http://www.alternet.org/media/how-fox-news-created-new-culture-idiots

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

This morning, I tweeted this disturbing and sometimes insightful, but ultimately maddening, guilt-ridden sanctimony dressed up as constructive criticism in  op-ed by Steve Almond in the NYTimes. Wanting to think more about it, the best I could say at the time was this tweet:

RT ‏@Shoq: I've been scolded for saying we mock rather than advance ideas. Still, this a mea culpa from a liberal Fox watcher j.mp/KXyDQR
I shared it with my good friend, Joy-Ann Reid (@theReidReport), Managing Editor at TheGrio.com, and a Miami Herald columnist. As usual, within hours, she'd let loose with blistering critique that captured much of what irked me when I read Almond's piece the first time. You can read her post here. 

On any given day, I agree with almost everything Joy says, and this day was no different, for the most part. But I did have some concerns about dismissing the entirety of Almond's essay too casually, feeling that as is often the case, that all elusive truth may lie somewhere between two poles.  So I wrote this to Joy in response, and felt I'd blog it. Just because I can.

 

Thank you joy,

You have told the other side I've been wrestling with so much better than I could.  But I am still torn because while my reaction this morning was just like yours (and I tweeted about it), after reading it again, I am still plagued by the nagging sense that he (and Karoli) are also more than partly right; that we do give them too all far much attention in a meta sense. While, as you point out, there are damn good reasons do that, it's become such a reactionary passion on the left, that it empowers all the lefty demagogues (those self-flagellating masters of the liberal universe), while generally sucking all the energy from the progressive room. There's just not too much remaining for the political process (which serves the status quo nicely). I see this progressive anger-fatigue every day, and it's really worrying me. I see it worrying others, too. Obama can lose, and lose convincingly. And the Senate may go with him.  We all know this. And I think all the anger-merchandising, so well played by the corporate media (and the liberal and conservative industrial complexes, as well), are to a large degree distracting us from really focusing on shaping messages and getting out that vital progressive congressional and presidential vote, without which, we're probably just doomed.

But what the writer doesn't get right at all (besides the ridiculous title) is that he has no real end game; he never discusses where all that surplus attention that he wants to conserve would go if recovered. He hints at it, but so minimally, that he's implying that just turning the other ear and merely showing up to vote will mitigate the damage that a highly cultivated incivility is now doing to us.  It won't. All the polite rhetorical salon parties he imagines won't make the smallest dent in the Koch/Fox audience axis, and they still vote far more reliably than we do.

No, as you point out, ignoring and negotiating just doesn't work. We have to defund, deflect, or somehow denude their omnipotence; strip it from our politics and culture with a combination of strategies that ignore the more cynical of the noisy megaphones, while pushing back effectively against the most influential of them, denying them social and financial currency where possible In the absence of bigger plans, I am going to keep on with efforts like StopRush, which may yet show that market forces can greatly impact how these influencers really operate on and against all of us.

It's all I can do… for now.

 

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In an op-ed today, Rex Huppke discusses a problem any thinking person knows about and discusses, nearly as often as they shrug off any notion that there could be a solution for it. A frequent subtext of many things I write about in this blog is that finding answers to problems like these must become a national—even an international—priority, or humanity is in for a world of hurt.

“It’s very depressing,” said Mary Poovey, a professor of English at New York University and author of A History of the Modern Fact. “I think the thing Americans ought to miss most about facts is the lack of agreement that there are facts. 

Thanks to a deliberately promoted anti-intellectualism, which generously serves the interests of the plutocracy at large, America and the world are both in grave crisis on a dozen levels. We need many more articles like Huppke's before we will even begin to redress the damage done by 35+ years of radical conservatism and its many propaganda proxies like Fox News, which have both nutured and exploited this ecosystem of rabid dumbshittery. Together they have been alarmingly effective at obliterating any operational respect for science and all those pesky and often politically inconventient things called facts.

But these agents of assholery have merely been the high priests of this Church of Stupid with its anti-englightenment agenda.  They have been all too enabled and supported by the mainstream meda which has selfishly abrogated any sense of responsiblity to the common good by letting such issues roll over in the public's consciousness again and again without any effort whatever to propose a solution, or consistently voice a need for one.

Every day, another pundit like Huppke decries this mendacious mess, while cashing the checks of the increasingly conservative-owned and controlled newspaper and broadcasting industries which knowingly allow these toxins of falsehood to metastisize into a full-blown cancer on the body politik of humanity itself. It is a disease that has all but crippled our ability to respond to even the smallest of political issues, and anyone that doesn't see that is either not paying attention, or probably on the payroll of the larger pertetrators of this cultural homicide in progress. .

If we don't find a way to rebalance the scales and make thoughtful inquiry and dialog fashionable again, we are probably finished as culture, and perhaps even as a species. Greed, war, disease, social injustice, econonmic inequity, and countless other man-made issues may be solvable, despite our worst instincts. But global ecocide courtesy of preventable climate change may not be. 

 I have my own ideas about how we must reset global society by reinventing how we organize, process and share human knowledge and actionable intelligence on nearly everything known or knowable. If we can better account for what we know, and what we do—or have done—with what we know, we can establish more normative guidelines for agreeing on what is real, and what is mere polemical masturbation, propaganda, and agenda hawking.

Whatever it is that we do, we'd better do something… and fast. And that's a fact.