There's an interesting article in today's NY Times about Roger Ailes that you should read in its entirety. he's a fascinating character, although his probably not as unique as people think, except in the sense that he works in TV rather than in print. After all, arch conservative William Randolph Hearst once had a little bit of influence on American politics too.
But this is worth noting, I think:
As powerful as he is within the News Corporation, Mr. Ailes remains a spectral presence outside the Fox News offices. National security had long been a preoccupation of Fox News, and it was clear in the interview that the 9/11 attacks had a profound effect on Mr. Ailes. They convinced him that he and his network could be terrorist targets.(And yet the anthrax killer didn't send white powder to Fox, but rather to the other networks. Go figure.)
On the day of the attacks, Mr. Ailes asked his chief engineer the minimum number of workers needed to keep the channel on the air. The answer: 42. “I am one of them,” he said. “I’ve got a bad leg, I’m a little overweight, so I can’t run fast, but I will fight.
“We had 3,000 dead people a couple miles from here. I knew that any communications company could be a target.”
His movements now are shadowed by a phalanx of corporate-provided security. He travels to and from work in a miniature convoy of two sport utility vehicles. A camera on his desk displays the comings and goings outside his office, where he usually keeps the blinds drawn.
Mr. Ailes said he received frequent threats over the years, but his concerns for the safety of his family were heightened by an incident at his New Jersey home after the 9/11 attacks. There was an intruder on his property, but no arrest was made. In Putnam County, he has bought several properties surrounding his home. A sign outside his house shows an illustration of a gun and advises visitors that it is under video surveillance.
After 9/11, Mr. Ailes sent a memo to President George W. Bush urging harsh action.
I'm always struck by how different people reacted to 9/11. You have Tom Friedman driving through Manhattan listening to the Morman Rabernacle Choirblasting out The Battle Hymn of the Republic, urging Don Rumsfeld to "go crazy." Ailes was advising the President to go batshit on anything that moved. They and others like them felt themselves to be personally targeted and contrived a image of themselves as patriotic freedom fighters beating off the terrorists with their bare hands. And yet,somehow I don't think the terrorists actually found either one of them worthy of their attention. It's a very revealing psychology, which Rick Perlstein addresses in the article itself:
Richard Perlstein, author of “Nixonland,” sees a strong resemblance between Mr. Ailes’s political experience and his approach to television.
“Like Richard Nixon, like Spiro Agnew, Fox News can never see itself as the attacker,” he said. “They are always playing defense because they believe they are always under attack, which attracts people that have the same personality formation. By bringing that mind-set, plus the high energy seamless stream of the aggression of talk radio, he has found an audience.”It really is a mindset and a wordview rather than a political identity, as this article about Charles Johnson, the conservative apostate illustrates:
In Johnson's mind, he has not really changed but merely shifted his focus. Where once he was preoccupied with national security, staking out a hawkish, pro-military position, he now spends more time focusing on his liberal social views, and gripes with conservatives who disagree. "I like to think," he told me this week, "I am pretty independent of [the] political winds."
But not totally immune. As I talked to Johnson in his office, an alert flashed on one of his two giant computer monitors. An angry screed targeting him on another website concluded: "I think a visit to Mr. Johnson's home might be warranted. Anybody got his address?"
Such veiled threats are at least one reason why Johnson, 56, relocated not long ago. He remains in the Los Angeles area, but now is in a gated community. The man who once decried vitriol spread on liberal websites now says: "The kinds of hate mail and the kinds of attacks I am getting from the right wing are way beyond anything I got when I was criticizing the left or even radical Islam."
Not that I doubt that the right wing hate mail is incredibly vile, because it certainly is. But Johnson has always been slightly paranoid about his personal safety and fashioned himself as someting of a revolutionary. His is a psychology that tends toward conservatism, but really isn't about politics at all. In fact, it may not even be about psychology, but rather a matter of how the brain is wired.
Or maybe some people are just drama queens ...