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Posted by on Jul 1, 2011 in Media, Politics | 3 comments

Must See Nixonland

Must See Nixonland TV

John Cook, over on Gawker, has a bombshell, of sorts, having unearthed documents from the Nixon Library that has Roger Ailes laying out the blueprint for Faux News, decades ahead of time.

Roger Ailes’ Secret Nixon-Era Blueprint for Fox News

Republican media strategist Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996, ostensibly as a “fair and balanced” counterpoint to what he regarded as the liberal establishment media. But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the “prejudices of network news” and deliver “pro-administration” stories to heartland televisionviewers.

No doubt, with the dwarfs, finks, phonies and frauds of Nixonland, the corpulent liar didn’t need the pikers, hejust had to bid his time, and launch his own lie factory, were he wasThe King, and could listen to his lies bounce around, echoing all over the Right Wing Freak Show.

Go read Cook’s post, it’s overflowing with juicy tidbits

Bonus Riffs

The Ailes Files

Eric Hananoki – CRUISE SHIP CONFESSION: Top Fox News Executive Admits Lying On-Air About Obama

Eric Boehlert – FOX NEWS INSIDER: “Stuff Is JustMade Up”

The New Fox News Tagline

J. Thomas Duffy writes the satire blog The Garlic. This is cross posted from that blog. He is a Contributing Editor of The Reaction.

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Copyright 2011 The Moderate Voice
  • JSpencer

    “Fairly Unbalanced” is being fairly kind. I was accosted by Fox News recently while waiting to have new tires put on my car and though I’ve long understood the nature of FN, I was still appalled at the low standards in evidence. If anything they are getting worse. As for the “blueprint”, it should come as no surprise. The desire to obfuscate and manipulate truth by controlling the message isn’t anything new. It’s disappointing to see our culture in the 21st century be so susceptible to it though.

  • DLS

    [shrug] As I’ve stated and provided the related link before — if folks want to read a good account of Ailes by a farther-left writer whose distortions ensure a far-left world view of Ailes and Fox, this is the best piece of work to date. It includes a generous mis-description of “propaganda” (debunking “investment” as the correct “spending”) and concludes with a statement by DC-centric-and-conceited, big-government-“conservative” Frum.

    (All that’s missing is crass clucking about Fox by Andrew Sullivan.)

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-roger-ailes-built-the-fox-news-fear-factory-20110525

  • DLS

    An additional note is likely in order for readers who aren’t smart enough to visit the materials to which I’ve linked here and elsewhere:

    Here are portions of the Rolling Stone article about Ailes, but which don’t constitute by any means all there is to be said about him and Fox. Pay close attention to details of what’s shown here:

    To bypass journalists, Ailes made Nixon the star of his own traveling roadshow – a series of contrived, newslike events that the campaign paid to broadcast in local markets across the country. Nixon would appear on camera in theaters packed with GOP partisans – “an applause machine,” Ailes said, “that’s all that they are.” Then he would field questions from six voters, hand- selected by the campaign, who could be counted on to lob softball queries that played to Nixon’s talking points. […]

    Ailes had essentially replaced professional journalists with every day voters he could manipulate at will. “The events were not staged, they were fixed,” says Rick Perlstein, the author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. “People were supposed to ask tough questions. But asking a tough question – let alone knowing how to follow up – is a skill. Taking that task out of the hands of reporters and putting it into the hands of inexperienced amateurs was brilliant in itself.”

    As for actual journalists? “Fuck ’em,” Ailes said. “It’s not a press conference – it’s a television show. Our television show. And the press has no business on the set.” The young producer forced reporters to watch the events backstage on a TV monitor – just like the rest of America. “Ailes figured out a way to bring reporters to heel,” Perlstein says.

    In 1974, his notoriety from the Nixon campaign won him a job at Television News Incorporated, a new right-wing TV network that had launched under a deliberately misleading motto that Ailes would one day adopt as his own: “fair and balanced.” TVN made no sense as a business. The project of archconservative brewing magnate Joseph Coors, the news service was designed to inject a far-right slant into local news broadcasts by providing news clips that stations could use without credit – and for a fraction of the true costs of production. Once the affiliates got hooked on the discounted clips, its president explained, TVN would “gradually, subtly, slowly” inject “our philosophy in the news.” The network was, in the words of a news director who quit in protest, a “propaganda machine.”

    He quietly prepped the president [George H. W. Bush] for his State of the Union address in 1992, and he served as an attack dog for the campaign, once more blasting what he saw as the media’s liberal bias. “Bill Clinton has 15,000 press secretaries,” Ailes blared. “At some point, even you guys will have to get embarrassed.” (Last November, Ailes deployed the same line against President Obama, reducing the number of press secretaries to only 3,000.)

    Ailes also pushed Bush campaign manager James Baker to “get on the fucking offensive” and “go for the red meat.” From his office in Manhattan, Ailes advised the campaign to spin Clinton’s graduate-school train trip to Moscow into a tale of a Manchurian candidacy. “This guy’s hiding something,” Ailes barked over a speakerphone in Baker’s office. Clinton’s public fuzziness about the trip was proof enough, insisted Ailes: “Nobody’s that forgetful.” President Bush soon appeared on Larry King Live, following the redbaiting advice to the letter. “I don’t have the facts,” the president insinuated, “but to go to Moscow one year after Russia crushed Czechoslovakia, and not remember who you saw – I think the answer is, level with the American people.”

    In advance of the final debate of 1992, Bush called in his two closest confidants, Baker and Ailes, to help him prepare at Camp David. The advice Ailes offered could serve as a mission statement for Fox News. “Forget all the facts and figures,” he said, “and move to the offense as quickly as possible.”

