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Roger & Us

Donald Trump Talks About Roger Ailes’ Departure of Fox News | THE CIRCUS | SHOWTIME

It’s been less than a day since the news of Roger Ailes’ death first broke, and already that news seems stale, dated, and unimportant. Which, I suppose, might be the most fitting tribute to the man possible. What does a man’s importance or influence matter, after all, if there is a slightly newer and sexier shiny object to capture the attention of cable news and the internet? Little or nothing, if Ailes had anything to say about it prior to his shuffling off this mortal coil.

For me personally, however, the passing of the disgraced Fox News kingpin begs at least a moment’s reflection. To the degree to which I am tied to this website, I am also tethered to Ailes’ shadow. If there has been any constant thread to my political writing over the years, it has been my belief that the ever-hungry, partisan Media Machine Ailes helped construct would eventually bleed out and poison all of our national institutions if we let it. And as I watch national events unfold now in 2017, it’s hard for me to take seriously the ever-argued position that I was worried about nothing.

The remembrances of Ailes I read this morning are unsurprisingly divided in their sympathy. Some people are mourning the loss of a man they truly see as great, while others are breakdancing on the still-fresh grave. All of the eulogies I read have only one thing in common, and that is what they describe as Ailes’ use of the media to greatly advance conservatism. And in doing so, each and every one misses the true legacy of the man. For Roger Ailes was never American conservatism’s champion; he was its destroyer.

Since Fox News became, well, Fox News under Roger Ailes, political insiders have praised (or condemned) the network for being driven by a conservative viewpoint. This is, and always has been, entirely wrong. The only time Ailes’ empire pushed actual conservatism was by mere happenstance. The true ideology behind Fox News has always been making money, and nothing else. Sometimes this aligned with a conservative viewpoint, but just as often — perhaps more often — it didn’t. Under Ailes, Fox became reactionary, in the colloquial rather than political sense of that word. Ailes would note what position on an issue might be ripe for getting his audience to tune in, and he reacted to consumer demand. Sure, the word “conservative” would be slapped on like a corporate logo to everything Fox did. But actual ideology, as with facts and balance, never entered the equation except where they accidentally aligned with revenue.

Thus did the concept of American Exceptionalism and Patriotism become Very Important Indeed, unless a Democrat was in the White House, in which case it was the first laid kindling of  a Brown Shirts and Hitler Youth fire run wild. Thus was Freedom of Religion sacrosanct as the nation’s single most precious gift, unless higher ratings might be pulled by saying it was really Western Civilization’s greatest threat. Thus were police and law enforcement afforded a place of special consideration against criticism, unless the network might draw more viewers by championing fringers who were setting up snipers to take out any police that might show up to enforce the law in Nevada. Thus was any crazy bit of radicalism — such as requiring citizens to pay taxes in gold or laws requiring all citizens to be armed whenever in public — that were the antithesis of conservatism loudly trumpeted, if by doing so it could get viewers to keep tuning in nightly.

The truth is that under Roger Ailes’ watch, American Conservatism came to be defined as whatever might give Roger Ailes slightly better ratings on any given day. If that required that abandoning one’s core principles from one day to the next, so be it.

And just as embracing of Ailes’ “ratings over conservatism” was profitable for Fox, so it eventually became profitable for the GOP.

The zenith of this might well be the current President of the United States. Donald Trump, after all, is the least conservative President this country has ever seen by a wide margin, under any serious definition of the word “conservative.” Indeed, he appears to be potentially disastrous for both the country and the Republican Party. But while Trump may well prove to be the GOP’s undoing (for a time), he is unquestionably phenomenal for ratings. And so Fox and the GOP are all in with Trump, because that’s clearly the best for everyone’s bottom line.

And as I’ve noted on these very pages, it isn’t just Trump — and it’s no longer just Fox.

Trump aside, there were only two other candidates in last year’s primaries that had the remotest shot at the White House. Neither were good candidates. Indeed, both were found eminently unlikable by the majority of voters. But each provided a ratings bonanza, in no small part because they were so disliked. How could we choose anyone else, when ratings, clicks, and revenue were at stake for everyone involved? And that, I would argue, is a direct result of Roger Ailes’ vision.

