Fox News Culture and the death of American Corporate Feminism

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson du...

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson during an interview. Cropped and balanced. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roger Ailes downfall at Fox News has revealed much about the company and its culture. His downfall also shows us the gap between appearance and reality for Fox News culture and American Corporate Feminism. On the surface, the Murdochs claim they knew nothing of Ailes behavior. Despite many complaints over many years, with some lawsuits, the Murdochs insisted that they knew nothing about what he had done. Their denials, the appearance, does not bode well for a culture change required to discuss the reality revealed by various lawsuits. However, the common Murdoch excuse, that they did not know what was going on in their company, is only a symptom of the deeper problem.

The gap between appearance and reality is what defines a corporate culture

The deeper problem is the gap between appearance and reality of American Corporate Feminism. On the surface, Fox News appears to support women in on air roles. Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson appear as strong role models for women who have worked their way to the top. Yet, beneath the surface, Fox News culture habituated the women to be sexual objects and to expect to be degraded. It was the culture; it was the way things were done. Consider two episodes that show how the culture destroys modern American feminism.

The “Spin”

With Roger Ailes, women were expected to the “spin”.[1] This is where they turn around in front of him so that he can check what they look like from behind. He appeared to explain the reason for this in his legal statement: “television is a visual medium; comments about appearance are common because people watch television, they do not merely listen to it.”[2] In effect, Ailes admits that women are sexual commodities to be packaged for male consumption, for his consumption.

Men never had to do the spin. There is no evidence that Ailes ever asked a man to “turn around and give me a spin”.

The “Trunk Show”

According to Andrea Tantaros, female talent at Fox were expected, twice a year, to take part in a trunk show. In her legal claim she stated:

“In addition, each year Fox News conducts a “trunk show” at which female on-air personalities pick out their wardrobe.  Fox News’s “trunk show” requires its female employees, including Tantaros, to dress and undress in front of Fox News’s wardrobe personnel in the middle of a room without even the benefit of a curtain to act as a dressing room.[3]

According to this claim, the women have to strip down to their underwear in front of their female colleagues. The reason for this is that competition for the best outfits is intense.

“In front of a group of women, you are expected to completely disrobe,” Tantaros says. “You have no privacy, and they make comments on, you know, your underwear set.” She commiserated with some of the other women about the indignity of the event, but the competition for the best dresses kept them coming back.[4]

The process is confirmed, to some extent, by Gwen Marder, Fox News’ Fashion Director, who directs the trunk shows. She could confirm if Tantaros’s account is correct.

Gwen and her small team spend just about every working day out at showrooms and visiting designers’ studios, gathering an arsenal of TV-friendly pieces….and twice a year, she holds a “trunk show” for the on-air talent. Each anchor is given a two-hour window to “shop” at the ad-hoc store that Gwen has merchandised (time slots are given on a first-come, first-served basis–no preferential treatment for Lou Dobbs).[5]

If Tantaros’s allegation is verified, that the women have to strip down as a group, then it confirms what we know from the “spin”. The women are treated in a way that subjects them to a sexual inequality.

If men are not expected to do this, why are the women?

The appearance and reality of men and women at Fox News.

The gap between the appearance and reality shows us that Fox News culture is sexist and that corporate American feminism is a convenient façade. Underneath the surface, the strong (the men) do as they like and the weak (the women) do as they must (spin, strip and suck[6]). **

**Roger Ailes has denied all charges and all claims at all times even though he has settled lawsuits alleging sexual harassment.

[1] His crude and cavalier behavior toward women was well known inside the company. “Turn around and give me a spin” was Ailes’s frequent greeting for Fox News’s female personalities.

[2] The statement is taken from his court filing in response to a sexual harassment lawsuit.




See also

The stylist has what Kelly calls a “trunk show” twice a year, bringing Fox News anchors a selection of clothing she has approved. Talent, including Kelly, can pick what they want to wear for the season from the approved selection, mixing and matching pieces to create new looks.

[6] see also

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Ailes, Murdoch and how Gretchen Carlson used the Dark Arts

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson du...

