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WHAT THE FOX? (How the Murdoch Brothers Hatched a Plan that ‘FOX over’ FNC Viewers while Saving the Planet and Sparing their Wives Further Embarrassment!)

In "The Media are the Massage" forum on May 22, 2017 at 3:37 pm

There is an old adage, familiar to most, that if something works, one should not attempt to fix it. We have no doubt the vast majority of our readers are conversant with this saying, and alert to its meaning; so much so that to explain it here for the benefit of the culturally illiterate seems pointless; first because it ill-repays everyone else’s kind attention, and second, because that rare reader who requires assistance comprehending so obvious a maxim will doubtless be equally bollixed by any attempt at elucidation. Therefore, we suggest that the apprehending majority proceed to this article’s gravamen, while the uncomprehending minority may also elect to proceed, placing its reliance on context in order to establish insight. Or, some may prefer to click over to, say, Infowars, where chemtrails, Pizza gate, and other sinister phenomena, are discussed in simple, easily comprehended terms.

But before plunging fully into the aforementioned gravamen, allow us to point out that unlike so many familiar aphorisms graven into the American psyche, the idea that something need not be repaired if it functions smoothly is virtually irrefutable. One may hear, “he who hesitates is lost,” for instance, and think ironically of Custer’s Last Stand—or reconsider the sagacity of “slow and steady wins the race,” in light of Jeb Bush’s disastrously phlegmatic bid for the presidency. But almost everybody agrees that a marvelously efficient apparatus need not be overhauled in the moment (continuous quality improvement notwithstanding), and this seems even more apparent when the apparatus is essential to some aspect of the nation’s cultural welfare—as is Fox News.

So, if  ‘he who hesitates is lost’ is wrong, but so is ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ how confusing is that?

We at WOOF gaze with considerable dismay upon the widely reported efforts to dismantle the Fox News Channel, or, put more exactly, to transform it—to reshape its core into something bound to prove anathema to the tastes and expectations of its millions of loyal viewers.

Some predicted Turner’s CNN would counter liberal media bias–but when Ted went hunting with Castro and married Jane Fonda, hope perished.

Not even the liberal media could invent a means of diminishing or obfuscating Fox’s primacy among the 24-hour news contenders. A public trained to think “CNN” when it thought of around-the-clock news broadcasting, came despite itself to an awareness that Fox News dwarfed Ted Turner’s band of whiny propagandists in the ratings…and, put frankly, in news coverage. True, a sizable sub-population of that public remained aloof from FNC’s programming, persuaded by the full force of the Liberal Establishment that Fox comprised little beyond an assortment of thunderously fascistic Cro-Magnons, babbling blond Stepford Anchorwomen (whose vacuous skulls had been filled with GOP talking points), and a supporting cast of Republican Party shills whose main function, the Left insisted, was to tell lies.

Lois of “Family Guy” actually enjoyed a brief career at Fox News Channel.

The mythology of Fox’s reliance on calculated prevarication was soon run threadbare by the progressive hierarchy to the point that it became an object of satire on the cartoon program Family Guy. In one episode, for example, Lois, the cartoon housewife, is seen ranting about Fox’s inveracity when she is challenged by the family dog (who talks). The dog accuses her of hyperbole, but Lois doubles down, snarling, “Everything on Fox News is a lie… even true things, once said on Fox News, become lies!” Certainly, that was the official view of the Obama Administration for eight years. But while the “Fox lies!” mantra busied the tongues of besotted liberals and frightened off, one must assume, legions of the irreclaimably naïve, it proved insufficient to thwart FNC’s rise to cable supremacy.

In the beginning…

The late Roger Ailes–looking rightward.

It was February of 1996 when Australian publisher and multimedia mogul Rupert Murdoch hired former GOP strategist-cum-NBC producer Roger Ailes to mastermind the Fox News Channel. Scoffers marveled at the stupidity of “reinventing CNN,” simultaneously pointing out that NBC was launching MSNBC (does anyone know what that actually stands for?) and that a 24-hour news channel run by so hallowed and sacrosanct a broadcasting entity as NBC in combination with the ultra-branded CNN would obviously crush any upstart competitors.