So to has been the rise of the Louis Gohmerts and Michelle Bachmanns of the world: people with no real professional or political accomplishments, but who are elevated to national leadership status by Fox and the Mainstream Media alike on the basis that they’re willing to say bats**t crazy things on television. In the world before Ailes, these people would have been exiled by their parties and never be heard from again. In the post-Ailes, ratings-are-everything world, however, they are national avatars and are largely treated as such. Louis Gohmert knows nothing about health insurance and has almost no influence in Congress. But he’s just so crazy that we just have to have George Stephanopoulos and Chuck Todd ask him what what his thoughts are on that or any other topic about which he knows Jack, week after week, month after month.

So, no. Roger Ailes was many things, but a champion of conservatism was never one of them.

Rather, Ailes’ great accomplishment will always be that he found a way to take a proud, storied, and — for good and bad — truly American political philosophy, and turn it into an unserious, 24-hour reality television show in exchange for money. And his true legacy, sadly, is that his seductive success is tempting everyone else attached to our country’s most cherished institutions to cash in by doing the same.

So if you are a lover of liberal democracy, public institutions, the Constitution, or the idea that there are such a thing as facts and that they matter, then go and dance on the man’s grave, if you must. But as you dance, remember: Roger Ailes may be dead and buried, but he’s still winning, and he’s winning big.


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Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular contributor for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter. ...more →

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105 thoughts on “Roger & Us

  1. We might hope that in Ailes’ absence, the political world he started creating when he trained Richard Nixon to be more media-friendly will somehow recede. But more realistically, the genie he uncorked simply won’t ever go back in the bottle.

    After all, it’s not fair to lay the entire blame for either our hyper-polarized tribal polity or the outrage-leads-to-profit model of media, as both were around before that. It is fair to say, though, that Ailes was a singular figure in making those things mainstream and even respectable.

    The circle appears to be coming around to the starting point again: he got his start with media consulting for Richard Nixon and his last public endeavor was media consulting for the Nixon sequel, Donald Trump.

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    • Well, the genie might not go back in the bottle, but we might start ignoring it. The business of selling fear and outrage has a big structural problem: People adapt. With fears, it’s called ‘systematic desensitization”. With outrage, it’s called “outrage fatigue”. Overall, I’ve heard the phrase “exposure therapy”.

      There’s a sucker born every minute, but if 1.1 suckers are wising up every minute, you’re still in a losing game. Are we there yet? I don’t know, but that’s my suspicion. I think we’ve hit Peak Troll in the last year or so, and it’s a downhill glide from here.

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  2. There were always people like Bachman in American Politics and they could sometimes rise to power. I suspect their willingness to do so is out of sincerity. I have no evidence that the two you mentioned are grifters or frauds.

    I suspect Burt is right and the genie is let out of the bottle. It might rescind but that will take a generation or so.

    Though your essay raises the question of what it means to be conservative and I suspect that a lot of us saying Fox News killed conservativism are just on the left with a counter view of what conservatism means than self-described conservatives

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  3. My time for dancing was when Roger was fired. I won’t celebrate his death, for the sake of my own mental health.

    I loved this piece, Tod

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  4. All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction. – Clarence Darrow

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  5. I’m not sure the difference is that politicians are more polarized, instead of that political polarization is now aligned with party.

    The only reason so much of the 50s-70s look “bipartisan” is because there were a huge number of right wingers in the southern democratic party (mostly because they still resented Lincoln) and a significant number of republicans in the north that aligned with northern liberals on some ideological grounds. It is also fashinoable to observe that this was a period of comity (and that’s true to some extent) but when your notable exception is as striking as McCarthy your argument is a bit of a stretch.

    Certainly our political culture is nowhere near as nasty as it has been at previous points in our country’s life.

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    • Yes, it’s easy to forget how nasty things got in 1800, 1828, 1864, and 1912, because none of us were alive at those times. But the history is right there. And let’s not forget that the Constitution was peril in 1933 in a way that it simply is not in peril now. That’s not to say we don’t have a serious problem now, but the problem isn’t a Constitutional crisis and it isn’t the threat of a coup. The problem today is what to do when the voters make a really bad decision but then resent the checks and balances put in place to mitigate exactly that sort of circumstance.

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  6. So to has been the rise of the Louis Gohmerts and Michelle Bachmanns of the world: people with no real professional or political accomplishments, but who are elevated to national leadership status by Fox and the Mainstream Media alike on the basis that they’re willing to say bats**t crazy things on television.

