I've said for quite a few years now that Fox News was making the douchebags and assholes among us into a mainstream demographic.  And while a brilliant essay on so many levels, I will always cherish it for this brief synopsis of the social psychotic named Roger Ailes, who is single-handedly taking down America for his own amusement and enrichment..  Not for nothing does this scumbag travel in a 9-person security cocoon. 

It is not just Fox News commentators but Fox News itself that has the appropriate, in-your-face, I’m-entitled-to-do-this,especially-because-you-dislike-it vibe. Which should not be surprising from a tightly controlled outfit in which everything flows from a single source, chairman Roger Ailes. Ailes has personal flaws that do not necessarily make one an asshole but that clearly shape the coverage, including his paranoia and his extreme politics. We find more telling evidence by considering the man in a happy moment, a victory lap. In an event celebrating Fox News’s success, Ailes said of the competing networks’ talent, as though sharing in the agony of their defeat: “Shows, stars, I mean it’s sad, you know? . . . I called and asked them all to move to the second floor wherever they were working. Because when they jump, I don’t want it to hurt.” By which he meant that he wouldn’t mind at all if his competitors not only lost the contest but felt humiliated enough to kill themselves. He meant of course to gloat but also to show his contempt. He meant to broadcast his contempt and to have a laugh about his being in a position to advertise it.

The comment was at least poor sportsmanship. A longtime practitioner of blood sport media politics, Ailes has emerged as its undisputed heavyweight champion. Politics is indeed a rough sport, but there are still boundaries that while crossed are nevertheless there, or sort of there. It is possible to have a minimal sense of respect among fellow sportsmen, seen as equals off the playing field, and even to display grace in both victory and defeat. Ailes’s comment suggests that he makes little effort at this, even as he does make an effort to draw attention to the fact that he cares not. He keeps it personal, on and off the court.

Ailes is a poor sport but not in a set contest fairly won. His main victory was to redefine the whole sport itself — that is to say, to redefine news. While American TV journalism has always walked a fine line between informing the public and satisfying media capitalism’s demands for viewers, ratings, and ad dollars, the line was more or less there, and it represented respect for what some regard as the fourth branch of government and a democratic society that depends on real news. Ailes obliterates that line with his “orchestra pit theory,” which he puts as follows: “If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?” The implication of course being that TV can and should cover the sensation rather than the substance, that it should move still further away from professional journalism and toward infotainment in a pure ratings contest. Fox News has changed the game and won, with an ever-thinner pretext of service. (It has very little actual news gathering and reporting staff; it freely crosses its own purported division between reporting and editorializing; and it now boosts for and even instigates protest movements and financially backs specific political candidates.) For its loyalty and attunement to its fans, it has been richly rewarded with outsized profits and unprecedented political influence.

If we ask why Ailes fought so long and so hard for all this, however, the answer is not simply the ample rewards. His victory lap comment also suggests fundamental contempt. It suggests contempt not just for his competitors but for a society of people who have always counted on news with a lot of information shaped by a good-faith attempt at impartial presentation. Our fundamental need in a democratic society, for each of us to make up our own mind, now goes unmet by the whole media environment. It reflects not the minds of equals deliberating together about what together to do but the tenor and voice of a single asshole’s mind.

Read it all at Alternet

Today, my very good friend Angelo Carusone, (a.k.a. @stopbeck), campaign director at Media Matters and currently working on the DropFox effort at Media Matters for America, announced that Orbitz, the travel agency powerhouse, and a significant Fox News sponsor, has agreed to review all of their advertising on Fox News, a clear signal that big changes may be coming soon.

Alternet broke the details of the story today, and Media Matters has a statement and some additional information on their DropFox site. While DropFox's first campaign against Orbitz was mocked by many Fox apologists, it's presence all over the Internet in the past few weeks was startling to Orbitz, as well as many long-time watchers of progressive activism efforts on the Internet.

