The breathless fawning of Colby Hall and the other Fox apologists at Mediaite aside, no serious person believes any more that Fox “News” is either a news channel, or a source of “fair and balanced” information. But what Fox is, and the larger conservative myth-making factory it is simply one very large, very important part of, is the real story worth uncovering. Case in point: Fox boss Roger Ailes, who let a whole lot of cats out of the bag while opening up to conservative media critic Howard Kurtz…
Having already put the official Fox stamp on the conservative media/political meme that President Barack Obama is a Socialist in part one of his interview, Ailes ripped the veil off the ideology that permeates the purported cable news network, where Obama and Democrats, and those who support them, are regularly painted, in ways large and small, as Socialists, Marxists, Hitlerian automatons, black nationalists and more. Highlights of part two:
When Jon Stewart was appearing on the O’Reilly Factor a few weeks back, he stopped by Roger Ailes’ office for an hour-long chat about politics.
“He’s obviously really, really smart,” the Fox News chairman says. “He openly admits he’s sort of an atheist and a socialist. He once told me he would’ve voted for Norman Thomas.”
Ailes was appraising the Daily Show star in a friendly, good-natured tone. But that tone changed when the conversation turned to Stewart’s continuous carping about the excesses of cable news:
“He hates conservative views. He hates conservative thoughts. He hates conservative verbiage. He hates conservatives.”
There was more.
“He’s crazy. If it wasn’t polarized, he couldn’t make a living. He makes a living by attacking conservatives and stirring up a liberal base against it.” …
“They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.”
Ailes of course then attempted to get back on message, insisting that indeed, Fox is a news channel, and is fair to Democrats. But Media Matters has talked to sources inside the network who beg to differ, including a long-time contributor to the network:
“It becomes increasingly incestuous. If you look at the line-up and who is on the shows, they feed on each other. You see Beck on O’Reilly and it is not just the candidates. They do not have the real serious contenders, which are not Huckabee and Palin. That surprises me because it is a news organization. I don’t recall a time in news when this has happened.”
The same source also complained about the presence of extreme views: “I think Fox has very good coverage on Shep Smith, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier. The others are more political slugfests and extremists. It narrows your audience.”
Asked if the “political slugfests and extremists” included Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, the contributor responded, “Yes.”
The other source, a current Fox News staffer, cited Shepard Smith’s show as among the few straight news programs on the network: “I wish we had more programs like that, with high news content.”
The staffer added, “There are people who are concerned that the opinion side bleeds over the news side. More of our programs are turning into opinion programs. It is frustrating.”
“We are a 24-hour news operation and in that time there are sometimes three stories we cover,” the staffer also said. “We cover the ones that we cover to death. Even as a viewer, I am like, ‘I get this, can we move on to the next thing?’”
“Can’t we do something new and different? I am bored with hearing the same stuff over and over again.”
The veteran staffer also said that the assignments are made based on what will draw ratings, not news content: “When you sit in the meetings, it is all about ratings. I would like to do more real journalism and it is frustrating. Why do we have to pander to the extreme?”
Asked about the potential candidates who frequently appear on Fox, the staffer responded: “Our bookers are begging Democrats to come on, we bend over backwards to get them and they won’t go on. It is ridiculous and unfortunate. I don’t think it is a valid reason not to go on, but they feel that way and it hurts our credibility if we can never get Democrats to go on.”
“It feels frustrating that there is a lot of real journalism that goes on here, but what tends to get attention is what is controversial,” the staffer added. “It gives the perception that the newsroom is in disarray.”
Of course, Fox News is just the biggest fish in an increasingly fetid pond of right wing media that exist to do just a small number of very simple things: get more Republicans elected to office nationwide (something that used to be Ailes’ official job as a Republican political consultant and essentially still is as a media objective,) and take down the Democratic president of the United States (while going all-out to build up the failed president who preceded him — an effort Dick Cheney seems to think is working…) Others include the pollster Scott Rasmussen (partner of Doug “Obama should give up the presidency preemptively” Schoen) whose polls were rated by Nate Silver in the just finished election cycle as consistently biased and inaccurate; plus a small but potent constellation of “independent” blogs like RedState and HotAir, “conservative” think tanks, talk radio shows, magazines and commentators, many of whom share the same financing pool of wealthy, right wing billionaires. And then, of course, there’s the Koch-funded “tea party movement,” which is little more than a populist front for these same ideological warriors, whose ultimate aim is to keep the plutocrats walled off from a panoply of government remedies for their profligate theft of public dollars, whether through outright fraud on Wall Street, or deregulation that strips workers of protection, while padding their profits with corporate welfare and deep tax cuts that go mostly to them.
It all works together for the good of the super-rich, and ironically, wouldn’t be possible without the support of the not-so-rich, who are fed a steady diet of anger, hatred, racism, xenophobia and fear by the Rush Limbaughs, Glenn Becks, Sean Hannitys, Michelle Malkins and Erick Ericksons of the world, and saturated with the right’s perfect Obama alternative: Sarah Palin (who like George W. Bush, would be the right’s perfect president, because as long as her ego was properly fed at all times, someone else would be running the country…) while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s secret PACs and others (helped by the radical core of the conservative Supreme Court,) make sure the dollars flow freely into the political process.
It all sounds terribly conspiratorial, but there’s no doubt about one thing: it’s damned effective, and if coincidental, it’s one hell of a coincidence.
And worst of all, Fox is such a giant gorilla in the room, it bleeds into the rest of the media, from the already conservative outlets like ABC News and Reagan Library-linked Politico, to supposedly liberal outlets like CBS and NBC, which often feel compelled to report on the back and forth narrative clanging around Fox’s echo chamber. And just reporting some of the stirrings of Fox gives their faux stories oxygen, not least by forcing actual political figures, including the president, to respond to their nonsense.
I wish we lived in a media environment where there was purely objective news, but as Keith Olbermann explained the other night in his blistering “special comment” responding to Ted Koppel’s false equivalence between Fox and MSNBC, that environment has almost never existed in news. “On the one hand, on the other hand” reporting is not reporting, it’s stenography. And not all information has equal weight. As Rachel Maddow explained last night on her show, just because somebody says something, doesn’t make it news. And Fox has so tainted the news gene pool, it’s getting increasingly difficult to pick the relevant news out of the chaff.
And that, too, is part of Roger Ailes’ genius.