    This is correct, but it’s only half a story. Those folks get elevated in the conservative world partly because Fox elevated them, but part of the reason that Fox elevates them is because they are very good at engendering a level of opposition and hate from the left. The phenomenon of Fox News and conservative media isn’t just the story of a crazy person yelling in the street to no one in particular. It’s the story of an equally crazy conversation.

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    • I agree with this, except that instead of “the left”, it should be “everyone who isn’t batshit insane”. Which, admittedly, has significant overlap with the left, but I must believe that not everyone on the right are irretrievable lunatics.

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  7. I’ve not watched Fox news in at least a decades, so I’m not familiar with it’s claimed decline, but I will say, I was a big supporter of “sided” news. Everyone has a bias and “reporters” not shirking from that bias was refreshing, especially compared to the rest of the media, who have a bias but claim they don’t let it get through ’cause they are “professionals”. Ha!

    Fox news was always about money, a casual perusal of the show would suggest that it wasn’t aligned with mainstream conservative though all the time. More like “opposition media” when a dem was in power. Viewed that way, it had it’s place.

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  8. More like “opposition media” when a dem was in power. Viewed that way, it had it’s place.

    My memory of Fox News in the W years was of fawning approval and hero worship, and how Dems were traitors. Not really “opposition media”.

    The only subject I remember in which Fox has not been fully in synch with Republican “elites” (however those elites get selected) was gay marriage, which they preferred to ignore, but definitely refused to condemn, probably because they saw the writing in the wall.

    (This was a response to Damon’s 8:35 am comment. Apologies for messing the thread)

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    • “My memory of Fox News in the W years was of fawning approval and hero worship, and how Dems were traitors. Not really “opposition media”.”

      Really? Sounds like good opposing side propaganda. Anyway, regardless, Fox news had a political perspective, at least in the early days. And if that position is “we are going to be reactionary, so be it.

      The point is and was they it presented a different side than the side presented by the MSM. That alone, made it significant.

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      • The point is and was they it presented a different side than the side presented by the MSM. That alone, made it significant.

        Significant they are indeed. But significant does not mean correct, or even useful to society.

        The MSM also does not present the idea that the Earth is flat. Flatearthers will surely find it significant that a (large) media vehicle would present their theories without skepticism (“Shape of the Earth in dispute. We report, you decide!”). But ii the media gave a platform to flat Earth theories it would cease being “reporting” and would just become a PR machine.

        Climate change is happening; the Iraq War was going really bad in W’s day; the mines will not be reopen; what HRC did with her emails might have been (was) politically imprudent, but it does not meet the legal definition of gross negligence needed to prosecute; and so on. If your preferred media is telling you otherwise, you are being conned by them.

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        • This. There is definitely a place for an “opposition” news source, one that reports the facts, but is skeptical about groupthink and comes from a different, but intellectually consistent, perspective.

          I mean, besides Al Jazeera. One that speaks to USan conservatives, but aims at informing rather than reinforcing.

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        • I was unaware that the purpose of media outlets was 1) to be correct and 2) of use to society. Perhaps you can explain why the MSM seems to get the facts wrong so often on numerous reporting and isn’t condemned? The purpose of media is to report news and sell ad space. There are no value judgement in that purpose.

          Now, as to the flat earthers, I’m would be very interested in hearing their thinking and justifications for their beliefs, if only to understand where they are coming from. I have no problem with a media company interviewing their group. The same for climate change supporters and deniers. I actually LIKE the concept of “we report, you decide”. The media should be presenting facts and opinions to inform the viewers of the positions of various parties so the viewer can make an informed decision, if needed, on policy issues. Sadly, most reporters have difficulty hiding their obvious biases and have the habit of inserting their own opinions into the piece as well.

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          • I was unaware that the purpose of media outlets was 1) to be correct and 2) of use to society.

            Let’s not go down a hole on what the definition of media outlets is. MTV is a media outlet that does not have to be correct about anything, though anyone that showed “My so called life” has forever proved their usefulness to society in my eyes.