Fox’s refusal to play by the rules of establishment (read: liberal) journalism made it instantly attractive to conservatives among whom Murdoch’s experiment built a swiftly expanding viewership. Moreover, Fox presented liberal viewpoints by a far greater ratio than conservatism appeared elsewhere, thus moderates began to admire the fresh approach too. During the Republican National Convention in 2000, Fox’s ratings handily outpaced all three major (which is to say, hallowed and sacrosanct) news networks, and increased another 300 percent during the American invasion of Iraq.

Heresy!

Hmmm–something’s up.

Further digression into particulars needn’t consume us. Suffice it that Fox climbed from obscurity to the position of America’s number one source for cable news at so dazzling a velocity that establishment progressives were hard pressed to internalize, let alone oppose, the phenomenon. Slowly, in that recalcitrant way in which ponderous beasts react to some peripheral annoyance, the Left began to recognize the magnitude of Murdoch’s heresy. For establishment panjandra, this entailed a more challenging cognitive adjustment than one might suppose. It required stretching the liberal weltanschauung to accommodate three distasteful propositions.

Shattering paradigm (file photo)

First, the guardians of America’s informational orthodoxy were obliged to accept that the major networks, whose news divisions were known to be hallowed and  sacrosanct if only by dint of their ritualistic practice of so describing themselves, had been outclassed in the ratings war by a bunch of conservatives and neocons with no entrée into the progressive guild, and no interest in seeking any. This realization alone was, as the lexicographically slipshod might say, paradigm shattering.

Second, one could not efficiently analyze the success of Fox without acknowledging coinstantaneously that American TV viewers liked Fox’s handling of events more than any competing network’s, and sometimes more than any combination of them, because on a really dark day FNC would pull higher numbers than CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC put together.

The Nielsen ratings– an inconvenient truth.

Third, these facts conduced ineluctably toward one of two available conclusions, neither of which inspired optimism on the Left. Either (a) the American people were more inclined to conservatism than to liberalism, which would disprove longstanding elitist claims to the contrary–or else, (b) vast enclaves of otherwise sensibly progressive citizens were tuning in Fox News every night, beguiled by Roger Ailes’s media sorcery. Once hooked, such viewers apparently surrendered their adjudicative powers and descended ever deeper into the reactionary abyss where they were irretrievably transformed by Murdoch’s dark alchemy. These poor wretches—and there appeared to be millions of them– misperceived themselves as entertained and informed whereas in fact they were merely the former, any semblance of the latter being so interlarded with lies, distortions, and bigotry, as to render it dismissible.

Regarding the above, notice that whether one embraces the first or second alternative, the leftwing perspective relies on the barely concealed subtext that Americans are stupid. (Stupid being the most widely circulated synonym among progressives for ‘not liberal.’) But better they be stupid on account of Roger Ailes’s magical mental manipulations than by mere dictate of nature, and thus the second option of the third proposition carried the day, explaining the second proposition, and maybe even the first. And so was born the “Fox-lies!” mantra, echoed robotically by liberals everywhere, even today. Not only does Fox lie, but in the progressive estimation, Fox lies so skillfully and seductively that Americans prefer it– not only because many of them are stupid (meaning ‘not liberal’), or even because quite a few more are simply stupid, (meaning stupid, in the general sense of acceptation), but mainly because the majority are, in fact, stupefied, which is to say, mesmerized by Rupert Murdoch’s insidious legerdemain. Enter now the progressive passion for “re-education.”

“Just a FOX story!”

For two decades now, Americans have endured a withering barrage of propaganda from every conduit dispensing left-leaning commentary (which is nearly all of them), to the effect that Fox lies, Fox isn’t really a news network (an Obaman favorite), Fox is homophobic, Fox is racist, Fox is Islamophobic, Fox is—well, you get the idea. The enterprising liberal eristic (of that subspecies at least one specimen of which inevitably winds up at Thanksgiving dinner) will always have an ample supply of politically-correct insertions in mind, whereby the basic anti-Fox template may be adjusted to address almost any conversational variant.

“Ummm…lessee…’Operation Fast and Furious?’ Ummm…I think that’s just a Fox Story.”

