There's an obvious explanation for why Fox News dispatched in-house faux-Democrat Kirsten Powers to write a FoxNews.com opinion piece asserting that the Obama White House is engaged in a "war on Fox News" and wants to "shut down" Fox: obviously, declaring itself the media outlet that strikes fear in Obama's heart is a good way for Fox to inspire brand loyalty among the rabid base. There's nothing more to it than that -- right? It's just boob-bait. Isn't it?
I'm not sure. Last night on Fox, Sean Hannity's show included a segment along the same lines, which featured some true paranoia, some of it expressed by Peter Johnson, the personal lawyer of Roger Ailes:
Reacting to President Barack Obama's criticism of the role the conservative Fox News Channel plays in U.S. politics, network contributor Peter Johnson, Jr. said Monday night that the president might just find a way to ban watching Fox News.Here's a clip of the segment (via Media Matters).
Johnson appeared on the network's nightly opinion show "Hannity" on Monday, where he and host Sean Hannity took Obama's recent critique of right-wing media -- wherein he told The New Republic that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are a key stumbling block to compromise in Congress -- as some sort of forthcoming policy mandate to revoke the First Amendment.
"In other words, forget about that little thing called freedom of speech, differing views," Hannity said. "Instead, he wants any, all opposing voices to be, what, silenced? That includes the opinions that you hear on this program and watch every single night."
..."Now the president is saying, 'Listen, do it the way I do it or I'm gonna come down your pipe,'" [Johnson said]....
"So, to say, 'Oh, you know what's happened here is that we have an institutional barrier, according to the president, that stops the will of the people,'" Johnson said. "Sean, you know what the institutional barrier is? The United States Constitution. And so, people at home should be afraid because, they say, 'Am I not allowed to watch Fox anymore? Am I not allowed to listen to Rush or Sean? Am I doing something that's un-American?' You’re not." ...
In the clip, Hannity, Johnson, and fellow Fox-ite Andrea Tantaros express confidence that with the Constitution and the 50% of the country that (they say) hates Obama -- no, more than 50%! -- they can fend off this jackbooted attempt at speech suppression. But claiming that speech suppression is actually on the president's mind is just an act, isn't it?
Maybe not. Recall what New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman wrote a few months ago:
... if you want to know what Roger Ailes really thinks about the news these days, here's a tip: Pay close attention to Peter Johnson Jr."He sounds like Roger." And we know how paranoid Roger Ailes is:
... he is Ailes's personal attorney who negotiated the network chief's new four-year contract with News Corp., said to be worth upward of $30 million a year. Fox executives frequently find Johnson conferring with Ailes privately. "He is a fixture in Ailes's office," one Fox source explained.
But Johnson's value to Ailes extends far beyond his work as a lawyer. This election season, when Ailes has a message to communicate, chances are that it is Johnson who articulates it on air. One insider told me that Johnson is allowed to use the teleprompter to read from scripts, a perk which is normally reserved for Fox hosts. "Johnson has a rare privilege other contributors don't have," the source said. "He can load a script directly into the teleprompter. So it's not even Ailes unplugged. It's Ailes plugged in ... It's why he sounds like Roger."
... [Ailes] lived in fear that gay activists would try to attack him in retaliation over his hostility to gay rights. (In 1989, Ailes had broken up a protest of a Rudy Giuliani speech by gay activists, grabbing demonstrator by the throat and shoving him out the door.) Barricading himself behind a massive mahogany desk, Ailes insisted on having "bombproof glass" installed in [his office] windows -- even going so far as to personally inspect samples of high-tech plexiglass, as though he were picking out new carpet. Looking down on the street below, he expressed his fears to Cooper, the editor he had tasked with up-armoring his office. "They'll be down there protesting," Ailes said. "Those gays."Well, Ailes did work for Nixon, after all. So, yeah, I think he really does believe that President Obama would shut down Fox News if he could get away with it.
... 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.
And no, I won't attempt to parse Johnson's expression "I'm gonna come down your pipe."