            For the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus on media that purports (promises?) to deliver factual (as far as it can reasonably determine) information. I welcome that they add opinion pieces to. They can say that HRC is a crappy politician, they can say she was imprudent (*), they can even say she will destroy Christianity in this country (Rod Dreher says so). But they ought not to say she broke the law, because she did not, because the law defines what gross negligence and wrecklessness is, and she was legally neither grossly negligent nor wreckless, not that Fox will ever tell you that. To say she broke the law is false. Worse, Fox News commentators (and Fox News management) knew that they were stating a falsehood on air as they did it. They were conning their audience, which brings me to….

            The media should be presenting facts and opinions to inform the viewers of the positions of various parties so the viewer can make an informed decision, if needed, on policy issues.

            So says an illustrious world thinker that will remain anonymous

            I’m interested too in knowing why flat earthers believe what they believe. I’mhappy to hear a report that says “We interviewed the Flat Earth Society and here are their views on the shape of the Earth. However, we should tell our audience that the shape of the Earth has been fully determined, and is not at all flat, but rather an spheroid. Attached please find the picture Apollo X took in 1969 https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/may-18-1969-apollo-10-view-of-the-earth

            (*) I’m not sure if she was indeed imprudent. So far we don’t know if her server has been hacked. We know that the DoS’ was http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cybersecurity-statedept-idUSKCN0J11BR20141117. Perhaps she was being overtly cautious.

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            • J_A,
              You take a thumb drive off government property with classified documents, you go to jail.

              Man, if I did half the fucking stuff that Clinton did, I’d have gone to jail for a looong time.

              We’re talking HRC, who took Documents off Government Property. Documents that wound up in the hands of multiple spies for multiple countries, BECAUSE she took them off Government Property.

              I don’t give a fuck if they were classified or not. She hired foreign spies. That’s reckless conduct.

              She deserves to be in jail nine ways to Sunday.

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              • We’re talking HRC, who took Documents off Government Property. Documents that wound up in the hands of multiple spies for multiple countries, BECAUSE she took them off Government Property.

                And we know that this is a fact -that they ended in the hands of multiple foreign spies- how? Just because Fox News commentators said they did?

                Because the FBI has never said this happened (only that there was a risk that some, not that many BTW, could hypothetically have, if they were hacked in HRC’s server, as opposed to being hacked in the DoS, which -it is a fact- has been hacked.

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                • J_A,
                  I don’t watch FoxNews.
                  Huma has admitted to allowing her then-husband to print them out.
                  The FBI has his laptop, with documentation on the documents.

                  Where did you think Israel got the documents — a full year before the FBI did?

                  Passing State documents to Israel, by the way, is treason. We lock people up for that. This isn’t Japanese-style espionage, these weren’t public documents available for all.

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            • “For the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus on media that purports (promises?) to deliver factual (as far as it can reasonably determine) information.”

              OK. So, if we’re having this convo, are we establishing a bar on how much “wrong facts” are necessary to be outside this discussion? Because I’ve read/hear enough blatant errors by MSM reporters over the last 30 years to wonder if, indeed, they care much for the actual facts, or are too lazy to do fact checking. I’ll grant you 100% of your claims about Fox for argument sake, because I’ve not watched it in a very long time, and all your examples are more recent than a decade ago.

              “So says an illustrious world thinker that will remain anonymous” Thank you for your compliments!

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              • I’m not defending the MSN is general (except for MTV, since they showed “My so-called life”, the best TV series ever). I’m perfectly willing to stipulate that they are lazy

                We were having a Fox News related conversation, and Fox News’ratio of alternative/correct facts is way higher than most – Just as if they really didn’t care about facts, but cared about getting eyeballs, all other things be damned.

                Fox News would as happily spout fake pro-liberal facts instead of conservative ones, if they saw a better market in doing that. See Exhibit 1 (hyper liberal Fox TV network) for further confirmation

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                • “Fox News would as happily spout fake pro-liberal facts instead of conservative ones, if they saw a better market in doing that. ”

                  I think we can agree on this :)

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                    • It would, yes

                      What makes Fox News different (significantly different), is the ratio of alternative/factual facts that they present

                      The conservative orientation is not the problem. The willingness of (knowingly) distort facts while pretending to present “news” to accommodate the prejudices of their viewers is what’s troubling. It would be as troubling if they did it in pursuit of a liberal agenda (actually, in pursuit of the money wallets of liberal, instead of conservative, viewers).

