Fox News has been in the news a lot this week. Not reporting it, of course, but making it.
There was Fox's signing of rogue-wannabe Guv'nuh Sarah P. this week, which made many of us wonder why the two hadn't embraced (contractually) before. Then came a New York Times profile, also this week, of Fox News' uberfuhrer/creator Roger Ailes written by David Carr and Tim Arango.
The Times Business section piece said of the highly profitable cable network's Cheney-like boss:
"This outsize success (in the ratings) has placed Mr. Ailes, an aggressive former Republican political strategist, at the pinnacle of power in three corridors of American life: business, media and politics."
Scary, but true. Ailes is Rupert Murdoch's evil genius. Thank God most Republicans today aren't half as clever.
For years, we've heard much about former Bush advisor/now Fox Commentator Karl Rove, aka "Bush's Brain." But we haven't heard nearly enough about the secretive, security-encircled Ailes, who's arguably done more to spread fear and hatred in this country than anyone since Joe McCarthy.
J. Edgar Hoover lookalike Ailes, who has a face like a clenched fist, is a long-time TV veteran who once produced Mike Douglas' inane chat show (the late George Carlin mentions Ailes' unpleasant demeanor way back then in his recently released "Last Words"). Ailes has used cynical but well-worn TV tactics to pump up his cable carnival-attraction net's ratings: fear and eye candy.
The fear part we know about. The Dick Cheney types and apologists who populate Fox Noise. Many Americans are, we've seen since 9-11, easily scared. (Has anyone else noticed CNN's desperate-looking, ridiculously overblown terror-intensive coverage the past two weeks? )
Then there's Fox's sexy visuals. A look at Fox's commentator/anchor lineups shows a predominance of attractive blondes (long called "newsbabes" in TV newsrooms), but these blondes, who cynically appeal to the network's testosterone-poisoned male demo, are willing to be venal and nasty -- e.g., Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and disgraceful human oddity Ann Coulter.
Ailes' undeniable business success, however, has come at the expense of our political system's health. Fox has probably done more than anything else to kill bipartisanship and reasonable political dialogue in this country. Like talk radio, it is a massively polarizing force in today's media. Fox News -- talk about an oxymoron -- has become not a useful political counterweight for conservatives, but an outsized megaphone for the extreme right wing.
I wish President Obama would spell this out once in awhile and stop being so mindful of the hard right in his decision-making: These are NOT conservatives like, say, George Will or David Brooks. These are full-blown extremists, liars and crackpots Ailes puts on display 24 hours a day, the kind once associated with the John Birch Society.
Unleashing the likes of sideshow attraction Glenn Beck, schoolyard bully Bill O'Reilly, and Gumby lookalike Sean Hannity on the airwaves is something traditional broadcasters would have never done - back in the days when the FCC actually yanked people's licenses, that is.
In the Times piece, Clinton adviser James Carville says that if Ailes were a Democrat, "there would be 67 Democratic Senators right now."
One could argue that some Democratic Senators, by being fearful of Ailes' 24-hour hit squad, might as well be Republicans.
So, while Fox News, as the Times story stresses, may be a financial success story, it's also a malignant tumor on the body politic. For that you can thank Roger Ailes.