Thursday, August 18, 2011

Roger Ailes And His Propaganda Machine.

There is an art to persuading people these days.  In a time when technology is advancing with each passing hour, only one man has been able to reach into millions of homes and turn fiction into fact with the same ease as he freezes water into ice: Roger Ailes.

While most know him as the creator and "Chairman" of Fox News, Ailes has a disturbing history of right-wing extremism and paranoia.  He was always drawn to television, even as a little boy, and rose quickly to the rank of executive producer on The Mike Douglas Show by the age of 25.  His big break came in 1967 when he met former Vice-President Richard Nixon backstage of the show, telling Nixon that "the camera doesn't like you."  Nixon responded, "It's a shame a man has to use gimmicks like television to get elected."  Ailes was passionate about TV, and shot back, "Television is not a gimmick.  And if you think it is, you'll lose again."  It was at that moment that Roger Ailes became Nixon's executive producer of television, in charge of recreating the man's image in order to appeal to voters.

During Nixon's campaign, Ailes began to blur the line between journalism and politics.  Ailes knew that Nixon was a disaster on television.  He also believed that the media was anti-Republican.  So, he decided to go for the throat, as it were, and circumvent the press - go straight to the people.  By forcing reporters to watch the events of, say, a "town hall meeting" backstage, Ailes had found a way to subtly reduce the freedom of the press to a mere privilege.  Nixon was able to answer to voters with staged questions instead of on-the-fly "gotcha" questions from the media.  

After Nixon got into the White House, Ailes was fired.  In 1974, Ailes started working at Television News Inc., a brand new right-wing television network that had the very familiar motto of "fair and balanced."  The goal of TVN was to "gradually, subtly, slowly" inject their philosophy into the news.  It was, almost to the letter, the definition of a propaganda machine.  Fortunately for the world, the network didn't last more than a year, as their funds dwindled and their journalists were uncontrollable.  It was a lesson that Roger Ailes would remember when he created Fox News twenty years later.

Hmm... makes sense.

Ailes then left television (again) and helped Regan and Bush senior win their respective presidential runs.  He dabbled in many ventures between '75 and '92 before leaving (and I use that term loosely) politics for good.  Three big things then happened that were crucial to the forming of Fox News in 1996:

1) Ailes met and befriended Rush Limbaugh, using Limbaugh as an attack dog against the left.
2) Ailes was made head of CNBC in '93, quintupling their profits.  Despite his success, he did not have the power to shape people's opinion like he wanted to.  
3) After NBC handed over Ailes' projects to MSNBC, he left the network and teamed up with a like-minded media giant: Rupert Murdoch.          

(Writer's Note: Roger Ailes does a lot of "leaving," doesn't he?)

Roger then moved ahead, determined not to repeat TVN's mistakes.  Murdoch paid cable companies $20 per subscriber to air Fox News Network, culminating in an audience of millions before the first show even aired.  Ailes didn't want the ethics of journalism to impede the ideas that he was pushing like they had two decades ago.  He brought in Neil Cavuto and Steve Doocy, along with Brit Hume and Tony Snow - all staunch Republicans.  He then went about purging the existing staff at Fox News (pre broadcast).  If the journalists were liberal, then they had no place there.  

Murdoch gave Ailes a second floor office at Fox Headquarters in Manhattan, an office that made Ailes uneasy due to its lack of altitude.  Thanks to a 1989 gay right's protest of Rudy Giuliani's speech in which Ailes broke up the demonstration by grabbing an activist by the throat and shoving him out a door, Ailes was afraid that he would be attacked by gay activists from his vulnerable low-to-the-ground corner office.  He had "bomb-proof" windows put in, and bought a giant mahogany desk to hide behind in case of an attack.  He told one of his editors, "They'll be down there protesting.  Those gays."

But his paranoia didn't stop there.  Roger Ailes' newsroom was in, and still is in, a bunker.  Below street level, the peons of Fox News work around the clock to prove to Ailes that they knew the agenda that he was peddling.  Below is a paragraph from Rolling Stone's recent May 2011 article about Roger Ailes and Fox News:

