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Saturday 20 November 2010

What Ails Ailes?

To better understand the culture of organisations, it is often useful to start at the top, to examine the motivation and opinions of the people who drive the enterprise. And this week has brought an excellent example of this: the Daily Beast has been granted an interview by Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

Ailes is a man with impeccable partisan media credentials: he was behind the campaign advert that featured a convict called Willie Horton. The advert helped George Bush Senior catch and overtake the unfortunate Michael Dukakis in the 1988 Presidential race. His attack dog approach has continued with Fox.

In the interview, with Howard Kurtz, Ailes makes assertions about his President such as “he had to be told by the French and the Germans that his socialism was too far left for them to deal with”. He did? I missed that. This may have been because Ailes is talking out of the back of his non-trivially sized neck: the accusation that Barack Obama is a “socialist” keep on coming, but standing them up with anything factual never follows.

Also, Ailes says of Obama that “He just has a different belief system than most Americans”, which is inclusive enough for the birther movement. The suggestion that his President is either not of a majority religious persuasion, or has roots outside the USA, is also not backed by evidence. But that is the Fox way. His hosts tend not to dwell on the factual either.

The attack dog approach continues when Kurtz’ interview touches on the sacking of Fox talking head Juan Williams by National Public Radio (NPR). Ailes describes NPR as “Nazis” with a “Nazi attitude” who are the “left wing of Nazism”, with the bizarre rant continuing as he accuses them of dismissing Williams for “not being liberal enough”, which they did not (background HERE).

And Ailes isn’t too well up on the way NPR is funded: his assertion that Government funding is keeping that network alive contrasts with the small fact that only 6% of NPR’s income comes from Federal aid. But Kurtz had got him sounding off, and the attacks came thick and fast. On the subject of Jon Stewart, and the stick Fox gets on the Daily Show, he sounded off enough to sell the pass.

Ailes doesn’t buy the idea that Stewart gives all cable networks a hard time: “he hates conservatives ... he’s crazy” complained the Fox chief, before letting slip “if it wasn’t polarised, he couldn’t make a living”.

And who, Roger, is doing the polarising? That would be you.

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