A reader writes:
You twice refer to some of Fox News’ policies as “Stalinist.” Stalin had between five and ten million people murdered. Roger Ailes and Greta van Susteren, as far as a know, have had no people at all murdered. I know you were not referring to the political or social policies of Stalin when you referred to Fox’s policies as “Stalinist,” but the analogy to Stalin’s informational policies is grossly exaggerated as well. Fox is not suppressing anything – it is a news organization, not a government. There is a principle followed by many good journalists that any comparison of a person or organization to Hitler or the Holocaust must have something to do with Hitler or the Holocaust, and not be thrown about lightly for purposes of derogation. The same principle ought to apply to the invocation of Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Sadaam Hussein, etc. If someone compared me to Stalin, I would be reluctant to put them on my show too.
I understand. My first point was simply to illuminate a media blacklist by a propaganda outlet to prevent a real discussion of the issues so that one party’s line remains unchallenged, except by Potemkin caricatures of the dumb left. My second point was that this has hurt conservatism as a political tradition. I should have left Stalin out of it – but the phrase is pretty commonly used as a now-exhausted metaphor to refer to airbrushing people out of various movements. And I should do better than exhausted metaphors. Another writes:
Andrew, make no mistake: at the end of the day, Fox ignores you not because of the power of your argument, but because you can be a very unpleasant asshole when challenged by those with whom you disagree. If I recall correctly, Hugh Hewitt devoted a full hour of his radio show to allow you to discuss your book back in 2006, and you spent much of the time calling him names (“pathetic pedant”) and attacking him personally. After the interview, you vowed you would never go on his show again, and created that stupid “Hewitt Award” raspberry. Very mature.
Now, Hugh is obviously secure (and gracious) enough that he would most certainly bring you back if you ever agreed. But is it really that hard to comprehend that everyone from Roger Ailes to the cast of “Fox and Friends” are not? Some people, shockingly, just don’t take well to being called unhinged, mentally ill, war-criminal enabling, racist, “Christianist” Stalinist, torture-enabling fundamentalists on a daily basis. Ponder upon what you have written about Fox and its regular guests for the last few years, and then ask yourself why anyone over there would be inclined to invite you on to use their network as a platform to promote your books or your blog.
Make no mistake: Fox’s distaste for you (like many in the conservative blogosphere and elsewhere) is personal. The blurring of your name on that Newsweek cover was not some Stalinist attempt at censorship. They were, after all, discussing your article! No, it was a raised middle-finger aimed squarely in your direction. And it obviously got to you, so kudos to the editor who made that call. The fact that you think it is some veiled attempt at censorship illustrates your vanity, not your significance.
My memory of the Hewitt interview is not that of my reader’s. I was hauled in for cross-examination by a propagandist. And I gave back as good as I got. It was riveting radio. The transcript is here. To give a flavor of the inquisition-style radio, here’s an extract from the beginning:
HH: Are you a Christian?
AS: What kind of question is that?
HH: Well, you write a lot about your faith in here, and I would just…
AS: Well then, obviously I am.
HH: Well, I don’t know. I was going to ask. Do you think you are?
AS: Well, if you’ve read the book, you’ll surely know.
HH: Okay. Let me ask you this…
AS: Are you a Christian?
HH: Do you believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead?
You think I was being an asshole? Yes, I refused to accept the terms of the interview – and it prompted a very lively discussion. And that liveliness kind of proves my point. It was great radio and a real discussion of the core issues would make great TV. Why would a media operation not want that? The answer is: Because they put propaganda before journalism. MSNBC is just as bad. But Fox is the best at it. That’s why I regularly link to and engage lots of right-wing blowhards and take them on. It makes for an interesting debate! And openly attacking is a different form of discourse than trying to ostracize and marginalize (which is Fox’s and AIPAC’s mojo). My feelings are not hurt by brutal attacks on my arguments. Why would a grown-up like Roger Ailes be so sensitive? Would I ever think of blurring his name? Why on earth would I? Why would anyone – unless they live in a petty, binary world in which they think they can actually control a country’s discourse. As we just found out, Fox doesn’t. But they could – if they allowed actual debate on their shows. But when that breaks out, as Tom Ricks discovered, the interview is over.
One minor point. I don’t really want to go on Fox, although it would be great to have a real argument with O’Reilly or Hannity and tell the truth like Tom Ricks did. All I’m pointing out is how central to the collapse of conservatism Fox News has been. Between Ailes and Rove, the destruction of the conservative brand for anyone under 60 years’ old is almost complete. Because it was intellectually suffocated by propaganda.