Book Review: ‘The Fox Effect’ by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt

REVIEW: A fact-packed and smoothly written work, “The Fox Effect” demonstrates how Fox News chairman Roger Ailes operates from the Joseph Goebbels playbook by running an anti-informational distortion network over the public airwaves. The book is extremely valuable, but those with weak stomachs may be disturbed.

The Fox Effect by David Brock and Ari Rabin-HavtThere is a breathless writing style to The Fox Effect despite the extreme seriousness of the subject matter. It is a fast read but I had to keep stopping because the facts the authors were reporting kept making me sick to my stomach. The treachery, bile, lies, and subversion of the inaccurately-named Fox News are too much to take all at once.

It is said that everyone loves a good villain and boy-oh-boy does this book have one! Roger Ailes is a master conman, a sly charlatan, a lout for the ages, and a swine for all time. If you like reading about despicable people, you will enjoy this work, but anyone with a conscience will be revolted by seeing how his organization distorts reality and undermines the public interest.

Resume of Perfidy

The insidiousness of Ailes became apparent as a media advisor for Richard Nixon. Around 1970, he wrote of his desire “to create a news dissemination organization to ‘avoid the censorship, the priorities and the prejudices of network news selectors and disseminators’.” Even then, Ailes saw the GOP’s need to get around such filters as a news organization’s annoying insistence on evidence.

Backed by the considerable funding of the Coors beer company, the precursor of Fox News was created. Called TVN (Television News Incorporated), the right wing nature of the beast was readily apparent in their scurrilous attacks on Martin Luther King, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Environmental Protection Agency, and anyone who spoke out against abuses of government or business. Ailes first did public relations for TVN but soon became the “news director.”

In a 27-page chapter, the sordid history of Ailes is laid out, step by heinous step. Example after example makes your eyebrows rise and your jaw drop. Racism in the Nixon campaigns. Homophobia and racism in the G.H.W. Bush campaign. More race baiting and ethnic slurs in the Rudy Giuliani campaign. A whole litany of phobias when producing shows for Rush Limbaugh. And the final hoodwinking of the American public as he teamed up with Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch to create the fake news network.

Undefined Terms

A great amount of time on the “Faux News” channel is devoted to attacking what they term socialism, which is odd for two reasons. First, because they do not appear to actually understand the definition of the word; at various times their “newscasters” and “reporters” toss the word around in place of almost any pejorative they can think up.

And second, because they have to keep lying about the world’s democracies that are successfully relying on socialism. Places such as Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Great Britain, and Norway. And, of course, the United States, where the socialized entities of Medicare, Social Security, and the healthcare provided to elected officials are all functioning quite well (despite the first two being constantly under assault by GOP-backed plans to privatize them with the goal of allowing big business to extract profits from them).

We Deceive. You Believe. FOX.

Newsmear

The Fox Fake News network specializes in a dispiriting style of fiction. This is known to everyone in real news, yet the scam remains mysterious to their audience. While the typical Fox viewer may not be comfortable with books, if they would just peek inside The Fox Effect, they would see how the network’s programming is designed to mold the minds of those who are afraid of anything that is outside of their insular world.

The smear tactic is one of their best moves. Take the erroneous report that President Obama spent some of his childhood in a Muslim school and therefore he is somehow “foreign,” “different,” “other,” and so on. As Brock and Rabin-Havt point out, “Almost two years after the madrassa smear was discredited, it was still being repeated on the Fox News Channel.”

Example after example of this kind of perfidy are to found throughout the book. “These attacks from Fox on Obama’s heritage and faith have continued throughout his presidency.” To paraphrase an early review of Time magazine’s style: Downwards spirals morality until reels the mind.

Yes, it is sickening if you accidentally land on the Fox Fake News channel’s outpouring of filth, but seeing their work in print alongside the corrections is still a shock and disheartening to the human spirit.

The phony news teams get quite a lot of help from fellow-travelers Ann Coulter, Dick Morris, Frank Luntz, Laura Ingraham, Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and on and on, often hiring them for appearances or to host ongoing segments. It is in the incredible editorializing that their really dirty work gets done:

Just as George W. Bush disappeared from Fox News’s election-night coverage, the legacy of his presidency seemed to vanish from the network the next day. It was as if the eight-year period that had seen two major wars, a massive financial crisis, and budget numbers that had swung from an inherited $236 billion surplus to a $1.3 trillion deficit had never happened. Before Barack Obama had been president-elect for a single week, Fox hosts were already blaming him for the state of the economy.