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson during an interview. Cropped and balanced. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes rose to, and remained in, power by the benefit of journalism’s “dark arts” and their ability to do “favors”. The dark arts refer to illegal or potentially illegal activities. They are such acts as phone hacking, impersonation, secretly taping someone, entrapping them, going through their garbage, or their relatives, neighbors, and friend’s garbage to find personal information.[1] Other techniques were to pay people to “blag” information, where someone pretends to be the target to get access to their personal information. “Blaggers” would gain access to bank statements, mortgage details, or medical diagnosis. In some cases, editors or journalists or people that were paid by them would suborn public officials[2], bribe people, or coerce others to disclose the information they wanted. All of this was always justified as being in the public interest.

You do me a favour and I will do you a favour.

Armed with this personal information, journalists and editors would exploit it to sell their media products. They also served a larger purpose beyond the stories. The information and the threat of the stories would benefit Murdoch and Ailes. As Murdoch explained at Leveson, the information, or the threat of its use, could be used to do or receive a “favor”.[3] However, none of this would succeed unless there was evidence to back it up. The editors and journalists would know that evidence, physical evidence or a reliable witness was needed to make the story “stand up”. In the phone hacking stories, the recorded messages were copied.[4] Without the recorded messages, they would have nothing to ask a “favor”. Without this evidence, they could lose libel or defamation cases worth thousands of dollars or pounds.

Murdoch and Ailes are experienced, remorseless, operators.

In their approach to tabloid journalism and media power, they would make it known that they gave no quarter. As a result, their editors and journalists would give no quarter to their intended target. They either buckled to their pressure or they would be “monstered”.[5] Only in a rare circumstance would the target escape their grip. Their business success, market share, and reputation demonstrated the success of this business model. More important than money, though, was the power and influence it gave them. Now, though, the tables have been turned with dramatic effect.

Live by the recording, die by the recording.

Gretchen Carlson recorded several conversations with Roger Ailes. These recordings have not been made public. We do not know what is on them. However, their existence was sufficient to achieve a $20 million legal settlement.[6] She has used the dark arts against its masters. She used their own technique to hold them to account. She has shown the public and the other media figures what is needed to fight sexual harassment.[7] It is not policies or training. It was a secret recording. Therein we see the toxicity of Fox News culture as HR policies never changed the culture. From now on, sexual harassers and those who tolerate them will have to worry that the intended victims have a record.[8]

When will the next recording emerge?

As companies realize the threat, they will take steps to counter it. The question now is whether similar recordings will emerge and when they do, what will they accomplish?

[1] “In journalism, the term ‘dark arts’ can be defined as a journalist doing unethical practices of journalism, to gain a story or a scoop. These practices include: phone hacking, bribery, secret recording, false identity, breaking the law, betraying friends/family, putting friends/family in danger and putting yourself in danger. However, each of these practices can lead to a great story in journalism.”



[4] It is why they are kept in a safe within the newspapers. The Sun has a safe that holds various items, documents, recordings, and files that could be used to obtain a “favour”.

[5] For an example of what it means to be “monstered” consider the case of Chris Jefferies.


[7] However, it is not as easy as that since the employer has the power to force such cases to mediation, which gives them an institutional and legal advantage.


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Cheryl James, Deepcut and the Army’s propaganda machine

English: Army Land near Deepcut barracks Entra...

English: Army Land near Deepcut barracks Entrance to open army land to the south east of this location – a rare occurrence in Surrey, to have such a wide area of open land – although it is here because of army training. Some of the land is also open to the public, except for the danger areas when the red flags are flying! In time, much of this land may be built upon for housing, as the army moves out. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The inquest into Cheryl James’s death at Deepcut showed the army in poor light. The story on its own was bad.[1] The press reported recruits were bullied and often sexually harassed. In some cases, they were sexually assaulted.[2] A few years after her death an officer was convicted of sexually abusing male recruits.[3] However, these were old news. What we did not know was the scope, severity, and scale of the abuse. Or, how officers[4] and senior officers[5] had handled these issues.[6] In a word, the Army faced a potential public relations disaster.[7]

What did they do to prevent a PR disaster?

On the surface, it appears they did nothing. The public would be excused in believing that the Army simply accepted the inquiry and what it would find. They would let the “chips fall where they may”. Such a view would miss the Army’s subtle public relations strategy. During the review the television show Army Girls was advertised extensively. A couple of weeks before the coroner retired to considered its findings, it was shown on Channel 4 starting on 7 April 2016.[8] The show presented the female recruit’s life as a positive, upbeat, if at times demanding, experience. Although the Army may not have decided the timetable, they did agree to the show as they would want to promote the changes since Cheryl James death in 1995.

