LOL Book Club — May 6, 2012 at 11:18 am

Book recommendation – The Fox Effect


We mix the Kool-Aid, you swallow it

For anyone who remembers 2009 and 2010, The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine by David Brock, Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters for America will trigger a bit of PTSD. As the nation was suffering the result of eight years of failed Republican governance, conservative forces came up with a crazy scheme. They would blame the entire crisis on the President who inherited it. And this scheme worked perfectly.

Here’s the central thesis of The Fox Effect, based on my reading: Everything the Tea Party gets credit for was actually achieved by Fox News.

The Tea Party did exist before Fox News as an extension of Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign. By 2009, the Republican Party had so thoroughly destroyed its brand that it needed a new one, stat. Fox advanced the myth the Tea Party has sprung up as a non-partisan group, only concerned with fiscal issues. Millions of Americans who were out of work or in shock from the sudden loss of most of their life savings bought what Fox was selling.

Fox News argued that the President was a radical before he stepped into office. As soon as he was in office, he became a commie, fascist, socialist, Sharia-loving Maoist Kenyan. To counter him, they began ORGANIZING political events—first Tea Party rallies then town hall disruptions. The “Tea Party” candidates Fox liked used the nation’s most popular news channel to raise millions of dollars and the channel was a 24/7 attack ad against the President. Behind everything were two main arguments: 1) the President was raising taxes (as he was cutting them) and 2) any attempt to blame Bush for what Bush had actually done was cowardly.

The most heinous activity Fox News engaged is was what Simon Maloy of Media Matters calls the Fox Cycle. First the channel raises the profile of a dubious allegation—such as those about ACORN, Van Jones, and Shirley Sherrod. They cover said allegations extensively and then call out the mainstream media for ignoring the story. They do this until the mainstream media begins covering the hooey as actual news. When the mainstream media falls for it, they celebrate this as an example of media bias being overcome.

The fiction that Fox is uncovering conspiracies instead of enabling them is at the heart of the strategy masterminded by former Nixon aide and Fox News creator Roger Ailes. Everyone else is lying to you, patriots. We’re the only people you can trust.

This is how cults work and this is how Fox News works.

How effective was Fox News? So effective that they had to back off.

By the middle of 2010, Rupert Murdoch—who had began to face questions about his corporation’s ethics in the UK phone hacking scandal—had Roger Ailes, who runs Fox basically as his fiefdom, back off. Fox employees were prevented from directly endorsing candidates and Tea Party events. Also, Ailes admitted publicly that Fox wasn’t interested in presenting the truth. Their agenda was to “balance” what he sees as a liberal media.

This book and the work Media Matters does on a daily basis are essential to understanding how the right effectively uses media to disrupt politics. This understanding has been essential to breaking the Fox Cycle and using the inverse of their tactics to fight legitimately malicious forces like ALEC.

How do you know that the Tea Party was just Fox News in disguise? What’s happened to them since 2010?

They’ve become a punching bag for liberals who are targeting intolerance and shortsighted thinking. Email forwards and sparsely attended rallies that have almost no effect on the political process compared to a national news network with message discipline and no shame.

Fox News was the story of the last election. And, now that that story has been broken, we can have new hope in 2012.