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                      • Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I don’t think liberals would mind if Fox “did it in pursuit of a liberal agenda (actually, in pursuit of the money wallets of liberal, instead of conservative, viewers).” After-all, preaching to the converted always works well, especially if you add a dash of hubris and “in crowd” tone.

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                          • Nevermoor,
                            Don’t be so sure it doesn’t. Cenk had someone blatantly lying on air during election night coverage, and not a WORD about it. (Surveillance video got pulled to document this.)

                            And these liberal networks? Taking money from Clinton to promulgate her opinions and lie about her likelihood of winning.

                            Silver too.

                            The only honest pollsters were working the free market and getting paid handsomely for their accurate predictions.

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                            • The fact that I had to goggle who (or what) Cenk was, and that I still have no clue who “The Young Turks”are – if they are not the 1908-1918 group that seized power in Ottoman Turkey (before the invention of TV),- because I didn’t bother to click the link, means that no, Cenk and Fox News are not levorotary and dextrorotary versions of the same thing

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                              • J_A,
                                And Nate Silver — you’ve heard of him?
                                Or shall I judge you completely ignorant and henceforth ignore you?

                                Might I mention CNN who put Amanda Baggs on television, claiming that she was autistic (and incapable of speech), when she scored well enough on the SATs to go to the Center for Talented Youth summer camp?

                                Reporters don’t exist anymore. I do know publicists, and they write the articles that the reporters slap their fucking names on.

                                I should tell you the story of eBay someday.

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                            • I reject a sophomoric podcast as being part of the universe under discussion, whether or not you’re right about there being lies there.

                              Silver was notable for his pessimism on HRC (he had her at 2/3, PEC had her at 99%). Odd sign of being bought and paid for (a charge you support with nothing).

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                              • Nevermoor,
                                And my further comment about CNN not doing a whit of fact-checking?

                                Do you really want me to explain how I know this? Very well, I know a guy who signed up to help Jeb Bush’s campaign with fundraising…
                                “Now, I know you know Barbara, and I know you know that she’d be disappointed if you didn’t help her son…”

                                The true numbers on Trump winning were 70/30 or so, and that’s pulling a person by person poll. Surprising how chatty people are about stuff like how they’re gonna vote, isn’t it?

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                            • I bet all the MSM networks AND “liberal” networks put out less dishonesty each and every day combined than Fox does all by itself.

                              But I’m open to being persuaded otherwise.

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                              • You do know where Fox broadcasts from? Rhymes with Sixth Avenue and Rockefeller Center.

                                I catch about three minutes of it a week in a donut shop while the wife fixes her coffee. There are times I swear that the left watches more right wing stuff than the right does.

                                I know North reads more RedState than I do.

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                              • “I bet all the MSM networks AND “liberal” networks put out less dishonesty each and every day combined than Fox does all by itself.”

                                Kinda redundant. MSM = “liberal” networks. Regardless, I have no intention of trying to persuade you of my POV. There’s no value add in it, and I’m certainly not going to start watching either in an attempt to prove you wrong. That would be worse!

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                                • It is only redundant because conservatives have redefined what the term “mainstream” means.

                                  From what I’ve seen, only very recently has Fox relinquished its spot atop the cable news ratings and that is primarily due to Trump. Conservative talk radio hosts remain among the highest rated of all radio shows.

                                  These are facts that the conservative outlets themselves constantly remind viewers/listeners of.

                                  And yet they frame themselves as somehow outside the “mainstream”. How is that? Why is that?

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                                  • Kazzy, I think the word “mainstream” pretty much has it’s own definition. I will agree that it’s used as a proxy for “the major news outlets”, but even then I don’t see that as a problem. Those news orgs drive the news trends and what’s generally reported on since “the important media” are reporting on them.

                                    And the primary news outlets are by far more liberal than conservative. I wasn’t able to find any cable news shows vs broadcast news % of audience stats, but IIRC, cable news still is a very small amount of the total.

                                    Oh, sure, talk radio is different, and I’ve seen many reports discussing why it seems impossible for liberal talk shows to gain traction. I presume it’s because it’s not needed. There’s tv news for the liberal view, or the local/regional papers, or FM radio. Shall I go on? :)

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  9. Slate Star Codex recently had an essay on “Neutral vs. Conservative” in an attempt to explore why someone like Ailes could come into a market and immediate have such a huge hit news grift going on when it’s such an obvious wheelbarrow full of crap to anybody else.

