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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… Besides, he had already built the Fox machine—devised its components and imbued the network with its unique pizzazz—so if he was a creep into the bargain, he might be safely set aside while his creation rolled on, or so many assumed.

Carlson and Ailes–never a love match.

But even as the Ailes controversy reached critical mass, the redoubtable Rupert Murdoch announced his retirement, and the elevation of his sons, James and Lachlan, to leadership positions at FNC where they would perform as his de facto successors. A New York Times story entitled “In House of Murdoch, Sons Set About an Elaborate Overhaul,” was accompanied by a splashy portrait of the Murdoch lads gazing determinedly toward a far horizon, faces set confidently in the best tradition of socialist realism. In the background, Rupert appeared to look on with a certain sense of world-weary detachment. The younger Murdochs, the Times explained, were ready to “rid the company of the old-guard culture on which their father built his empire.” And for once, the Times had its facts straight.  Indeed, it transpired that James and Lachlan were instrumental in firing Roger Ailes.

Lachlan, James. and doting parents. They look so harmless when their little, don’t they!

Reading the Times piece by Brooks Barnes and Sydney Ember, one would think the Earps had arrived to clean up Tombstone, except that such imagery entails a profound logical fallacy. Students of debate learn three ways to recognize a false analogy, namely that a) it draws a comparison in which the differences outweigh the similarities, or b) the similarities are irrelevant, or c) the two things compared are not similar enough to warrant comparison to begin with. As a quick example, the Earps (at least in legend) were dauntless lawmen who cleaned up Tombstone because it was nihilistically dysfunctional and required rescue. But James and Lachlan are not the Earps—they are lackluster feather merchants stamped with Hollywood social values, besotted with all the usual liberal sanctimonies, anxious mainly to retain the good opinion of their toney peers. And Fox isn’t Tombstone—it’s a roaringly successful enterprise that only a pair of callow ninnyhammers handicapped by bossy wives and room-temperature IQs would seek to reinvent.

Left to right: Definitely not Lachlan, definitely not James.

The Times story admits papa Murdoch is less than comfy with the succession, although we are told he “spent decades plotting and re-plotting which of his children would take over his empire.” Obviously, he should have taken longer. Lachlan made a play for the crown as early as ’97, but a scornful Roger Ailes ran him off. Meanwhile, James so badly mismanaged the phone-hacking scandal swirling about the family’s tabloid empire in England that speculation turned to Rupert’s daughter Elisabeth as heir apparent. Elisabeth had experience running Britain’s Sky Network, and might well have righted the ship at Fox without undermining its editorial disposition; but instead, for whatever reason, the brothers were offered the helm.

Elisabeth Murdoch, flanked by her unprepossessing siblings. Where was she when we needed her?

Chickens in the Fox house….

Fox suddenly found itself at the mercy of James, the formerly bleached-blond, facially-pierced hipster, who dropped out of Harvard to found Rawkus Records, a hip-hop label, but converted to natty suits and fashionably thin-rimmed glasses (while sensibly reducing his facial jewelry to a single, tasteful eyebrow stud) before assuming control at FNC. Besides a who’s who of Hollywood celebrities and power players, his pals include Elon Musk and a predictable assortment of Silicon Valley savants.

The preternaturally good-looking Lachlan Murdoch, and his blonder half.

Lachlan, a Princeton graduate whose various tattoos and motorcycles serve as counterpoint to his eastern-liberal establishment upbringing, is breathlessly described by Vanity Fair as blessed with “preternatural good looks,” but the author must have been looking at the Times portraiture…no, even then, it won’t wash. If James resembles the quintessential pajama boy, nerdy, gawky, and probably inclined to exclaim “awesome” rather too often, Lachlan, at first glance, registers as the runty, insecure junior sibling. He lives in a swank Mandeville Canyon estate near Los Angeles with his wife, Sarah, a former model who twice appeared in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions and was the official face of ‘Wonderbra,’” whatever that is, back in 1997. Readers will be unsurprised to learn that (according to the Daily News), Sarah is “progressive minded.” Her several autobiographical contributions to celebrity magazines include such poignant disclosures as “I’m No Superwoman,” and “How I Stay Real.”

James and Kathryn Murdoch–ready to take charge and make Fox awesome! 

Tellingly, James no sooner grabbed the attention of media watchers than he rushed to a National Geographic event where he pledged to render Fox News “scientifically literate,” by which, of course, he meant committed to ruthlessly suppressing the vast stores of evidence demonstrating flaws in the global-warming argument. Nothing “fair and balanced” in the climate-change debate, after all; you’re either apostle or apostate, and apostates, as everybody knows, are persecuted relentlessly by sober-minded advocates of “settled science.”

