Fox’s many fans said it was a necessary counterweight to liberal media bias….”  (4)

Then came a shock. Last year, Roger Ailes had to resign from Fox News, after news anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him – and other Fox anchors quickly piled on with their own complaints about his behaviour. He’ll need the $40 million contract-payout he reportedly received from Fox, to respond to Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit, and perhaps others.

All the leggy blonde women news anchors on Fox look like they’re just about to compete in a Miss Universe contest – and that’s no coincidence, says Liza Mundy. She was surprised by how the Fox make-up department started plastering on cosmetics for her own guest appearance, ” … there is a YouTube montage devoted to leg shots of Fox anchors, who are often outfitted in body-hugging dresses of vibrant red and turquoise, their eyes enhanced by not only liner and shadow but also false lashes. A Fox regular once commented to me that she gets more calls from network management about her hair, clothes, and makeup than about what she says. ‘I just think of it as a uniform,’ she said of her getup….” (5)

This week, Fox News has also fired  Bill O’Reilly, (and risked his audience of four million cable viewers),  for the same reason as his boss: charges of sexual harassment. CNN called this move a very big deal.

“[Bill] O’Reilly… was the front-facing spokesman for the modern-day conservative movement just as now-deposed Fox boss Roger Ailes was its behind-the-scenes architect.

For the generation of conservatives who came into their political prime from the late 1990s through, well, today, O’Reilly was a North Star of sorts… a tough-talking populist, willing to stare down the so-called ‘mainstream media’ and skewer political correctness….”

The New York Times broke the story on April 1, reporting that O’Reilly had settled sexual harassment with five women to the tune of  $13 million with five women – and the Fox network stood by him and helped with the payments.

“Since then,” the Times reported on April 19, “more than 50 advertisers had abandoned his show, and women’s rights groups had called for him to be fired.” An internal investigation reportedly turned up “multiple” other women who had complaints they hadn’t filed – yet. (6)

Among the very few who rose to O’Reilly’s defense was Donald Trump, a long-time friend and unabashed fan of O’Reilly’s.  Similarly, Trump the candidate is very much in the O’Reilly political mold, says CNN. (7)

“[As a candidate] Trump embodied many of the principles that O’Reilly had popularized over the years — most notably a visceral rejection of political correctness and a willingness to blame most of the problems in the country on a biased and liberal media.”

Trevor Noah said that Bill O’Reilly’s “angry white man” persona was the basis for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Radio host Alex Jones is another “angry white man,” widely known as “America’s greatest conspiracy theorist.”

During last fall’s election, Spin Magazine called Jones “a bona fide force in mainstream American politics.” From his Austin, Texas home, his show beams to 160 stations across the US, while his websites attract an estimated 7.5 million views. (8)

Alex Jones is a leading “Truther.” “It would be unthinkable for any other major-party presidential candidate to willingly appear on a show with a man who believes that the U.S. government was involved in conducting the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, as Jones does, or to intimate that he would not accept the results of the election, an impulse that Jones encourages,” wrote Andy Cush in early 2016.

Yet #45 has echoed many of Jones’ completely unsubstantiated theories. A Clinton ad used a clip from Jones’ radio show where Jones said, “It is surreal to talk about issues here on air, and then, word-for-word, hear Trump say it two days later.” While not a top-tier player like Steve Bannon, Jones has been highly influential to #45’s tweets and public comments.

Another shocker – this last Tuesday, April 18,  Kelly Jones, Jones’ estranged wife, sued for divorce and sole custody of their three children, citing some of Alex Jones’ on-air rants as proof that he is mentally unstable and not a suitable parent.

“He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped,” she testified. He broadcast his show from their home, with the children present.

In response, Alex Jones’ lawyer stated that Jones was playing a role when he was on-air. He was a performance artist. He didn’t really mean his threats against others, or his encouraging others to take violent action against his imaginary demons. Gag me with a spoon. (9)

Meanwhile, a dozen other big-name Fox News hosts have left for other venues. Bill O’Reilly is facing challenges in replacing his reputed $18 million annual salary. Alex Jones will probably need the performance of his life to carry on his radio and online career, not to mention his personal life.

What all these personalities have in common, #45 included, is that they eschewed the politically correct. They openly portrayed white male rage about losing privilege. They, and the US public, are learning that the privileged white male position is inherently toxic, to themselves and others.

