Asymmetrical Warfare

by digby

I'm sure you've all been following this astonishing story about Roger Ailes striking a bargain with the corporate heads of GE to get Keith Olbermann to lay off O'Reilly. Glenzilla has been all over it and covers all the important angles. He takes particular aim at GE for their interference in the news business, and on a global scale their journalistic crimes are manifest. But I think the real corporate thug in all this is Fox.

Here's what gets me: the essence of the agreement is that Olbermann would stop attacking Bill O'Reilly and Bill O'Reilly would stop attacking the multinational corporation GE. Does everyone see the asymmetry of that?

I frankly can completely understand why GE made that deal. Shutting up Keith Olberman about Billo the Clown is a very small price to pay for keeping the lid on its own corporate crimes. I'm sure the lawyers all said this was the cheapest settlement they ever got. But Fox isn't po[erating like corporate criminals -- it' operating like the mob. Their boy was miffed at being the butt of Olbermann's jokes, so he accused GE's corporate bosses of crimes, published the CEOs email and home address and had protesters storm the shareholder's meeting. Doesn't that seem just a little bit excessive for hurting O'Reilly's feelings?

If Fox News has the goods on GE they have an obligation to broadcast it regardless of whether Keith Olbermann agrees to stop picking on Billo --- if they don't have the goods, they should stop Billo from broadcasting it without extracting a deal from GE. Instead they used the story as a weapon to silence a critic of one of their stars and then agreed to bury it when the critic's boss agreed to muzzle him. GE, while they also breached journalistic standards by agreeing to make Keith Olbermann stop taunting his rival, didn't commit anything close to Fox's journalistic malpractice. After all, shutting down stupid jokes about Bill O'Reilly hardly compares to shutting down commentary about GE's involvement in the Iraq and Iran wars!

This kind of deal making is outrageous in its own right, of course. These two mega corporations exchanging quid pro quos over martoonis and pigs in a blanket at Charlie Rose's house is enough to make you vomit. But the fact that Ailes blackmailed GE for such trivial reasons seems more like a shot across the bow to me. If they can scare GE with these tactics, imagine what they do to the average politician?

In the best case you can make for it, Fox seems to have done this simply to assuage the gargantuan ego of one of the many psychos they put on the air every day. The worst case is that they just wanted to prove to the ruling elite that they can bring absolutely anybody and anything to heel by letting one of those psychos go to town on them, which is a truly scary prospect. Is Roger Ailes the new J. Edgar Hoover?

Update: That's not all that far fetched, apparently . Here's an excerpt from a Rick Perlstein post from a few months back:

One of the producers who put together Fox News for Roger Ailes, Dan Cooper, is previewing his new memoir online. The writing is atrocious, the memoirist an excruciating host to pal around with, but there are, for all that, certain rewards. Like his account of the time he did an interview with David Brock for a critical article Brock did for New York magazine on Fox News. Roger Ailes was not happy. Our hero gets a call from his agent, one of the most powerful in TV news:

""Danny. Did yoo give an intavyoo to Noo Yawk magazine?... I already know the ansa. I got a phone call from Roger Ailes an owwa ago. He told me that until I drop you as a cloyent, any demo tapes I send ovah for talent jobs will sit in the cawwna and gatha dust."

Here was the interesting part: the article had not yet been published. So how did Roger Ailes learn about his participation? Explains Cooper:

I made the connections. Ailes knew I had given Brock the interview. Certainly Brock didn't tell him. Of course. Fox News had gotten Brock's telephone records from the phone company, and my phone number was on the list. Deep in the bowels of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, News Corporation's New York headquarters, was what Roger called The Brain Room. Most people thought it was simply the research department of Fox News. But unlike virtually everybody else, because I had to design and build the Brain Room, I knew it also housed a counterintelligence and black ops office. So accessing phone records was easy pie.

Ailes, of course, like so many movers and shakers in the conservative movement, got his start in politics working for Richard Nixon. (Read about it in all in this indespensible classic. And this indispensble classic, too, available for pre-order at a steep discount.) Clearly, he learned his lessons well.

Read the whole thing and you'll learn exciting new phrases like "pussy masala."