In tune with the times….

“Thank God the culture at FOX News is changing–maybe now I can get to shore without drowning!”

One such advocate is James’s fashionably-green trophy wife Kathryn, whose “driving interest in environmentalism” (per the Times) is best evinced by her work on behalf of—wait for it—the Clinton Climate Initiative, not to mention the subversive Environmental Defense Fund. Having apparently studied climatology and environmentalism between photo shoots while modeling in Oregon, Kathryn is cited as the chief architect of James’s “pro-environmental” mindset. As far back as 2007, James was urging his father (a long-time “denier”) to adopt initiatives aimed at making the Murdoch empire carbon neutral. “A lot of people are worried about climate change but are waiting for someone else to do something about it,” James explained. “We are showing that you can take action…and… make employees feel good and…win customers by showing that the company’s values are in tune with the times.”

Despite considerable effort, WOOF could not locate any photos of Kathryn reacting to the horrors of election night; we hope this alternative depiction of the former First Lady  will suffice.

The Times piece proceeds to note approvingly that James and his “progressive-minded wife…have long been embarrassed by certain elements of Fox News…” and that James’s and Kathryn’s Twitter feed “shows disdain for President Trump.” (Shocking, we know.) In September, Kathryn (who ardently backed Hillary’s candidacy, as she did Barack Obama’s) tweeted: “A vote for Trump is a vote for climate catastrophe.” And on election eve, as Trump’s electoral advantage became incontrovertible, Kathryn tweeted, “I can’t believe this is happening. I am so ashamed.” And who can blame her? Obviously, a myopically heedless public somehow managed to miss so many of the cues and prompts so lavishly provided by the journalistic establishment, that the majority of Americans in most states shambled off to their polling places determined to vote in a manner hopelessly out of tune with the times.

Killing Bill….

TRUE FACT: Actress Uma Thurman has never accused Bill O’Reilly of sexually harassing her.

If the organized Left was only marginally involved in Roger Ailes’s removal (the brunt of the opposition comprising former Fox employees and the newly inserted Murdoch sibs), it was nonetheless quick to realize the incident’s potential. Thus, as if conjured by a magician’s wand, rent-a-mobs with pre-printed placards assembled outside Fox’s Manhattan headquarters demanding Bill O’Reilly’s ouster on similar grounds. And as if by Jungian synchronicity, an entire conga line of accusers added their voices to the one or two in O’Reilly’s past. Thin skinned advertisers began jumping ship in droves. O’Reilly, meanwhile, steadfastly maintained his innocence, explaining previous settlements as efforts to shield his family from a media circus.

WTF?

Certainly, the case against O’Reilly seemed far from compelling. Fox News anchorettes rushing to file charges of sexual misconduct against their network’s marquee player were conspicuous by their absence, while many insiders offered evidence that seemed to contradict charges of sexual coerciveness. Even Megyn Kelly confessed that she had gone her entire career at Fox without being sexually harassed by O’Reilly.  Meanwhile, an email surfaced from Wendy Walsh, O’Reilly’s most vociferous accuser, written long after her alleged victimization, in which she wrote, “Specifically, please convey to ‘the boss’ [O’Reilly] that I am deeply grateful for his professional kindness….His media power is immeasurable and his call to [“The View’s” executive producer] really launched my book tour on a high note. Can’t thank him enough.” We certainly hope Miss Walsh never expresses such immensurate gratitude toward anyone at WOOF.

Oddly, Wendy Walsh remained inexpressibly grateful to Bill O’Reilly long after he allegedly harassed her–in fact, pretty much right up until she filed suit. Apparently the folks at CNN are less  insensitive.

Even the normally subversive Washington Post treated the situation ambivalently, and CNN Money dismissed the defecting advertisers, opining correctly that “Fox and O’Reilly are positioned to weather such defections.” O’Reilly, the CNN report concluded, “resides on an elevated tier with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who, like the Fox host, has endured multiple controversies over the years and ultimately prevailed not too much worse for the wear.”

This is what stupid looks like….

Times writer Brooks Barnes–oddly remindful of James Murdoch, or is it just us?