This Orbitz review is just the first very big win in a long effort to hold Fox News accountable for the brazen and reckless political operation which they have been conducting, often over airwaves licensed to them by the taxpayers. Carusone's  @stopbeck effort had already succeeded in starving Glenn Beck of advertisers after a protracted, two year battle which Beck often openly mocked, both on the is radio show, and on Twitter. But that guerilla effort, conducted mostly by Carusone alone, with only the help of Twitter and other social media, finally forced Fox News to drop Beck from their lineup earlier his year.

While you may think this DropFox effort seems like a run-of-the mill petition campaign, it has been anything but that by a wide margin. With Media Matters and its many allies, and the brilliant tactics of Carusone and the DropFox team, it seems to be organizing a coalition of diverse interest groups and constituencies – all with a common distaste for what Fox News has been doing to their individual interests as well as our society. It appears that together, and without much fanfare, they have launched a coherent, coordinated and well-implemented pressure coalition that actually works. And one that might be a prototype for many more like it.

Perhaps the most unique thing about the effort is that it is not designed to embarrass or punish advertisers into not advertising on Fox. Rather, it seeks to educate them about how much it is hurting their brand in and among the many consumer communities (LGBT, environmentalists, Latinos, etc.).  It's the ultimate expression of free market principles. There are many places to advertise. Why do it where it hurts the brand that a company works so hard to build and protect?

Clearly the strategy is starting to prove itself. And with a few more outcomes's like this, it will soon demonstrate that Progressives have more power than many have thought when it comes to influencing the corporate forces which have so dominated our public discourse and politics for years. Stay tuned… 

Enough is Enough

We have endured this pretense that Fox News is a legitimate news organization for too long. It's not. It's the 24 hour propaganda channel of the Republican party, and Washington should marginalize and stigmatize it until it withers and dies. (More on this in a later post). 

The first step is for all real journalists to watch and read Olbermann's special comment, and use it to launch their own national conversations—as Charles Kaiser has now done in a MUST read essay  — about how this obscene insult to their profession can be knocked off its ghastly pedestal and pushed with market forces into some kind of more responsible new organization—or just driven out of business.  It has completely polluted and distorted most all of our other national conversations, precisely at a time when we need to have them the most.

I am not suggesting censoring Fox. I am suggesting that we kill it with intensive levels of rejection of everything it does and stand for until no decent sponsor will get near it. The @stopbeck movement proves Fox can be hurt. We need to hurt them far more. And fast.

On July 23rd, Keith Olbermann took on Fox News… frontally:

Let me make this utterly clear: What you see on Fox News, what you read on Right Wing websites, is the utter and complete perversion of journalism, and it can have no place in a civilized society. It is words crashed together, never to inform, only to inflame. It is a political guillotine. It is the manipulation of reality to make the racist seem benevolent, and to convict the benevolent as racist — even if her words must be edited, filleted, stripped of all context, rearranged, fabricated, and falsified, to do so.

    What you see on Fox News, what you read on Right Wing websites… is a manipulation. Not just of a story, not just on behalf of a political philosophy. Manipulation of a society, its intentional redirection from reality and progress, to a paranoid delusion and the fomenting of hatred of Americans by Americans…The assassins of the Right have been enabled on the Left.

    — Keith Olbermann, from his Special Comment on Sherrod debacle (below fold )

The Reaction

While long overdue, Olbermann calling out the Fox culprit, unambiguously, seems to be finally bringing forth a reaction from the mainstream journalism community that Fox should have provoked a decade ago.  But if this Google News search is any indication, it's still not getting nearly enough reaction. It's only Monday, but I sure hope there will be more on the level of the remarkable piece by Charle's Kaiser (posted next).

I am going to keep track of what DOES appear here. If you see more, please tweet them to @shoq with the hashtag: #killFox

The Shame of the Fourth Estate — by Charles Kaiser [Essential Reading]

It has become fashionable to dismiss Keith Olbermann as an over-the-top ranter or as the MSNBC host put it himself, “a mirror image of that which I assail.”  But there was nothing over-the-top about his special comment about Shirley Sherrod.  Every word he spoke was true. 

Enough right-wing propagandaby E.J. Dionne

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that "fairness" requires treating extremist rants as "one side of the story." And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year's election.

Video: Olbermann's Special Comment