On inauguration day, one of the slanderous Fox hosts stared portentously into the camera and said, “Mr. President, I want to believe. I want to trust, I want to hope for change, but I am really failing to see how this is any different.” Yes, on the day of the swearing in of our new President.

On the day after the inauguration, another Fox weasel proclaimed our national experiment with socialism had failed, which managed to combine two lies in one sentence.

On the third day. . . well, you get the idea.

Unclean

This book may be good for the hand sanitizer business because reading about Ailes and the squad he has assembled at Fox makes you feel contaminated. For example, the book documents how “Fox became a breeding ground for Republican talking points. This link grew so tight that Fox began airing Republican press releases verbatim, presenting them as original reporting with no citation.”

GOP tricks are outlined in the book, such as when the party assesses its own deceit and immediately tosses it at their opponents as if it applies to the other side. Or the alarming habit of taking words out of context to create what they call a news story where none exists. Thus, when President Obama makes a speech, Fox Fake News viewers are shown a doctored clib, such as when they bloviated for hours about how Obama said that the US does not consider itself a Christian nation. But this was far from, um, that thing that we call, uh, oh what is the word? Oh right, the truth. If you look at real news, you would see reality; if you only look at the manufactured stories of Fox and the GOP, you’d see something entirely different:

After acknowledging earlier in the speech that the United States was “a predominantly Christian nation,” Obama added that “one of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”

Some of us are “bound by ideals and a set of values,” but clearly not Fox and the republican party.

Whatever the topic, Fox Fake News will happily distort it if it aids the GOP. Manufacturing phony stories about the “war on Christmas” may be silly but the tactic is the perfect example of their approach to serious issues, including wars, weapons, legislation, faith, defense, foreign relations, climate change, voting rights, republican party racism, the GOP attacks on women’s’ rights, education, and on and on.

The network obviously uses the airwaves to influence elections, including ways that are illegal, such as when they reported that a “vote for Scott Brown is a vote for liberty,” referring to the 2010 Massachusetts senate race. But it gets worse:

Beyond its aggressive campaigning, Fox News overhyped the significance of a possible Brown victory, even suggesting that viewers would profit from a Republican triumph. On the January 19 edition of “Fox and Friends,” Fox Business host Stuart Varney said that “investors would love” Brown’s election and that “your 401(k) could do well” as a result.

But wait, there’s more:

With all of the political work of its employees, it was hardly surprising when Fox’s parent corporation itself decided to directly invest in Republican organizations. In mid-August 2010, Bloomberg News broke the story that News Corp. had donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), making it the group’s largest corporate donor. The RGA’s only other seven-figure donation came from libertarian billionaire and notorious right-wing funder David Koch.

There is much more, and just a few minutes flipping through The Fox Effect enables you to see what decent people are up against.

Historical Precedent

The game plan for the Fox faux news organization had its genesis in 1933. After winning less than a majority of the popular vote, candidate Adolf Hitler maneuvered his way to become chancellor of Germany. One of his first appointments was Josef Goebbels as Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Their collaboration would result in something that came to be known as “the big lie.”

Fittingly, the partnership started with a fabrication: in the maniacal Third Reich, a birth defect such as suffered by Goebbels would disqualify him from high office so his limp was said to be the result of a wound obtained during a World War I battle.

Therein resides the whole basis of Fox and their ilk, including but not limited to the Swift Boat cabal, the birthers, the tea baggers, and nearly every GOP official in all fifty states. (If there is an honest GOP representative out there, by all means contact me at eNewsChannels as we would be happy to point to them with pleasure and consternation.)

The Big Lie theory appears in Hitler’s Mein Kampf where, ironically, he ascribed it to his enemies (as noted, a favorite trick of today’s GOP). Hitler wrote that this particular propaganda technique involved using an untruth so “colossal” that no one would believe someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

In chapter after chapter, paragraph after paragraph, authors David Brock, Ari Rabin-Havt, and others at Media Matters for America catalog the Ailes use of the technique. Here is the part of Hitler’s description in Mein Kampf that Fox relies on:

… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.