Anytime the Washington Post and CNN conjoin in a momentary fit of perspicacity, it is worthy of note, but no such notice was taken by the Murdoch sprouts, who canned their network’s (and all of cable’s) number one ratings grabber whilst he vacationed in Italy. Word was given out: Not only was O’Reilly fired, he would not be permitted to return for so much as a farewell telecast. James’s wife Kathryn doesn’t care for Bill O’Reilly, it seems—thus James became the loudest and most insistent of those calling for the host’s termination. Lachlan’s wife, Sarah, also had a role in the decision. According to the Daily Mail, the official face of Wonderbra “convinced an on-the-fence Lachlan that Bill O’Reilly had to be fired.” Of The Factor’s mindless destruction, Times writers Brooks Barnes and Sydney Ember gushed: “This is what generational change at one of the globe’s most powerful media conglomerates looks like.”

Really? Well, if Barnes and Ember were assaying to suggest that generational change at Fox resembles a bunch of morons drilling holes in the bottom of a boat in order to drain the bilges, they got it exactly right.

Anti-politically correct environmentalism for dummies….

Hannity tried to save Fox exec Bill Shine–but the writing was clearly on the wall.

The next head to hit the basket belonged to FNC’s Co-President, Bill Shine. When rumors that the brothers were zeroing in on Shine began to circulate, Sean Hannity tweeted, “…i pray this is NOT true because if it is, that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it. Done.” Obviously, somebody forgot to tell Hannity what generational change looks like. Shine was axed even as Hannity launched his short-lived #Istandwithshine Twitter initiative. “Done.”

Times writer Sydney Ember, who doesn’t resemble James or Lachlan, but whose omission would be sexist, we suspect. 

A newly arrived Martian might assume that Fox was an unmitigated train wreck, its only hope for survival residing in a quick infusion of fresh blood and a radical change of direction. Feeding alacritously into this contrived narrative, Doug Creutz (a media analyst at Cowen and Company) explained that the Murdoch boys are “young enough to see and understand that the company has to change.” Why it has to change, Creutz neglects to say, he being a practitioner of the liberal art of the implicit axiom. But as Barnes and Ember relate in their Times article, Lachlan and James “immediately set about creating a warmer and fuzzier workplace….moving away from an anti-politically correct environment…” and what rational onlooker could object to the Murdoch boys introducing what they describe as “more paid vacation, vastly enhanced reproductive coverage for women and expanded coverage for our transgender colleagues?” But such epic reforms aside, authors Barnes and Ember seem most especially taken with the fact that “the brothers concluded the memo on a jaunty note: ‘Enjoy!’”

Air who…?

Air America’s dismal performance was hardly emended by its choice of the least inspiring logo in promotional history–until, of course, the advent of Hillary’s 2016 “H” design.

Who now remembers the endless accolades and hosannas bestowed upon Air America at its inception? (For that matter, who now remembers Air America?) In recalling this project’s much-ballyhooed injection into the matrix of talk radio, we are offered an instructive instance–one of many in which the Liberal Establishment cast reality aside in deference to unbridled ideological psychosis. Specifically, almost every mechanism of left-wing disinformation—meaning the vast majority of newspapers, every news network (except Fox), every TV program devoted to ephemeral entertainments and personalities, every magazine from People to The Atlantic, and every media commentator who was anybody, breathlessly heralded what was certain to prove the most significant communications development since Guglielmo Marconi stumbled onto the monopole antenna.

Rush Limbaugh: endlessly analyzed and criticized by the Left; yet, strangely, almost never listened to.

It is difficult to recall any popular endeavor more richly and unanimously lauded in advance of its debut as was Air America—the liberal answer to conservative talk radio. Given the tone of the advance work, one might reasonably conclude that conservative dominance of the AM dial was a sort of aberration, ascribable mainly to the Left’s failure to notice the problem. Now, however, notice had been taken, and with the advent of Air America, matters would be set right—and Americans would be free to avail themselves of liberals broadcasting in the manner of right-wing talkers, except, of course, without the racism, homophobia, misogyny, and warmongering. Finally, Americans could tune in talk-show hosts seeking to regale them with truth and brilliance, rather than reactionary lies and all that loutish, anti-intellectual invective!

Imagine: truth, brilliance, and good looks into the bargain!

To borrow a wonderfully concise phrase from the feisty moms who maintain the 100 Percent FedUp website, “the cultural upper hand is a mighty one.” But it is far better suited to fashioning perceptions than to vouchsafing outcomes. Were it not thus, Hillary Clinton would be president…and Air America would be a dominant radio presence, having taken the nation by storm as predicted by nearly everybody. But in the event, few tuned in, and most of those who tuned in soon tuned out. Style was a significant problem from day one, the channel’s daily fare comprising a parade of uniformly vituperative dullards whose broadcasting personae were modeled on the likes of Rush Limbaugh, or so they imagined.