    So my take on the Ailes thing is this:

    We’re never going to have it as good as we had it with him ever again.

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    • The problem with Alexander’s essay is… typical of the problems with his essays, which is that, in the final analysis, he neglects roughly half the strategies the mainstream institutions have tried. Sure, they may ramp up the anti-conservatism, but they’ve also tried ramping it down, too, and that doesn’t work either.

      People want trustworthy institutions. For the most part, institutions that liberals feel they can trust, conservatives can’t, and vice versa.

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      • Sure, but the dynamic of “neutral” vs. “conservative” is one that I’ve seen in a handful of places and I think that it’s fairly obvious when it comes to The Media.

        We’ve had the “liberal media” argument ad nauseum on this site and the best argument that made sense to me relies on familiarity with the “personal racism vs. institutional racism” debate and the analogy of how the argument always swings to defenses against personal racism.

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        • Oh, I’m not saying that the dynamic doesn’t exist, I’m saying that the solutions that Alexander is advocating have also been tried, and they don’t work either.

          And I expect our different perspectives on debates around racism do, probably, align well with our different perspectives on non-conservative institutions vs. conservative institutions.

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            • Institutions always evolve to serve the interests of those who make most use of its services, just like ruts wear into a dirt road.

              There are many things that can be inferred from this insight.

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          • @pillsy

            It also raises the question of why conservatives can’t trust neutral or liberal institutions and the answer seems to be that it does present stuff conservatives don’t like.

            The neutral media says you can’t make offensive statements about Jews or People of Color or LBGT people and women get stay in the workplace or not on their own choices. And then science says climate change is real and we need to do something and maybe cut back on our way life.

            So sometimes these pleas come down to concern trolling because it is telling liberals to shut up on these things.

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            • I am the furthest thing from a neutral observer, so I think a huge part of the reason that conservatives find it difficult to trust non-conservative [1] media outlets is that conservatives routinely want completely ridiculous ideas to be treated with unmerited respect. And yes, of course I would think that.

              Still, I can’t help but remember how, during my early adulthood, I frequently saw folks on the right assert that dismissing and mocking the idea that the Earth is a few thousand years old was a sign of awful bias. A lot of the time it wasn’t even that the people complaining were themselves Creationists, but they saw Creationists as part of their tribe, so of course they had to be defended.

              That particular shibboleth seems to have gone the way of the dinosaurs who drowned in the Flood, thankfully, but the damage is done and the distrust remains.

              [1] Alexander’s “neutral” phrasing strikes me as unhelpful.

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              • I think a huge part of the reason that conservatives find it difficult to trust non-conservative [1] media outlets is that conservatives routinely want completely ridiculous ideas to be treated with unmerited respect.

                I think that’s a huge part of it too. Which of course leads right into the role evidence, coherence, and understanding the subject matter play in justifying a view, all of which are things conservatives increasingly reject as having any merit whatsoever. One person one vote, right? (And that’s true!)

                That’s not to say all conservatives are anti-evidence or ignorant. More that conservatism has been increasingly dummied down in recent years. What passes as that type of conservatism is exactly what we’re seeing on DC over the last three and a half months: tax cuts and dysfunction.

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              • I am not even talking about that kind of stuff but there is a throwback quality to a lot of Fox News stuff is old school macho stuff. Part sex appeal (women in short skirts) and part racist jokes and old school Mad Men style talk.

                So CNN might not be liberal in my eyes but it is more professional which means no to frat asshole jokes.

                So when I hear people like Scott Alexander, it does sort of come across as “liberals just let them have their racist jokes.”

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                • Saul,

                  So when I hear people like Scott Alexander, it does sort of come across as “liberals just let them have their racist jokes.”

                  I think we took different messages from SA’s post. Mine was that if you don’t let them have their racist jokes those jokes will get even worse. The last bit is the important part.

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                  • We don’t have any say over anyones racist jokes. We can’t allow or disallow them their jokes. We can not like it and criticize it but we don’t’ have control. The other obvious point is that it is easy for a bunch of white dudes to say that we should “allow” those racist jokes. Lot’s of AfAm’s take those things seriously and they don’t give a flying fork whether white dudes think we should just be cool about it.