Why do they need to tell their story?

Like the Police, the Army want to promote their image. The Police do this through a variety of means, none so effective as the quasi-reality documentary shows.[9] The Police court good publicity as it helps them police by consent. They also need it to encourage recruits to join. The Army needs recruits as well so they have to present an attractive image.[10] To promote their image, they will encourage television shows such as The Army Girls[11] and other public relations services.[12] The show give the human side of army life for female recruits and the public get an insight into the Army. The Army get publicity to attract female recruits. It also helps them shape public opinion.

The Curious case of the Private Eye Army Girls advert.

Good publicity helps to shape public opinion. An example of this approach was the Private Eye advertisement in late April. In early April, Private Eye had a detailed story about the inquiry. The story described serious failings such as senior officers unaware of bullying, the prolific sexual activity (800 used condoms were collected on one sweep alone), and the lax oversight of recruits mental and physical health.[13] The next issue, Private Eye contained a full page advertisement for Army Girls. As with any television show, the producers will time its opening to maximize its audience. However, it would also serve a secondary purpose, the Army’s purpose. The show and the adverts helped to shape the public opinion around the inquiry. So the next time you watch one of these shows, ask yourself “what are they trying to achieve with it?”

The Army Girls show that the Army has changed, or has it?

Despite the Deepcut revelations, the army have a positive message of change for the parents and the female recruits–until the next Cheryl James.[14]















[12] The Ministry of Defence spend around £50 million a year on public relations.

[13] Private Eye, issue 1415: 1-14  April 2016   The next issue, 1416 had the full page advertisement.

[14] The Army and the military in general want to present an image that will show they have changed since the Deepcut Four emerged. The Army and the military want to show they are no longer a misogynistic, sexist, institution where physical and sexual abuse are part of the culture tolerated, if not encouraged, by the senior officers. Their political masters have to demonstrate they have responded to the claims and they have changed the Army and the military to make I safer.

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Roger Ailes, “friends” and the media industry’s dirty laundry

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson du...

Co-host of Fox and Friends Gretchen Carlson during an interview. Cropped and balanced. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roger Ailes is alleged to have sexually harassed women for the last 30 years and more recently while in charge of Fox News. He and 21st Century Fox have agreed to make a $20 Million payment to Gretchen Carlson to settle her sexual harassment lawsuit. Her employment claim was based on Ailes behaviour. To support her claims, she stated she would give recordings of conversations that capture his behaviour.

Beginning in 2014, according to a person familiar with the lawsuit, Carlson brought her iPhone to meetings in Ailes’s office and secretly recorded him saying the kinds of things he’d been saying to her all along. “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better. Sometimes problems are easier to solve” that way, he said in one conversation. “I’m sure you can do sweet nothings when you want to,” he said another time.[1]

The recordings appear pivotal to the Company and Ailes agreeing to settle.[2]

Be my “friend” since every media executive has a “friend.”

When her story became public other women came forward. What emerged is that Fox News had settled other lawsuits about Ailes and women. In particular, it was alleged that one of his claims to encourage women to gratify him sexually was to explain needed to be his “friend”. As Kellie Boyle explained, he would ask if the woman would be willing to be his “friend” as other men in the industry had their “friends”.

He said, “That’s the way it works,” and he started naming other women he’d had. He said that’s how all these men in media and politics work — everyone’s got their friend. I said, “Would I have to be friends with anybody else?” And he said, “Well, you might have to give a blow job every once in a while.” I told him I was going to have to think about this. He said, “No, if you don’t do it now, you know that means you won’t.”[3]

The story suggests that the media industry has an institutional problem.[4] If Ailes claim is true and there is no reason to suggest it isn’t then other media executives behave the same way. Moreover, it would also suggest why the media have shied away from reporting, or investigating this story.[5] Ailes knows their “dirty laundry”. If threatened, he could make sure that such information finds its way into the public domain. It is how the industry operates. The information about “friends” gives Ailes tremendous power to harm those proprietors, editors, and executives who might investigate him.

The only difference is that Ailes got caught.