...now that the Garofalo’s gone.

But because nobody on the extreme left actually listens to Rush Limbaugh, the prevalent solecism that Limbaugh’s program consists mainly of hate, vitriol and puerile insults (which is what liberals tell one another about Limbaugh’s program) led to Air America overflowing with hate, vitriol, and puerile insults, intended to be Limbaugh-like, only, of course, on the side of the angels. In reality, almost nobody wants to listen to unrelenting streams of hate, vitriol, and puerile insults, thus Air America pioneered new lows in radio discourse even as it bled its financiers. Ultimately even George Soros wearied of maintaining so manifest a turkey on artificial life support and decided to cut his losses. Today, despite all the encomia that preceded its arrival, Air America is as extinct as the Pyrenean Ibex; although the Pyrenean Ibex is, at least, missed.

The Pyongyang impediment

The lesson here is plain, but so deceptive is the power of retaining “the cultural upper hand,” that it is lost on James and Lachlan Murdoch, and would be, even if they were clever. The same lesson was lost on Hillary Clinton, her pollsters, her advisers, and the entire liberal punditry. The lesson is that beyond certain niche markets, liberalism is not something to which most Americans, even today, are particularly attracted. Even large numbers of Americans who earnestly believe themselves to be liberal are not particularly attracted to liberalism, once driven to confront its ramifications. And because this reality is never rehearsed in liberal circles, it never occurs to the denizens of those circles to consider it. Sealed hermetically within his elitist echo chamber, the Brie-and-Chablis leftist is no more aware of the realities that surround him than is the average citizen of Pyongyang…he just enjoys more amenities.

So on this account, we have an almost Dadaistic scenario in which James and Lachlan descend on FNC having inherited the most successful venture in the history of televised journalism, and announce their intention to rescue it. Indeed, they solemnly declaim that without immediate and drastic reform, the entire operation teeters on the brink of collapse. Not only that, establishment media pundits of all descriptions and affiliations hasten to agree emphatically, without ever bothering to present evidence that any sort of collapse was either imminent or likely. Are these people insane? No, they are the progressive elite. James and Lachlan aren’t nuts, they are closer to what an author in an earlier decade called Bobos in Paradise —wealthy liberals persuaded by their glittery wives as well as by every journalist, techno-tycoon, Hollywood actress or academic bezonian with whom they exchange banalities, that Fox News must be pulled into conformity with the progressive ethos, or else…well……or else something awful will occur.

Not the brightest beers in the toolshed.

The boys are not deep thinkers—you have probably noticed—and their inability to specify even a logical basis for their escapade denies them the insight necessary to predict its results, no matter how obvious to the rest of us. Friends and associates of the Murdoch lads agree that a more liberal, multicultural, less nativist, more global, more climate-sensitive and unthreateningly metrosexual Fox News is envisioned. But to what end? The brothers Murdoch are, by all reports, agreed that such adjustments will bring greater success to FNC than their father dreamt possible.  Presumably, all their friends and supporters agree. But reality serves a decidedly different demographic, and it is traditionally hard on leftist expectations.

Coals to Newcastle: A business model for the 21st century?

Kelly Ayotte, for example, took the advice of consultants, distanced herself from Trump, embraced liberal causes like climate change, and lost her New Hampshire senate seat to the real Democrat.

Let us pause here to recall those critics who, at Fox’s inception, asked “why reinvent CNN?”  Indeed, who wants or needs Fox to become CNN? And once it becomes CNN, why would viewers prefer it to CNN? Will viewers whose loyalty was built on Fox’s role as an oasis in the vast wasteland of DNC-controlled news sources, suddenly find themselves enthralled by its shifting to precisely that brand of left-leaning poppycock they fled to begin with? For that matter, will dedicated liberals or rank-and-file Democrats accustomed to watching MSNBC or ABC World News Tonight or PBS News, or whatever, rush in droves to watch the same drivel on Fox? Why would they? Even the GOP has lately begun to acknowledge that when one campaigns in ways that make one indistinguishable from Democrats, voters tend to elect actual Democrats. Too, when one shifts from a business model long known to provide maximum returns to one that predictably and repeatedly results in failure, investors–even the most ideologically supportive investors–tend to shop elsewhere.

David Brooks–always available for intellectual balance.