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                      • Yeah i’ve read the SSC piece. It’s fine, he usually makes good points. You said if we don’t’ allow their racist jokes then things will just get worse. That is what i’m responding to.

                        He says we shouldn’t try to get “their” campus speakers tossed. My preference would be just to ignore speakers i don’t’ like. But i understand what AfAm’s would loudly protest Chuck Murray.

                        Conservatives didn’t really just simply leave the MSM. Conservative media gave them something they wanted more. Even a truly neutral, high quality MSM never had a chance compared to a media that would cater to them.

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                        • You said if we don’t’ allow their racist jokes then things will just get worse. That is what i’m responding to.

                          No, I said Alexander’s view is that excluding people who make those jokes will make the jokes worse: it creates a selection dynamic which reinforces out-group identity. I think he’s right.

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                          • I think he is right about the out group dynamic but that doesn’t cover all the issues. If Reddit says no more racist reddits and boots them , those people will gravitate to a place with a far higher percentage of racists. True enough. However that is still their choice to bath in the racism instead of hearing the complaints of the people they are joking about.

                            There is an element of treating the joke tellers as not having choices of their own to make. They aren’t simply reactors to what is done to them with no volition. They are choosing to follow Coontown to it’s new home. They are fully autonomous humans who choose to say what they say. Treat them like that. They don’t have to choose that out group. Many will but each has a choice.

                            But what about in a work place or a family or a group of friends? Saying no more racist jokes at work or at family picnics because we will have POC’s there or people who are deeply offended is a different. It is placing the needs of the offended over those of the offender. The people who want to tell racist jokes can go do that is a safe place but in some places they need to not be dicks. That isn’t creating an out group dynamic as much as it’s promoting a better environment for the targets of the racist jokes.

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                            • I think the narrow focus on bigoted jokes sorta misses Alexander’s point, to some extent, but also exemplifies it as well, I suppose.

                              But what about in a work place or a family or a group of friends?

                              He actually talks about this in his article: the “Resist Trump!” (or whatever it was) sign someone placed in the breakroom where he works.

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                            • I disagree with the outgroup dynamic as well because it seems to be another way Scott is just expressing sympathy for the fascist.

                              The ingroup and outgroup thing cuts both ways. Surely minorities are outgroups too. Our good doctor wrote about the homophobia he experienced in med school recently on Slate. Why isn’t that being part of an outgroup?

                              Instead you have a lot of people going around saying stuff like “You know by objecting to me calling you a “Money grubbing Kike and teaching my kids that Jews have horns and are the Devil’s spawn, you are showing yourself to be a real bigot.”

                              And then you have the Should Know Betters defending statements like the one above. You have Conor F gently chastising liberals with stuff like “Don’t punish people for a faux paux.” He never says what is the dividing line between a faux paux and an objectionable comment though but I suspect the bar is high.

                              And I agree that sometimes privilege talk can go too far but honestly fuck making bigots and authoritarians feel like persecuted martyrs with the outgroup identity. It really does feel like the dialogue is like this:

                              Liberal: People should not be attacked because of their sexual identity.

                              Right-winger: You hate my website that says homosexuality is the devil’s thing. Why are you such a bigot? Why can you tolerate everything but the outgroup?

                              Scott Alexander and the Should Know Betters: Hmmm that far right wing dude is not going away and I think we just need to suck it up and I like the outgroup thing. We are the real bigots.

                              Fuck that shit.

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                              • I don’t think Scott is expressing sympathy for the fascist at least in the way you are saying it. He, and you to some degree, are oversimplifying all the dynamics. Like i’ve said about Scott’s essay he commits a classic error of psychology of picking one dynamic to explain a complex behavior. People have choices and are pushed and pulled by many things.

                                I agree with Conor F that people shouldn’t be punished for FP’s. And it is difficult to tell the difference between a faux paux and something more serious. It takes the people in the situation to listen and talk to figure that out. There is no over arching way to say who is right or wrong. We shouldn’t chase away a person who makes a mistake and apologizes. We can all screw up or say stupid things.

                                The person who may have made a faux paux though needs to be able to listen and open up to making changes. If a person is fairly confronted with having said something offensive but refuses to hear or think or maybe even apologize then that is on them. If people don’t want to be around them that is a natural consequence which they still have the option of thinking about and changing. If they do things that piss people off then complaining that people don’t want to be around them is childish whining.

