Friday, May 19, 2017

1798 Death of a Demon Genius

Here’s the Roger Ailes Quiz.
Fox News Photo
He was an evil man (y/n)
He was anti Semitic (y/n)
He was a right wing wacko (y/n)
He did more harm than good (y/n)
He did no good at all (y/n)
He was a sexual predator (y/n)
He was a television genius (y/n)

Roger Ailes died this week at age 77 and forces for good and evil lined up in their (y/n) columns and started pontificating even before rigor set in.

The bios and templates have been in place for a long time.  These are the long stories that magically turn into obituaries when the person dies and they top the story with “So and So died last night. He was 104. His husband of 83 years, Such and Such, confirmed the death but did not provide a cause.”

Then come 12-hundred well chosen words on what a great guy So and So was. Or two minutes and 29 seconds of video on the nightly news.

Sometimes the correspondents die before the subject of the obit.  This poses its own problem: Run the video or re-do it.  Both solutions have drawbacks.

Okay, but we’re talking about Ailes and here’s where plenty of readers are going to get annoyed.

My answer to all seven questions:  Y.

The one that’s going to stick in the craws of readers of this page is that last one… the one about being a television genius.  

When we think of “genius,” we tend to think of Einstein or Rembrandt or Mozart.  People who bring light and beauty into the world.

And we forgive these men and women some of their quirks because the return is so high.

Tens of thousands of people roam the planet with the quirks but not the genius, the great creative spirit that gives us a Chaucer or a Dostoyevsky.

Let’s face it, Fox News is part of pop culture.  More harmful than the Kardashians and the Real Housewives of Pocatello. But pop culture nonetheless.

How could a guy like Ailes harass all those women without people noticing?  How could Bernie Madoff scam all those people without someone noticing?

They didn’t. Either of them. People noticed but ignored.  When Madoff’s Ponzi scheme collapsed, we were shocked… except those who believed all along he was a common thief.  Well, maybe not common.

With Ailes, everyone knew.  But as long as the ratings and the money poured in, people who should not have written it off wrote it off.

What changed?  Did Fox suddenly gain a conscience? Was bad publicity damaging their brand?  No to both.

The Murdochs want to buy Sky TV in England. In order to do that they have to pass muster as proper Brits.  Proper Brits do not fondle the help, at least not where it can be seen.  They certainly don’t put them on the casting couch. Or so it’s said.  

So Madoff did billions of dollars in damage by sitting at a desk and telling lies.  Ailes did horrible things by lying or by sitting on his office couch.  But there’s no way to put a price tag on that.

“I hired her because she was hot.” -- Roger Ailes on why Sarah Palin got that short-lived job as a commentator on Fox.  Quoted by the Washington Post in 2011.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2017

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