Thursday, June 18, 2015


I appended this Fox & Friends clip to my previous post, but I think it deserves a post of its own, because it leads into a discussion of changes I'm told are likely to come to Fox News in the near future (though I'm skeptical):

Yes, Fox & Friends this morning decided that the Charleston church shooting was an "attack on faith." It didn't matter that, by the time of the broadcast, the police chief of Charleston had already declared the shooting a hate crime, or that a reporter had interviewed a survivor who said that the shooter had told victims, "You rape our women and are taking over our country and you have to go." The prime directive on Fox & Friends was not to report the truth -- it was to establish a counternarrative that shifts blame away from Fox's ideological allies and toward Fox's ideological enemies. (You could describe that as the prime directive for the entire Fox News enterprise.)

And so Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduced the interview of minister and GOP politician E.W. Jackson by describing the massacre as "the gunman's horrifying attack on faith"; she asked, "So if we're not safe in our own churches, then where are we safe?" Jackson would go on to say that the massacre was part of a "rising hostility against Christians across this country because of our biblical views"; he recommended that ministers arm themselves in church. Steve Doocy tried to warn viewers away from what the facts were clearly showing:
“Extraordinarily, they called it a hate crime,” Fox News host Steve Doocy noted. “Some people look at it because it was a white guy apparently and a black church. But you [Jackson] made a great point just a moment ago about the hostility toward Christians -- and it was a church -- so maybe that’s what they’re talking about.”
Now, of course, we have a suspect in custody, Dylann Storm Roof -- and he's from Lexington, South Carolina, which is about two hours away from Charleston, so we have a pretty good idea that he specifically targeted a church with a long history of involvement in the civil rights struggle, going back to slavery days. (If he'd just wanted to target a house of worship, I'd say there were a few closer to home.) We know that the suspect's Facebook page features a photo of him wearing a jacket with flag patches from apartheid South Africa and colonial Rhodesia. We know that his car had a Confederate flag vanity plate and that a friend said "he had that kind of Southern pride," as well as "strong conservative beliefs" and a tendency to tell "a lot of racist jokes."


I bring all this up because, prior to the shooting, I was reading articles that hinted at big changes coming to Fox News. Do you recall the recent announcement that Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as CEO of 21st Century Fox and turning the reins over to his son James, with James's brother Lachlan as the company's co-chairman? Do you recall the reports that this wouldn't really change the relationship between Roger Ailes and the elder Murdoch, because Ailes would still be reporting to Rupert?

I thought that was true, but New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman -- who literally wrote the book on Ailes -- say that Ailes's days as a free agent are over:
This week, for the first time, there are signs that this remarkable era may be entering its twilight. Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion.

Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan. "Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch," Fox Business reported....

This was, apparently, news to Rupert. And now the Murdochs are correcting the record. "Roger will report to Lachlan and James," a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.
We're told that Ailes and James Murdoch despise each other, and that James is sort of a liberal:
Ailes and James have maintained a distant, if frosty, relationship. James is an environmentalist who led News Corp's campaign to be a carbon-neutral company. His wife once worked for the Clinton Foundation. Ailes, a fierce climate-change denier, openly badmouthed James to friends and colleagues. He's called him a "fucking dope" and "Fredo," according to sources.
CNNMoney says James is not only to the left of Ailes, but his views are "pointedly more liberal than his father's conservative positions." Also, we're told that he'll take over 21st Century Fox in less than a month, on July 1.

Frankly, I'm skeptical about all this. Fox News is hugely profitable for the Murdoch family just the way it is. What's more, every story I've read says that Rupert Murdoch, as co-chairman with Lachlan Murdoch, intends to stay very much involved in the business, even though James is CEO.

If this is a real change of leadership, and not just Rupert Murdoch shifting the rectangles around on the organization chart without really changing anything in the real world, then James Murdoch can show he's the real boss next month by beginning to pressure Ailes to use Fox to report the news rather than shape narratives and catapult propaganda. The next time something like this happens, if James really detests Ailes and his politics, a message ought to have been sent from the top that crap like the clip above is no longer acceptable.

My guess is that nothing of the sort is going to happen. Murdoch ceded the CEO role of News Corp, his other company, to Robert Thomson in 2013. That company includes The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. I haven't noticed the Post or the Journal's editorial page becoming any less rabid. So I think what we're going to see at Fox is more of the same. If I'm wrong, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

And please spare me any hand-wringing about the suits interfering with the editorial direction of the newsroom. I'd agree that that's a problem if Fox were actually a news organization. It isn't.


OH, AND: Catapulting the propaganda works: Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham are already repeating the "attack on Christianity" line.


theHatist said...

One way or another, Fox News is done in 10 years. Only the old, technophobic, or incredibly stupid get their news from the TV. The technophobe and the old will be dead soon. And there just aren't enough stupid people out there to support Fox.

Die alte Aechzener said...

Rupert Murdoch wont give up one iota of real power until it gets prised from his cold, dead, hands - that's just his nature. Let it be soon.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think if James Murdoch wanted to turn Fox News into a force for neutral (it will never be a force for good) he'd take the following tack:

1) Starting ASAP, Fox News is no longer a 24-hour news channel.
2) Instead it will be a news channel from 6am until 10am and from 5pm until 10pm
3) Outside of those times, it will show a set of reruns. Mostly reruns of the Dick Van Dyke show, the Andy Griffith show, the Waltons and other mildly conservative skewing TV shows from the "golden age of television" - the era when most of their target demographic were children. Better still would be to look at the Fox TV library and find things from that era that Fox actually owns (because hey - brand synergy here).
4) Slowly continue to cut back on the amount of "news" they broadcast and amp up the reruns until the channel has been turned into a really nice place to find classic TV shows of a certain type.
5) Fire the news people and replace them with trained chimps.

The 24-hour TV news model is dead. Fox News is the only one that is managing to make it work and it's because they don't do news and are clinging mightily to a 60+ demographic. Work with that - make a transition into the brave new world that is coming where 24-hour cable news channels are thought of like hypercolor T-shirts, MTV music videos, and pet rocks - fads from a previous era. James could do a world of good if he sped Fox News along in that transition instead of trying to stop the world from moving on.

Victor said...

"...then James Murdoch can show he's the real boss next month by beginning to pressure Ailes to use Fox to report the news rather than shape narratives and catapult propaganda. The next time something like this happens, if James really detests Ailes and his politics, a message ought to have been sent from the top that crap like the clip above is no longer acceptable.

My guess is that nothing of the sort is going to happen.
THAT'S THE best bet ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BKT said...

I don't think I'd go as far with my optimism as you, theHatist--

Victor said...

BTW FOX - Was it also attack on Christianity when that "Pro-'Life'" guy went into the abortion doctor's church, and shot him to death?

No, didn't think so.
That doesn't fit the FOX propaganda template.

paulocanning said...

The mileau that James comes from (UK conservatives) thinks the GOP are nuts and regard Fox as a joke.

He won't touch the golden goose though.

My memory of Lachlan from Australia is that he is not thought of as too bright and there's some other stuff which is just gossip, only it isn't ...