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                  • I got that bit too but it doesn’t make it right. And Greg has a point, a lot of people take these jokes seriously and they are not funny if you are black or gay or Hispanic or Jewish.

                    Basically, what is it about conservatives that makes them suck so much that their actions and thoughts get worse if they can’t tell bigoted jokes.

                    The infuriating thing is that there are a lot of people I call “should no betters.” They aren’t bigoted themselves, they don’t tell bigoted jokes, but they feel compelled to defend the bigots or soft-peddle apologia for bigoted jokes. People like Scott Alexander and Conor F at the Atlantic are Should Know Betters.

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                    • And Greg has a point, a lot of people take these jokes seriously and they are not funny if you are black or gay or Hispanic or Jewish.

                      He’s not arguing that it’s morally right or wrong, he’s trying to identify a dynamic. I read it as purely descriptive stuff, granted with moral implications (but not in the direction you and greg are arguing).

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                      • Scott is good about explaining and using psychology which is sort of odd for a psychiatrist since they are usually nuts. ( just kidding, well sort of)

                        This is a shorter version of what i said above. There is far more to what drives people then picking out the out-group dynamic he notes. The out group part is fine but people are far more complex then that one simple dynamic. They make choices, they grow, they learn they have choices. They aren’t controlled by the out group thing even if it is a useful description of a real thing. They can listen to the approbation for incessant racist joking or whatever and think about it. They can learn or change or talk or watch streaming channels called How to gas a kike. ( yeah that is a channel on a streaming site i watch Star Trek vids on)

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                        • They make choices, they grow, they learn they have choices.

                          Yes, exactly. Which led to the creation of Fox News and Reddit spin offs and gamer gate and so on. Those folks have learned they have choices, just not the choices you want them to make.

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                          • The choices i wanted them to make!? WTF. They can make whatever choices they want. Freedom man, freedom. They make their choices, i make mine. Hell i don’t make the choices they want me to make. Never have. Never believed in God like they wanted me to, never loved Reagan like i was supposed to, never learned to love cats like they wanted ( ok that is only my wife, but still hasn’t happened), never learned to give a hoot about country music or wearing the flag on every darn thing like they wanted. I don’t drive a pick up like Good Alaskans should or wear camo. I’m a real disappointment. They must be shaking their heads over me.

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      • Which shows that the problem is cultural in origin – specifically, political culture – and has little to do with the actual news and reporting per se. IOW, the dynamic which created Fox News arose from (and of course accelerated) a fragmentation of popular culture into binary camps: with us or agin us. One good example to highlight the point might be the issues surrounding AGW: conservatives were/are more inclined to be skeptical or reject evidence and conclusions of climate change because it runs counter to so many of ideological and normative commitments they hold. Because of that media outlets which moreorless insist that climate change is real (what Scott Alexander might call the neutral view) are viewed by conservatives as exposing themselves as having a liberal bias. Cuz from the conservative pov, they do! Same with so many other issues. So it seems to me the divide is broadly cultural: people want their news to plug into and in some sense confirm their culturally determined identities, and that means spinning facts to fit a narrative or denying facts altogether. Of course, there is a bit of bootstrapping going on here, since the media/culture nexus isn’t static and each element necessarily informs the other. Given that, if there’s a criticism of Fox News which I think holds up objectively it’s that while the daytime news shows present actual news based on facts in the world with a conservative-leaning bias, the night-time shows are almost entirely a form of fact-free and fact-denying propaganda. And in its heyday, prior to the demise of O’Reilly anyway, those shows drove the cultural wedge even deeper, even further distancing their viewers from anything like a shared concept of neutrality regarding facts and events.

        {{And now we have Trump.}}

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  10. My mother is an avid Fox News watcher. I’ve hardly ever seen it, mostly because I don’t watch TV very often and we don’t have it in Canada anyway. When I visited her last year, I watched it quite a bit and I was struck by the sense that it was not conservative boilerplate, as I’d imagined, but just weird narratives offered as an alternative to whatever else was being covered. For instance, when I called her last night, we got to talking about Trump, who she voted for, and I asked her, “I know you supported him, but do you actually think he’s doing good?” Instead of responding, she said “I think Hillary would be worse! Did you know she just had a DNC staffer murdered?!” It’s just this whole other world of stories.

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