    Ailes [producer of Limbaugh’s TV show] and Limbaugh were more than co-workers. The two jocular, balding right-wingers had met carousing in Manhattan a few years earlier and had become fast friends: Both were reviled for the virulence of their politics, and both saw themselves as victims of what Ailes would call “liberal bigots.” In a 2009 speech, Limbaugh credited Ailes for teaching him “how to take being hated as a measure of success.” Ailes, in fact, would become a father figure to the king of right-wing talk. “The things I’ve learned from him about being a man, about the country, about how to be a professional, nobody else taught me,” Limbaugh said. “When Roger Ailes is on your team, you do not lose.”

    But despite his success at CNBC, Ailes wasn’t being given the power he craved to shape public opinion. In a move that took him by surprise, his bosses at NBC decided to shut down America’s Talking and hand its channel over to an all-news venture called MSNBC. Ailes felt that his creation had been hijacked. The man who imagined himself the king of political infighters had been cut off at the knees.

    Ailes responded as he always did to setbacks: by throwing himself into another political battle. This time, though, he would do things on his own terms. Securing release from his NBC contract without a noncompete agreement, he immediately joined forces with a media giant who was equally unabashed in using his news operations as instruments of political power. As Jack Welch – then the CEO of NBC’s parent company GE – put it at the time, “We’ll rue the day we let Roger and Rupert team up.”

    Like Joseph Coors before him at TVN, Murdoch envisioned his new network as a counterweight to the “left-wing bias” of CNN. “There’s your answer right there to whether Fox News is a conventional news network or whether it has an agenda,” says Eric Burns, who served for a decade as media critic at Fox News. “That’s its original sin.”

    To oversee the young newsroom, he recruited John Moody, a conservative veteran of Time. As recounted by journalist Scott Collins in Crazy Like a Fox, the Chairman gave Moody explicit ideological marching orders. “One of the problems we have to work on here together when we start this network is that most journalists are liberals,” Ailes told Moody. “And we’ve got to fight that.” Reporters understood that a right-wing bias was hard-wired into what they did from the start. “All outward appearances were that it was just like any other newsroom,” says a former anchor. “But you knew that the way to get ahead was to show your color – and that your color was red.” Red state, that is.

    Ailes also housed his newsroom in a bunker. Reporters and producers at Fox News work in a vast, windowless expanse below street level, a gloomy space lined with video-editing suites along one wall and an endless cube farm along the other. In a separate facility on the same subterranean floor, Ailes created an in-house research unit – known at Fox News as the “brain room” – that requires special security clearance to gain access. “The brain room is where Willie Horton comes from,” says Cooper, who helped design its specs. “It’s where the evil resides.”

    According to a study of voting patterns by the University of California, Fox News shifted roughly 200,000 ballots to Bush in areas where voters had access to the network. But Ailes, ever the political operative, didn’t leave the outcome to anything as dicey as the popular vote. The man he tapped to head the network’s “decision desk” on election night – the consultant responsible for calling states for either Gore or Bush – was none other than John Prescott Ellis, Bush’s first cousin.

    Ailes likes to boast that Fox News maintains a bright, clear line between its news shows, which he touts as balanced, and prime-time hosts like O’Reilly and Hannity, who are given free rein to voice their opinions. “We police those lines very carefully,” Ailes has said. But after Bush was elected, Ailes tasked John Moody, his top political lieutenant, to keep the newsroom in lockstep. Early each morning, Ailes summoned Moody into his office – often joined by Hume from the Washington bureau on speakerphone – and provided his spin on the day’s news. Moody then posted a daily memo to the staff with explicit instructions on how to slant the day’s news coverage according to the agenda of those on “the Second Floor,” as Ailes and his loyal cadre of vice presidents are known. “There’s a chain of command, and it’s followed,” says a former news anchor. “Roger talks to his people, and his people pass the message on down.”

    “Rupert is surrounded by people who regularly, if not moment to moment, tell him how horrifying and dastardly Roger is,” says Wolff, the Murdoch biographer. “Wendi cannot stand Roger. Rupert’s children cannot stand Roger. So around Murdoch, Roger has no supporters, except for Roger himself.”

    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.”

    According to insiders, the [Fox and Friendsmorning show’s anchors, who appear to be chatting ad-lib, are actually working from daily, structured talking points that come straight from the top. “Prior to broadcast, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson – that gang – they meet with Roger,” says a former Fox deputy. “And Roger gives them the spin.”

    The result of this concerted campaign of disinformation is a viewership that knows almost nothing about what’s going on in the world. According to recent polls, Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers. They are 12 percentage points more likely to believe the stimulus package caused job losses, 17 points more likely to believe Muslims want to establish Shariah law in America, 30 points more likely to say that scientists dispute global warming, and 31 points more likely to doubt President Obama’s citizenship. In fact, a study by the University of Maryland reveals, ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimization.

    “What Nixon did – and what Ailes does today in the age of Obama – is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful of human emotions: shame,” says Perlstein, the author of Nixonland. “He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilizes it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”

    Fox News stands as the culmination of everything Ailes tried to do for Nixon back in 1968. He has created a vast stage set, designed to resemble an actual news network, that is literally hard-wired into the homes of millions of America’s most conservative voters. GOP candidates then use that forum to communicate directly to their base, bypass ing the professional journalists Ailes once denounced as “matadors” who want to “tear down the social order” with their “elitist, horse-dung, social ist thinking.” Ironically, it is Ailes who has built the most formidable propaganda machine ever seen outside of the Communist bloc, pioneering a business model that effectively monetizes conservative politics through its relentless focus on the bottom line. “I’m not in politics,” Ailes recently boasted. “I’m in ratings. We’re winning.”

    There’s oh, so much, much more in that article.

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