It speaks to the moral cowardice that other media executives have shied away from this story. They claim to act in the public interest, to uphold the best traditions, and they avoid the story. The price is too high. They live in glass houses and they do not want anyone throwing stones. They know that Ailes even out of Fox News remains a powerful and dangerous figure. He can ruin reputations, damage companies, and hurt people with his disclosures. For that reason, they have weighed the balance and decided against anything more than a superficial reporting of the allegations, cases, and evidence. In particular, there will not be a wider investigation across the industry. No matter the country, the media rarely wash their own dirty laundry in public.[6]

The next time you turn on Fox News (or any news outlet) keep this in mind: Ailes may be gone but the culture remains.








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Keith Vaz and Political Coercion: Why now?

English: Keith Vaz, British Labour politician,...

English: Keith Vaz, British Labour politician, at a march against knife crime in Hyde Park, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The news for Keith Vaz is devastating.[1] In the Sunday Mirror [2]it is reported that he is alleged to have hired male prostitutes for sex. The allegations[3] suggest that he is experienced in procuring their sexual services. The reports indicate that the behaviour has been going on for some time.

As we know from previous scandals, the party Whips are often aware of such behaviour. They need to be aware to protect the party. If they can help the MP, they help the party. A party with MPs in the news for sexual impropriety, ethical lapses, and the appearance of potential criminality is rarely successful at the polls.

Beneath the surface lies a vicious culture.

We have to consider the twilight political world where information is used privately for influence and advantage. In this world, political operatives, journalists, and even the police trade information for influence and to influence events. To influence events, they have to influence the main actors. For some this influence is simply called political deal making. For others, it is brutal political combat. You get an advantage and you exploit it for your benefit before they do it to you. For a dwindling majority, the political twilight world is akin to political blackmail for it thwarts the public’s democratic mandate. For the establishment, this majority is the necessary naïve electorate who foolishly believe in honesty, fair dealing, and the democratic process. If politicians are subject to moral or political coercion, then they cannot claim they represent the public. Instead, they represent the interests of those who control the information through which political and moral coercion is exercised.

How does it work? What Whips do is also what Editors do.

Tim Fortescue[4] explained how it worked.

“For anyone with any sense, who was in trouble, would come to the whips and tell them the truth, and say now, I’m in a jam, can you help? It might be debt, it might be… a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal in which, erm er, a member seemed likely to be mixed up in, they’d come and ask if we could help and if we could, we did. And we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points… and if I mean, that sounds a pretty, pretty nasty reason, but it’s one of the reasons because if we could get a chap out of trouble then, he will do as we ask forever more.” [Emphasis added][1]

The information can be used by the Whips to control their members. They can leak it to the press to punish a member if necessary. In this role, the press retains their ability to influence people and thereby events. We know that the Sun has a safe full of such information to which they rely on occasion to influence people.[5] What we see in public does not reflect what is being done in private. We are held captive to Arcana Imperii, the information the powerful use to rule yet the public never see.[6]

Can the UK ever escape a political culture of blackmail?

With Mr Vaz in a sensitive post regarding policing, the allegations raise some disturbing questions. Did the police know of his behaviour? When did the press become aware of it? When did the Whips know of it?

Was his public role influenced by his private information? Any party appearing before his committee would want to be able to influence his behaviour to influence the committee. They would have an incentive to learn his secrets and to exploit them. Moreover, they would have more to gain by keeping the secret and not disclosing it. Why is the information about his behaviour being disclosed now? When we can answer that question we begin to understand how politics works in the UK. We need to know how those who arranged for the story knew that he was vulnerable? Was he unaware that he was vulnerable in this way?

So the most important question to ask is the most chilling.

Who has benefited from being able to exploit this previously secret knowledge?




[1] (Paragraph 10)


[1] I have purposefully omitted his family. They will be relieved. The double life, the lies, the deception, the hypocrisy are at an end. They can get on with their lives. If Keith Vaz had *any* concern for his family, he would have never engaged in this behaviour or created the double life.


[3] These remain allegations until confirmed. Mr Vaz has not confirmed them nor has he commented publicly on them beyond referring them to his solicitor. However, his chairmanship of the Home Affairs Select Committee would be untenable if they are true.

[4] He was a senior Whip, 1971-1973 in the Heath government.