The Obama administration made excellent tactical use of this planted axiom. Whenever Fox went to air with details of yet another Obama travesty, Obama or one of his acolytes would smirk and declare, “Well, that’s just a Fox story!” and reporters would snicker, nod, and forget the matter. In fact, the President on such occasions was speaking literal truth, since the near-absolute refusal by establishment networks to spotlight anything unfavorable to the regime meant that any hint of scandal, blunder, or illegality associated with Obama was instantly “spiked,” with the predictable result that Fox would be the only network reporting it. Thus, almost every one of the administration’s miscreancies over eight years of unprecedented contempt for law, truth, and the Constitution, might be accurately described as “just a Fox story!”

As vociferously as the liberal networks promulgate this interpretation of Fox’s appeal, one might reasonably assume some effect would be had—but efforts by the punditry to warn viewers of Fox’s wanton disregard for the higher principles of responsible (read: liberal) reportage made no measurable dent in Fox’s ratings. One reason, obviously, was that no matter how often or how emphatically the liberal networks rehearsed Fox’s infamies, no means existed by which to inform the masses–other than by purchasing advertising space on Fox News, which claimed most of the viewers. For the elites in New York, D.C. and Los Angeles, such ignominy would be unendurable, so the likes of Chris Matthews and Don Lemon found themselves limited to warning their comparatively miniscule audiences that Fox was awful—a belief already shared, presumably, by most of their viewers. Small wonder if the resultant frustration drove certain of these journalistic Titans to the occasional social drink.

Looking on the bright side, Fox’s deliverance from the grip of its fascistic, warmongering, misogynistic former executives may have a salvific effect on Don Lemon’s liver.

Following America’s penultimate attempt at national suicide, (we refer here to the 2008 presidential election), President Obama joined in the effort, lambasting Fox News at every opportunity from the Bully Pulpit, even attempting on one occasion to lock Fox out of a news conference, and whining incessantly to anyone who would listen about the colossal unfairness of Fox’s coverage, which often criticized him, whereas all the other televised news operations waxed giddy at his approach.

In a reckless attempt to boost ratings, Joe Scarborough challenges Barney Frank to an impromptu game of patty-cake.

One might suppose that attacks by the administration combined with the exertions of establishment journalists and manipulations by the entertainment industry (which made Fox the butt of endless jokes inserted into movie and TV scripts, sitcoms, rap recordings, and late-night comedy monologues), would erode FNC’s popularity. Shown the error of their ways, thousands of repentant souls might reasonably be expected to grasp– however belatedly– the importance of watching real news as represented by credible journalists like Joe Scarborough (failed conservative talk radio host), or Van Jones (self-confessed communist subversive and 9/11 conspiracy theorist), Al Sharpton (diction-impaired race hustler and tax cheat), or certainly by old pros like Brian Williams (signer of the Declaration of Independence, first journalist to orbit the moon, Bronze Medal winner in Olympic Mahjong), but no! Despite eight years of unremitting, presidentially approved criticism, Fox News emerged unscathed.

Much of Fox’s success may be attributable the inadequacies of its competition. Even the ultra-elitist SALON admitted as recently as last November that “Watching MSNBC is pure torture!”

In fact, 2016 found Fox comfortably atop the ratings for basic cable viewers, prime time viewers, and “total day” viewers (a spot formerly ceded to CNN whose “branding” inclined more people to switch it on at some point in any week, however briefly). For emphasis, FNC delivered the best rated quarter for total viewers in the network’s history and spent ten consecutive weeks as the number one channel in total day viewers of all cable networks, bar none.

A series of unfortunate events…

But precisely at this point began what might be termed a series of unfortunate events, none of which, in any direct sense, reflected meddling by the organized Left. To begin with, a sudden flurry of charges was brought against Fox’s resident mastermind, Roger Ailes. Alysyn Camerota, for instance, charged Ailes with sexually harassing her during her stint at FNC following which Gretchen Carlson lodged similar accusations. Camerota’s complaints might be considered suspect by virtue of her subsequent CNN affiliation, while Carlson could reasonably be described as disgruntled, but when Megyn Kelly added her voice to the mix even as the venerable Greta Van Susteren (to whom WOOF invariably grants special dispensation on account of her being Urban Van Susteren’s daughter) switched from defending Ailes to tweeting her regrets that Ailes was “not better supervised,” the charges seemed substantial enough that few on the Right rushed to protest Ailes’s removal. Read more… Read the rest of this entry »

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