A cultic milieu
Bradblog posted about this conversation with Eric Burns over the week-end, a journalist and media critic who worked for Fox for many years. What he says about it is intriguing:
The way to understand what is going on right now at Fox in the wake of the allegations against O'Reilly, Burns explained, "is to make a distinction between the words 'culture' and 'cult'"...
I think "cult" is a good way to think about Fox:
The man who, for a decade, hosted his own weekly show on FNC, described the people who watch the channel as "cultish".
"For many years, conservatives have been extremely upset in this country because the only newscasts they had to watch were liberal --- you people at CNN and how liberal you are, and NBC and ABC and CBS --- and they never had, the extreme right, they never had their own television station. When they got one, their appreciation, their audience loyalty --- and I know what the audience loyalty was like when I was there --- their audience loyalty soared."
"And, so, O'Reilly, as the head of the cult, is not held to the same standards as [NBC News'] Brian Williams, who was part of the media culture, the larger culture," said Burns.
"I thought that as Fox got more and more popular, that Roger Ailes, who runs the network, would think: 'Well, the Right has nowhere else to go, so if I move a little more to the center, I can get a bigger audience and not lose my core audience'," said Burns. "He did just the opposite. He went more to the right."
"We have a story now for two reasons. One is context --- Brian Williams has set up the media to be looking for things like this. And the second reason is that O'Reilly did what he was supposed to have done, when he was with CBS. It doesn't matter that he does it with Fox. But when he did it with one of the major networks, the attempt is to make more of a story out of it. Yet, the cult, the Fox News cult --- to the Fox News cult --- this kind of thing doesn't matter."
Fox viewers see it all as little more than "a lie from the 'liberal media'. Who cares what it is? The point is, it doesn't matter."
As for those who run Fox, and their failure to substantively address the documented facts about their star anchor: "They're not addressing the controversy. If you're charged with lying and you say 'our ratings are up', you're not answering the question of whether or not you told a lie. I think it's astonishing that that's the way they operate."
Pioneering sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920) found that cults based on charismatic leadership often follow the routinization of charisma. Sociologist Roy Wallis (1945–1990) argued that a cult is characterized by "epistemological individualism" meaning that "the cult has no clear locus of final authority beyond the individual member." Cults, according to Wallis, are generally described as "oriented towards the problems of individuals, loosely structured, tolerant [and are] non-exclusive", making "few demands on members", without possessing a "clear distinction between members and non-members", having "a rapid turnover of membership", and as being transient collectives with vague boundaries and fluctuating belief systems. Wallis asserts that cults emerge from the "cultic milieu".
And these guys too:
In an article on Al Qaida published in The Times, journalist Mary Ann Sieghart wrote that al-Qaida resembles a "classic cult", commenting: "Al-Qaida fits all the official definitions of a cult. It indoctrinates its members; it forms a closed, totalitarian society; it has a self-appointed, messianic and charismatic leader; and it believes that the ends justify the means."
Former Mujaheddin member and now author and academic Dr. Masoud Banisadr stated in a May 2005 speech in Spain :
If you ask me: are all cults a terrorist organisation? My answer is no, as there are many peaceful cults at present around the world and in the history of mankind. But if you ask me are all terrorist organisations some sort of cult, my answer is yes. Even if they start as [an] ordinary modern political party or organisation, to prepare and force their members to act without asking any moral questions and act selflessly for the cause of the group and ignore all the ethical, cultural, moral or religious codes of the society and humanity, those organisations have to change into a cult. Therefore to understand an extremist or a terrorist organisation one has to learn about a Cult.