Copyright Penney Kome 2017

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

Notes:

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-president-reportedly-doesnt-read-memos-thats-a-huge-problem_us_589f1b6de4b094a129eb6ed6
  2. https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/fox-news/
  3. http://www.gq.com/story/donald-trump-loves-infowars
  4. http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/21/media/roger-ailes-leaves-fox-news/
  5. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/foxy-ladies/309054/
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/business/media/bill-oreilly-fox-news-allegations.html?_r=0
  7. http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/19/politics/bill-oreilly-fox-news-ailes/
  8. http://www.spin.com/featured/the-invisible-empire-of-alex-jones/
  9. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/infowars-alex-jones-performance-artist-playing-character-lawyer-conspiracy-theory-donald-trump-a7687571.html

Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome here

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Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page or use the PayPal button below to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The sound of white noise

by Patrick Finn2gan/ Wisconsin Union Protest Fox News signs Creative Commons

Photo: Patrick Finn2gan, Wisconsin Union Protest Fox News signs, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
March, 2016

Sometimes, when I’m driving late at night to pick up my wife at a train stop, or on my way to some event in Washington (about an hour from where I live) I turn on conservative talk radio. Just to listen to the other side.

And the angry voices fill my car.

Hatred for Obama. Hated for minorities. Hatred for liberals. Hatred, hatred, hatred. Wildly distorted stories. Incredibly magnified slights. Total fantasies. Normally punctured by a message about buying gold coins (the favorite of conservatives) or Gold Bond powder. Because old white Americans are kinda fat and they chaff a bit.

And make no mistake about it. These bile-filled diatribes are aimed at white Americans. The people behind these voices that creep out of my car radio – Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, Mike Savage and a host of angry local white people, depending on which state you are in – are a very large part of the reason that this country finds itself poised on the brink of an electoral meltdown. It’s as if the hate they have preached for so long has taken physical form in The Donald, and now that they have loosed it on the land, they can’t control it anymore even if they so desired

And when speaking of media that created manufactured fantasies about right-wing bugaboos, let us not forget Mr. Murdoch’s golem – Fox News. (I find myself straining to use the word “news” in association with this media outlet, as so little of it can be found there.) It’s not just that Fox News is in fact a propaganda outlet for the conservative movement (and the GOP when it falls in step with Fox’s president and master manipulator Roger Ailes’ dictates). There are plenty of reasonable, thoughtful conservative voices in the media. I might not agree with them, but I find their arguments cogent and thoughtful. It’s not conservatism that’s the main problem. It’s the way Fox News (and sister channels like Glenn Beck’s The Blaze) twist and manipulate facts to reinforce a very far-right agenda.

So for instance this week, various Fox News hosts railed against President Obama for not attending the funeral of former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Yet another slight committed by the man who “hates America.” Only problem is that presidents NEVER attend the funerals of former First Ladies. Not Reagan, not Carter, neither Bush, not Clinton. But on Fox News, facts that deepen your understanding of a story are harder to find than Duke fans in Chapel Hill.

Well, America is the land of the First Amendment, and the main answer to bad speech is lots of good speech. Which is a great idea, but doesn’t really work that way in reality. The fact is that the media landscape is dominated by right-wing talk. You do have liberal or centrist outlets as well, like the New York Times and National Public Radio (NPR), and cable outlets like MSNBC and CNN (sort of). But they cannot be accused of the regular daily falsification, manipulation, distortion and fabrication of the news that conservative media produces like it’s done on an assembly line.

And this is not just some rant of mine. Study after study after study (see select examples in the links below) have shown that conservative outlets like Fox News regularly misreport or distort the news, often leading people to believe outright lies or fabrications.

A conservative friend of mine used to say to me when Fox News first came along that it provided an information outlet for many Americans who felt that the “liberal” media did not address their concerns. I think he was right. There was room for a voice like Fox.

But over the years, that voice has become like a screech rising out of an 19th century insane asylum. And Fox News and white Americans, terrified of the future, feed on each other in a deeply misguided symbiotic relationship: the more Fox News rails against Obama, the more conservative white Americans blame him for EVERYTHING wrong with the country, the more Fox News picks up on this anger and channels it into programing, etc., etc. etc.

If Ted Cruz wants to really find someone to blame for the rise of Donald Trump, it’s not Obama he should point to, as he did earlier this week. It’s the hundreds of hate-filled far-right voices that fill the soundscape of American political life. In their efforts to demonize Obama and all things connected with a more center-left point of view, these voices have largely destroyed the ability of Americans to compromise with each other. In fact, compromise has become synonymous with betrayal and treason in this world view.

The presence of these voices is one main reason I fear for what happens after the 2016 election if (and when) Trump is defeated, especially if it is Hillary Clinton that dispatches him. I’ve heard more than a few of these voices call for rebellion in the past over issues like health care and education. Imagine the howls that will arise over a Clinton victory. (Michael Savage, one of the very worst hate mongers, has already declared Clinton a dictator who will try to take away guns to prevent an armed uprising.) Where will all that anger go?

I think America is in for a very rough patch. And right-wing conservative media will bear a large part of the blame.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

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References:
The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting* http://qje.oxfordjournals.org/content/122/3/1187.short

Misperceptions, Media and the Iraq War:  http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Iraq/IraqMedia_Oct03/IraqMedia_Oct03_rpt.pdf

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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