Left to their own devices, the Murdoch cubs will annihilate Fox News, retooling it as a vapid amalgamation of trendy mediocrities—a hint of The View, a tincture of Ronan Farrow—a dash of Colbert with a pinch of Jake Tapper—and lots of settled science linking impending planetary devastation to man-made global warming…and why not replace Bret Baier with David Gregory? Perhaps, too, an occasional word from David Brooks, or some similarly neutered establishment sycophant, ostensibly representing the “conservative” perspective, could provide the illusion of intellectual balance. The result will be disaster—not only qualitatively, but financially. If they give a damn, the brothers may wind up begging Bill O’Reilly to return. But they won’t give a damn, because in the world of progressive journalism, failure is a badge of distinction.

The Tina Effect

Tina Brown, Lioness of the Left.

Consider Tina Brown, who took over Newsweek, dragged it to the far left, and bankrupted it. Undaunted, she moved on to the Daily Beast where she blew through tens of millions of investors’ dollars to no perceptible gain before she was offered an exit package in exchange for her resignation. Tina nevertheless remains a venerated liberal icon. Even now, Bravo is planning a glossy TV series about her in which, rumor has it, she will be portrayed by Scarlett Johansson (undoubtedly a fan, if by no means a ringer).

Following Brown’s ouster from the Beast, Hamilton Nolan wrote in Gawker that “the Tina Brown NewsBeast era was…a fiasco,” adding that, “Tina Brown is like Keith Olbermann, a media star who has proved by now that they [sic] should probably not be hired, but who always will be hired again, probably at an even more prestigious post.”  Correct!  And if there were a Tina Brown Achievement Award (which may yet manifest itself, for all we know) the Murdoch brothers could be plausibly accused of bucking for it. Long after Fox has withered ignominiously, the Murdoch lads will be lionized in all the right venues by all the right imbeciles for their valiant efforts to guide the masses toward the light—even if said masses proved too benighted to embrace their Promethean benefactions.

Well, he was coming to Current TV–and pretty soon after that he was leaving it because even Al Gore couldn’t stand him. But he’s working again, doing a webcast for GQ.  And pretty soon he won’t be…but that’s probably just us putting the cart before the ass.

Après O’Reilly, le déluge

Maddow, Ascending.

Even without major philosophical changes yet in evidence, the brothers’ earliest policy decisions have wrought havoc. With Ailes recently dead at 77 and O’Reilly truculently exiled, Fox has already plunged to number three in the ratings–an embarrassment undreamt of during Ailes’s tenure. The sudden collapse is mainly traceable to James’s and Lachlan’s first programming decisions.  Available second-tier hosts were rushed from slots in which they performed credibly, to times previously occupied by powerhouses like O’Reilly and Van Susteren.  One tragi-comic result is the meteoric rise of Rachel Maddow and MSNBC. Maddow now finishes first in the hour previously dominated by O’Reilly’s Factor.  True, her ascendency is partially attributable to the anti-Trump polemics gushing from every conduit of the Dark State’s media complex, but it is predominantly ascribable to the astonishing lack of planning that accompanied the bloodbath at FNC.

Sean Hannity, wearing the perturbed look of a man coming to identify more and more with the proverbial canary in the mineshaft.

If Maddow’s ascendency reminds us that nature abhors a vacuum, the precipitate descent of Fox’s hastily reshuffled line-up into third place serves as a painful validation of the Peter Principle. And the brothers are only beginning. Once the conservative remnant manning FNC’s battlements is sufficiently thinned and the network’s new role as a sandbox for trendy sociopolitical experimentation better established, it will appeal only to former viewers of Al Gore’s Current TV, of whom there are at least a dozen, the brain-dead glitterati haunting Left-Coast salons, and, of course, Sarah and Kathryn Murdoch.

R.I.P., FNC!

Do not suppose that Lachlan and James will eventually see the light and reinstitute those qualities that made their father’s network a cultural phenomenon. It will never happen. Liberalism’s lodestone is too potent to allow for such practicalities. Just as Milton’s Lucifer preferred ruling in Hell to the supernal alternative, captives of the progressive entrancement prize their status within the liberal milieu too passionately to consider swapping it for success amongst the hoi pollois. Better, in other words, to be toasted by Cher, Babs, Bezos and Buffet than applauded by legions of bitter clingers whose approval comes at the price of finding oneself shunned at 21 Club. Barring some unforeseeable intervention, Fox will continue in decline, even as Lachlan and James continue to bask in unremitting praise from all the right social circles. Finally, when Fox is no more than a fond recollection, the brothers will be extolled for their excellent intentions. And as Billy Jack once said in dramatically dissimilar circumstances, “there’s not a damned thing you’re going to be able to do about it!” Enjoy! 

 

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