[5] Even if sources are boasting about the safe, that it does not contain as much or as sensitive material as they claim, it indicates an ethos, an attitude, and behaviour of how they work. These journalists, editors, and proprietors have no qualms about using it to their advantage as and when needed. They hold this to exercise political and moral coercion. If not, why do they hold it?


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Murdoch, a pitiful tyrant

A full-page apology ad published in British ne...

A full-page apology ad published in British newspapers by News International. The letter, signed by Rupert Murdoch, begins: “The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself.” Sweney, Mark (14 July 2011). “Phone hacking: NI plans full page apology in national press”. The Guardian (UK) . . Retrieved 15 July 2011 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To many people, Rupert Murdoch appears as a powerful figure. He appears able to punish his enemies and help his friends. Such power is what many people desire. Others fear his power for what he can do to them. Others pursue him in the hopes he will use his power for their ends. He has amassed great wealth and influence. He is by any measure within popular culture a powerful and successful man. Yet, he has paid a terrible price for his power, success, and status.

Xenophon’s insights are timeless

What brought me to that answer is Xenophon’s Hiero, or Tyrannicus.[1] In this short dialogue, Simonides, a poet, discusses the nature of tyranny with a tyrant, Hiero. In that dialogue, Hiero bemoans his state for he is without love, trust, or friendship. Even though he appears to have what he wants, he can find little pleasure. The tyrant may have large meals but worries he does not have enough to impress. He cannot travel abroad for fear of a plot at home. He cannot call the city his fatherland for he has usurped his position. He cannot trust his advisors to tell him the truth. When he goes out in public he requires a bodyguard. When he wants to pursue a beloved he worries whether he is loved for what he has and not who he is. By contrast, the private man has none of these worries. The private man, at least to the tyrant, appears happier.

Like the tyrant, people fear to speak the truth to Rupert Murdoch.

When we look at Murdoch we see that he resembles Hiero more than the private man. This does not mean that he is a tyrant, it is to suggest that he occupies an analogous role. If we consider the way in which he has amassed and retained his wealth, influence, and status, we see the similarities. In his success, he has relied, in no small part, on the malfeasance of others. When the malfeasance has emerged, Murdoch has claimed ignorance.[2] What this suggests that people were not telling him the truth.

When you change, your religion, citizenship, and wives, what remains?

Other similarities are apparent. We know he changed his religion to suit his business needs. He appears without a religious conviction. In matters of love, he has married for the fourth time with wives more a business decision than one of love. He has changed his citizenship to suit his business needs so that he knows no country as home. Like Hiero, he has had to gloss over the way he amassed and sustains his wealth, status and influence.

Shocked, outraged but no desire to repent. Why?

When he learned of Milly Dowler he was shocked.[3] Yet, that did not lead hi to reflect on his responsibility or seek to reform. He paid the family for their pain. With the Daniel Morgan murder case, where his employees have been shown to have interfered with investigations, he seems unaware of it[4]. He is a salutary lesson for what his success has required. Like Hiero, he knows that for all his success, he is a pitiful figure.


[2] See his response to question 167

[3] See his response to question 196


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Murdoch, Fox News and the digital demographic cancer

English: FOX News Channel newsroom

English: FOX News Channel newsroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many observers, Rupert Murdoch escaped the UK phone hacking scandal in good shape. He split his empire between television entertainment from his newspaper and publishing.[1] The split appeared to improve both companies and increased profits. Yet, a cancer was metastasizing. A digital demographic cancer is eating away at Fox News and News Corp. Despite the desperate pivot to digital, News Corp’s earnings are being driven increasingly by non-news and information related areas.[2]

Rebekah Brooks and the digital dilemma.

Rebekah Brooks returned to News Corp to reverse declining circulation.[3]  She was to provide a digital strategy to improve News Corp’s position.[4] The Sun [5] is losing the digital battle with the Daily Mail [6] The charts tell the story.[7] News Corp digital strategy reflects an inability to see the news media differently than it is today. Murdoch missed the digital news shift and the rise of social media platforms. Twitter and Facebook are the preferred news platforms for younger viewers.[8] Who has time to watch Fox News when social media content is packaged and pushed via algorithms? Ailes was correct that people watch TV because they are too lazy to think.[9] What he and Murdoch missed is that algorithms will do the thinking.