Real Network, Faux Facts

With their constant repetition of falsehoods, the lies of the “faux news” network keep working for Ailes and the GOP long after they are spewed onto the public airwaves. According to the earlier master, their fabrications would continue anyway: “For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it,” Hitler wrote, “even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”

The Ailes propaganda ministry also mimics the Reich approach in other ways: never let up, do not admit error, do not concede good in your enemy, provide no alternatives, deflect blame, and double down on the lies. As the U.S. Office of Strategic Services puts it, “people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

It is a sad twisted version of the American Dream.

Ailes could have used his production genius to build a constructive force. Instead, he has built one that has fundamentally damaged our political and media landscape, leaving a legacy of cynicism and destruction. . . Beyond the lies, Roger Ailes has been at the forefront of a political culture that seeks to divide our country. On the Nixon and Bush campaigns, he worked to fragment America along racial lines. Now at Fox, he has continued that effort, in addition to dividing us by party and ideology.

Action Needed

The Fox Effect is an important document that should be handed out in classrooms. The book’s lack of an index is frustrating but there are 42 pages of listed sources, including their use of transcripts of leaked audio, e-mails, and memos from Fox News employees. The picture that emerges is framed by terms such as deceit, fraud, prevarication, and deception. With Fox News’s biased reporting, faked material, and deliberately manipulated stories, there is really only one word to describe Ailes and his sect: treasonous.

Rubbing salt in the wounds they have created, the network uses the terms “fair” and “balanced” as marketing slogans in selling their spurious content. As Brock and Rabin-Havt write, “Too many reporters and commentators have continued to treat Fox as a news organization. By doing so, they enable the network to conduct a political campaign under the guise of a media outlet, influencing the outcome of legislative debates and elections.”

One possible solution to the problem of Fox Fake News network will pop into your mind when reading this on page 169: “Mainstream outlets begin reporting on the story.” That follows the Fox script of: Lie, Report the Lie, and Attack the News for Ignoring the Lie. Yet the whole smarmy enterprise would lose a great deal of its impact if the Fox lies were simply ignored by the legitimate media. Still, it’s difficult to not reach this conclusion:

Given a pass from the Federal Communications Commission for far too long, the broadcast license of Fox News should be revoked.

 

Book Summary

“The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine”

by David Brock, Ari Rabin-Havt, and Media Matters for America

Anchor Books, Trade Paperback, 336 pages, ISBN: 978-0307279583, $15.00.

http://www.anchorbooks.com

http://www.randomhouse.com/book/112829/the-fox-effect-by-david-brock-ari-rabin-havt-and-media-matters-for-america

 

Article is Copr. © 2012 John Scott G, and originally published on eNewsChannels.com – all commercial and reprint rights reserved. No fee or other consideration was paid or provided by the book’s publisher, author or agency related to this original article.

KEYWORDS: books, non-fiction, broadcasting, news, journalism, propaganda

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About John Scott G

John Scott G is a writer of non-fiction and fiction appearing in print, broadcast, and digital media. He frequently works in communications, which means marketing, advertising, and various forms of hype. He is a contributor to eNewsChannels, Ga-Ga.com, and the Advertising Industry Newswire. Visit JohnScottG.com for more information. © John Scott G. (Note: The opinions expressed by JSG do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of this site or its publisher.)

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  • Christopher Simmons

    It's unfortunate that the FCC has no oversight for "false reporting" like the FTC has for false advertising. While it's entertaining that the Daily Show is kept ripe with clips of FOX FAKE NEWS reports going off the reality rails, it is both maddening and saddening how many people actually believe what is being reported, much like a tweet saying your mom is dead done as a joke, but with a straight and perhaps masked evil to intentionally mislead the public and steer opinion based on the directives of their billionaire overlords. Fox is simply unreliable and one can only presume intentionally spreading misinformation the way a blogger writes "disruptive" headlines to gain traffic without saying anything new on a topic already in play. Certainly a number of lemmings or folks doomed to repeatedly win the Darwin Awards should learn to think for themselves, but pandering to an audience that might shoot their neighbor when FOX reports the wrong thing, or the right thing in a wrong way, is beyond sad, beyond maddening. It just boggles the mind how much truly bad reporting and INTENTIONAL misinformation is presented under the false guise of "reporting." Make believe maybe, reporting no. I could go on for hours on this topic … but somebody already wrote a book, so hopefully somebody else can raise the flag of danger from this behemoth crap factory called FOX NEWS.