Ailes begins each workday buffered by the elaborate private security detail that News Corp. pays to usher him from his $1.6 million home in New Jersey to his office in Manhattan. (His country home – in the aptly named village of Garrison – is phalanxed by empty homes that Ailes bought up to create a wider security perimeter.) Traveling with the Chairman is like a scene straight out of 24. A friend recalls hitching a ride with Ailes after a power lunch: “We come out of the building and there’s an SUV filled with big guys, who jump out of the car when they see him. A cordon is formed around us. We’re ushered into the SUV, and we drive the few blocks to Fox’s offices, where another set of guys come out of the building to receive ‘the package.’ The package is taken in, and I’m taken on to my destination.”Ailes is certain that he’s a top target of Al Qaeda terrorists. “You know, they’re coming to get me,” he tells friends. “I’m fully prepared. I’ve taken care of it.” (Ailes, who was once arrested for carrying an illegal handgun in Central Park, now carries a licensed weapon.) Inside his blast-resistant office at Fox News headquarters, Ailes keeps a monitor on his desk that allows him to view any activity outside his closed door. Once, after observing a dark-skinned man in what Ailes perceived to be Muslim garb, he put Fox News on lockdown. “What the hell!” Ailes shouted. “This guy could be bombing me!” The suspected terrorist turned out to be a janitor. “Roger tore up the whole floor,” recalls a source close to Ailes. “He has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim – which is consistent with the ideology of his network.”

Fox News attacked the Clinton administration with reckless abandon.  They helped get Bush Jr. elected in 2000.  After 9/11, Ailes had Fox News "militarize" in order to help push President Bush's war on terrorism.  According to Bill O'Reilly, "Roger Ailes is the general, and the general sets the tone of the army.  Our army is very George Patton-esque.  We charge.  We roll."  Keep in mind, this is a network that is supposedly all about news.  Does it still sound like that to you?

Every day, from the time Fox News was created, Ailes starts his mornings by speaking with his top producers and anchors, and giving them his spin on the news.  A memo would then be sent out ("marching orders", as Jon Stewart puts it) to everyone that worked at the network.  Before "Fox and Friends" airs, Ailes meets with the hosts and gives them his talking points - his spin on the news - of the morning.  The conversations that they have are not ad-libbed, as it may appear.

Roger Ailes is a dangerous man.  Another paragraph from the Rolling Stone article illustrates my point beautifully:

Ailes knows exactly who is watching Fox News each day, and he is adept at playing to their darkest fears in the age of Obama. The network’s viewers are old, with a median age of 65: Ads cater to the immobile, the infirm and the incontinent, with appeals to join class action hip-replacement lawsuits, spots for products like Colon Flow and testimonials for the services of Liberator Medical (“Liberator gave me back the freedom I haven’t had since I started using catheters”). The audience is also almost exclusively white – only 1.38 percent of viewers are African-American. “Roger understands audiences,” says Rollins, the former Reagan consultant. “He knew how to target, which is what Fox News is all about.” The typical viewer of Hannity, to take the most stark example, is a pro-business (86 percent), Christian conservative (78 percent), Tea Party-backer (75 percent) with no college degree (66 percent), who is over age 50 (65 percent), supports the NRA (73 percent), doesn’t back gay rights (78 percent) and thinks government “does too much” (84 percent). “He’s got a niche audience and he’s programmed to it beautifully,” says a former News Corp. colleague. “He feeds them exactly what they want to hear.”

Since President Obama's election in 2008, Fox News has become more of a political machine than ever before, determined to push the right-wing message as hard as possible in order to make sure Obama is a one-term president.  Roger Ailes set Glenn Beck, his second attack dog, on the White House and on Obama.  He helped get the Tea Party movement going.  He had Fox News over-hype Obama's healthcare plan in order to scare their viewers, leading to a giant void of misinformation in most Americans.  He took the line between journalism and opinion and blurred it, allowing his most successful mouth pieces hide behind the "it's an opinion show" argument.  Most telling of all, he has put the Republican Party on his payroll and forced it to remake itself around his image. Ailes is the Chairman, and the conservative movement now reports to him. "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us," said David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter. "Now we’re discovering that we work for Fox."

Give this guy a longer nose, and he could play as "The Penguin"
in the next Batman movie.  Christ, look at those jowls!

I write this article with hopes that people will see Roger Ailes and Fox News for the monsters they are.  Fox News is, without a doubt, an opinionated propaganda machine that is more focused on slanting their stories with unprecedented bias than they are on telling the truth.  I do not exaggerate when I write about their network.  

This post will be the first of many about dangerous men and women that work behind the scenes in American politics today.  If you'd like to get a head start on some of my future posts, head over to Addicting Info for the full list.  I'll be expanding on the individuals listed there, as I've done with Roger Ailes.  I hope to follow up these people with another group of radical liberals in order to even out the odds, so definitely stay tuned.  

Also, if you want to get the full story on Roger Ailes, I highly recommend the fantastic Rolling Stone article where I got most of this information, as well as another website with a very interesting video (make sure you watch it!) at the bottom.  The links are:

The Rolling Stone Article

Dangerous Minds

No comments: