Friday, July 1, 2011

“The Thinking Is Done For You”

According to John Cook at Gawker, Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News, had the idea for a right-wing news channel as far back as the Nixon administration.

Republican media strategist Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996, ostensibly as a “fair and balanced” counterpoint to what he regarded as the liberal establishment media. But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the “prejudices of network news” and deliver “pro-administration” stories to heartland television viewers.

The memo—called, simply enough, “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News”— is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes’ work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries.

[…]

The 15-page plan begins with an acknowledgment that television had emerged as the most powerful news source in large part because “people are lazy” and want their thinking done for them:

Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.

With that in mind, the anonymous GOP official urged the creation of a network “to provide pro-Administration, videotape, hard news actualities to the major cities of the United States.” Aware that the national television networks were the enemy, the writer proposed going around them by sending packaged, edited news stories and interviews with politicians directly to local television stations.

Anyone with an active core processor can see that Fox News is exactly what this memo had in mind, and they use the term “fair and balanced” in the same way as North Korea uses “democracy.”