Late last month, the senior White House adviser David Axelrod and Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive of Fox News, met in an empty Midtown Manhattan steakhouse before it opened for the day, neutral ground secured for a secret tête-à-tête.
What both men took to be the start of a frank but productive dialogue proved, in retrospect, more akin to the round of pre-Pearl Harbor peace talks between the United States and Japan.
By the following weekend, officials at the White House had decided that if anything, it was time to take the relationship to an even more confrontational level. The spur: Executives at other news organizations, including The New York Times, had publicly said that their newsrooms had not been fast enough in following stories Fox News had been heavily covering through the summer and fall, to the White House’s chagrin — namely, the focus on past statements and affiliations of the White House adviser Van Jones that ultimately led to his resignation and questions surrounding the community activist group Acorn.
I still just can't get past the fact that Roger Ailes went nuclear on NBC merely to protect Fox's insane gasbags from insults.The deal extends beyond the prime-time hour that Mr. Olbermann and Mr. O’Reilly occupy. Employees of daytime programs on MSNBC were specifically told by executives not to mention Fox hosts in segments critical of conservative media figures, according to two staff members. The employees requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal matters.
Frustrated by the refusal by NBC’s chief executive, Jeffrey Zucker, to halt the attacks on Mr. O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, personally instructed Mr. O’Reilly’s program to aim at Mr. Immelt, people familiar with the situation said.
Peace talks, such as they were, resumed in the spring between G.E. and News Corporation executives. At a lunch in April, Mr. Ailes and Mr. Immelt agreed to tone down the attacks. It was not visible to viewers until after Mr. Immelt and Mr. Murdoch shook hands at an off-the-record conference sponsored by Microsoft in May and word of a cease-fire trickled down to both news divisions.
In the months after, when MSNBC would say something that strained the agreement, Fox News would respond accordingly, and vice versa.
In July, after Mr. Olbermann condemned Fox’s Glenn Beck for letting a guest assert that a terrorist attack in the United States might be a good thing, Mr. Beck booked a segment about G.E. and declared that a “merger between G.E. and the Obama administration” was “nearly complete.”
After the detente was reported by The Times on Monday, the fighting resumed and Mr. Olbermann claimed there was no deal among the parent companies. That was met by heated skepticism among bloggers.
Two days later, Mr. O’Reilly had his turn. His news hook: The Securities and Exchange Commission had fined G.E. $50 million on charges of misleading investors. And on Thursday, Mr. O’Reilly showed Mr. Immelt’s and Mr. Zucker’s faces and wondered how long they could allow “this barbaric display” — that is an Olbermann reference — “under the NBC News banner."
“At this point,” a Fox spokeswoman said Friday, “the entire situation is more about major issues at NBC and G.E. than it is about Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann.”
Nice little corporation you've got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.
Again, I am not defending GE. Their behavior is worse than cowardly and it should bar them from media ownership. But the thuggish behavior of Fox for the trivial purpose of protecting Glen Beck and Bill O'Reilly strikes me as bordering on psychotic. These demagogues are out there every night fomenting revolution, inciting violence and assassinating the characters of everyone they consider an "enemy." And their bosses are blackmailing those who criticize them for this with thinly veiled threats to unleash the wingnut mobs on the corporation and its executives.
And the corporation is capitulating. After all, GE is not without its resources. It could, presumably, unleash hell on News Corps the same way if it chose to play Ailes' game. It's not like Rupert Murdoch is beyond criticism. But they won't because they know that Fox can mobilize its viewers in ways that NBC can't -- and the executives just don't think freedom of the press is worth fighting for: it's not a profit center.
This is a serious problem. If Ailes can shut down criticism of its network by blackmailing the corporations that own the others, then they are exerting a form of corporate power that far outstrips any other, at least in the political realm. Fox News, by successfully blackmailing GE, has sent a message. And the rest of the corporate owned media have undoubtedly received it. Don't cross them --- or their agenda --- because there will be hell to pay. With the media in financial turmoil, that's a powerful message indeed.One can't help but notice that while the NY Times mentioned in passing that Limbaugh had commented on a supposed similarity between Obama's health care logo and Nazi symbols (which was the most benign of such things he said all week) they didn't mention the numerous examples of the Hitler imagery coming from Fox News or that Glenn Beck's web site is credited with getting the mobs out in force.