Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Man Who Turmed Conservatism Into Populism

Roger Ailes died from an accident at age 77.  He helped several Republican presidents,  including Nixon, Reagan and Bush,  to make better use of television to deliver their messages.  He also built Fox News into a cable news powerhouse.  This article describes the path that Ailes took in his career that earned him great wealth and power but ended sadly for him when Fox News was forced to fire him.  More importantly, it describes how Fox News became the voice of populism.  It started out as the voice of conservatism but Ailes had the ability to adapt Fox News to changes in its target audience.  It quickly attached itself to Donald Trump during his campaign.  Over 40% of citizens who voted for Trump claimed  Fox News as their major source of information. It is an older audience with an average age of 70, and not very diverse.  At one time its audience was greater than CNN and MSNBC combined.  It was the voice of anti-liberalism and a major source of the polarization that we have seen in the US.  More recently, it has lost its attractiveness to advertisers who prefer a younger audience.  It has also lost market share to CNN and MSNBC which have taken advantage of Trump's fall from grace by reporting extensively on his multiple mistakes and political problems.

There is a telling example in this article of the transformation of Fox News, from the voice of conservatism, to a populist network.  George Will, who many regard as the voice of conservatism, got into a heated argument with Bill O'Reilly.  Will argued that conservatism was not based upon selling false information and promoting ignorance.  Will is not unique in that outlook.  Leading conservative journalists on the Washington Post and the New York Times have abandoned Trump, and perhaps the Republican Party, if it continues to follow Trump away from conservative ideals and intellectual debate into a political party dependent upon misinformation and ignorance.

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