I know this is like noting that the pope was seen praying, but Rolling Stone magazine just trashed Fox News and its chairman, Roger Ailes. Still, the piece, “The Fox News fear factory,” which was written by Tim Dickinson, is worth examining, if only for what it reveals about its author. It is a textbook example of projection — the phenomenon of a disturbed patient accusing someone of all the things that the patient himself is guilty of.
Reading Dickerson’s piece reminded me of G.K. Chesterton’s observation that “the maniac is not the man who has lost his reason — it is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” Many of the folks in asylums actually have very precise, circular, and reasonable — to them — ideas of how the universe works. Of course they are the reincarnation of the Marquis de Sade, and the CIA is piping messages into their cerebrum through the microwave. It’s what makes everything make sense.
And to the left, Fox News is an all-encompassing toxic cloud over America, a chimera that will destroy the nation, a Grendel. This belief is in fact a religious faith more than anything else. This explains how Tim Dickinson can write such a sloppy piece in Rolling Stone, and how he can be praised for it. Nobody on the left is going to criticize one of their own for attacking the devil.
Dickinson is reciting liberal catechism, not hunting for facts. In the entire 10,000 words, he doesn’t quote a single supporter of Fox News. He claims that Fox leader Roger Ailes “is deeply paranoid,” citing as evidence the fact that Ailes has a security detail and carries a gun. According to Dickinson’s logic, Fox under Ailes is a propaganda machine that stirs fear of Muslims and bangs the drums for war, yet Ailes is paranoid for thinking that Al Qaeda may target him. Then there is this passage:
To watch even a day of Fox News — the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment, the reporting that’s held to the same standard of evidence as a late October attack ad — is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican Party.
I’m sorry, but it is simply not possible to take seriously the “journalist” who wrote that sentence. If you’re going to accuse a network of being angry, bombastic, virulently paranoid and racist, you need to cite some hard examples. For instance, if I was to claim that suspended MSNBC host Ed Schultz is a misogynist and a fat angry bastard, I would offer a few examples: his calling conservative Laura Ingraham a slut, his jowly face, his hysterical meltdowns when taking about conservatives. If I was to call NBC’s Michael Isikoff a shrimp, it would be based on the fact that I am only 5’ 7” and I once stood next to Isikoff and looked down on him. In short, Dickinson needs to define paranoia, racism and white resentment, and give hard examples of exactly when this happened. He needs to give us some facts.
Instead, Dickinson offers a bio of Ailes garnished with the usual liberal paranoia. He accuses Ailes of “blurring the line between journalism and politics,” and astonishingly has nothing to say about how liberals do the same thing — has Dickinson never heard of George Stephanopoulos? Jay Carney and the platoon of journalists who now work for Obama? MSNBC? NBC? Dickinson brings up Willie Horton, never acknowledging that Horton was first the creation of Al Gore. He claims that in the 1984 campaign Ronald Reagan “ditched the facts” — about everything. Dickinson claims that in 1988 Roger Ailes “rigged an interview [with vice president George H.W. Bush] about the [Iran Contra] scandal by insisting on an odd caveat: that the interview be conducted live.”
Insisting on doing an interview live? Why, that’s right out of the Goebbels playbook.
Dickinson ignores a basic, irrefutable fact: Fox News commentators like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity don’t only routinely ask representatives from the left to be on their show, they get frustrated when said liberals chicken out and refuse to appear. In a deceptive chart that is part of Dickinson’s piece, a day in the life of Fox News is charted. The only thing Rolling Stone left out are the Democratic guests that were on the very shows that Rolling Stone is criticizing. Like it or not, Fox, which does tilt conservative (“lean backwards”?), wants the other side represented. The same thing cannot be said for MSNBC. Or The New York Times. Or The Washington Post. Or CBS. Or “The Today Show.”
Or Rolling Stone. Although it’s a distant memory from another epoch, I remember that in 1970 Rolling Stone won the National Magazine Award for its coverage of the hippy disaster at Altamont in 1969, when a man was killed at a Rolling Stones concert in California. Rolling Stone’s coverage was brilliant, and very critical of the rock-and-roll left. The award citation praised the magazine for its ability to “challenge the shared assumptions of its readers” — a lovely phrase that Rolling Stone has forgotten.
Still, Dickinson’s paranoia about Fox is so extreme that it has elicited mild criticism on the left. Jack Shafer, Slate’s liberal press critic, shrugged off Dickinson’s piece. He notes that Hillary Clinton was feeding opposition research about John Edwards and Barack Obama to Fox. He also points out that Fox’s audience is still relatively small — not microscopic, like MSNBC’s audience, but smaller than the old networks’ audiences. Then Shafer offers this sentence: “I’ve never understood why Fox News’ shenanigans rattle liberals so.”
OK, Jack, since you have no curiosity about that, let me give it a shot. If you read the histories of journalists over the past 40 years or so, certain patterns emerge. Most of them — like the folks at Slate — are liberal and got into the business to “change the world.” Further, most of them are losers who did not play sports and could not get dates in high school and college. When Fox came along, with its chutzpah in allowing conservatives an actual voice, its bombshell anchors, its joyful ridicule of the self-righteous left, its outright sense of fun — well, this was just too much. Liberal journalists — now there’s a redundancy — didn’t just see their empire collapsing. They saw the cheerleaders who ignored them. They saw the conservative jock they hated and his country-club parents. They saw these people, these ogres, moving into their turf. And they went absolutely batshit.
And they continue to do so. Liberals can’t just ignore Fox; they find it too fascinating. They are like the kids in high school who absolutely despise the pretty, popular girl, then spend hours on the phone every night talking about her. At the core of it is jealousy, as well as the rage, paranoia and resentment that Tim Dickinson attributes to Fox. I mean, journalists were going to help the left change the world. And you can’t do that by giving dissenters a voice.
CORRECTION: This article originally referred to the author of the Rolling Stone piece as Tom Dickinson. His name is Tim Dickinson.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.