Roger Ailes and the demographic decline.

Fox News is slowly dying. Murdoch and sons knew it had a cancer. The cancer was Roger Ailes. The trigger was not sexual harassment for they had no qualms about his behaviour for 20 years.[10] Instead, they faced the hard truth that he was not the future. The core audience average age is 68.[11] The channel is losing audience share and influence to media outlets who pursue a different, more radical agenda. These outlets rely on a different media/advertising model. They can broadcast more content through social media channels, with greater speed and responsiveness, as demanded by the new social media consumers.[12]

Path dependency in an age of social media platforms.

Brooks, Murdoch, and Ailes, are captives of their platforms and their thinking. Ailes believes that the medium does not matter as long as the political personalities are right. He is half right. The problem is that the politics, and personalities, have moved to a new platform. They are the vastly profitable buggy whip makers who did not grasp what the automobile was doing to their market.[13] As the market shifts, they are choosing the second or third best option.[14] They want advertising revenue without realizing that the market is now inverted. The platform does not make the material viral nor can they capture viral marketing on their platform to repackage it. Instead, it is the content that drives the advertising, which finds a platform. If it is in a newspaper, it is already yesterday’s digital news. The advertising reacts to the audience shares more than the material’s intrinsic nature or the platform. Buying an online advertiser or an online news company is not going to change it.[15]

A moderate Fox News requires Murdoch to leave.

Removing Ailes is not enough. Neither is Megyn Kelly their saviour.[16] Fox News profits path dependency constrains them. Any post-Ailes pivot will require Rupert ceding control to his son, perhaps *the* demographic problem.




[2] News Corp Chief Financial Officer Bedi Singh said in a call with analysts that domestic advertising revenue at the Journal fell 12% in the quarter year-over-year, “with declines in print partially offset by modest growth in digital.”

Curiously, this is the same message they had the year previously.

Circulation and subscription revenues fell 3% across the news unit.

However, overall revenues for the company rose 2% to $2.28bn as the book publishing and real estate divisions offset dwindling print revenue.

[3] The article during the early apparent success of the paywall subscription service paints an upbeat message that masked the deeper problems. Issues such as customer service remained a hidden problem.

[4] and This shows low share rates for News Corp papers. They are playing catch up. Old thinking reflects pervious business models. The subscription model for cable and newspapers are based on the model where a company can hack a rival’s system and offer free hacking tools to sabotage a rival’s profitability. All charges that News Corp have denied.



[7] The Sun

Mobile comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 3,091,277
Smartphone comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 2,512,828
Tablet ABC PAV (Publication active views) PAV (Publication active views)
Tablet comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 637,927
Facebook /thesun Likes Likes 2,307,880
Twitter @TheSunNewspaper Followers Followers 1,160,000

Daily Mail

Mobile comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors


Smartphone comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors


Tablet ABC PAV (Publication active views) 25,433
Tablet comScore Total unique visitors Total unique visitors 4,727,789
Facebook /DailyMail Likes Likes 4,935,153
Twitter @mailonline Followers Followers 1,740,000



[9] In a 1970 memo, the plan for putting the GOP on TV news seems prescient.

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. Emphasis added




[13] The point is that the legacy issues and the path dependency doomed buggy whip industry not that it could not adapt or that parts of the carriage industry could not adapt.

[14] This story puts a brave face on a dire digital situation for the Sun and more widely for News Corp.

[15] They also purchased Storyful.


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Ivanka, America and Trump’s incest comments

English: Ivanka Trump at the Vanity Fair kicko...

English: Ivanka Trump at the Vanity Fair kickoff part for the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One person who has not spoken publicly about Donald Trump’s comments about Ivanka is Ivanka. She may have responded privately or by inference, yet we do not know what she thinks.[1] We know that Ivanka is close to her father. She is closer to him than his other children and she often acts as his surrogate.[2] The relationship appears psychologically complex to the point it calls into question their psychological and emotional health.[3] It could be argued that the relationship borders on “covert incest” [4] as the public comments and intimate petting appear inappropriate.[5]

How will she explain those comments to her children?

When interviewed, Ivanka said that she would not let her children see the negative advertisements about her father. She will shield them from such comments for they are hurtful.[6] The unasked, and unanswered follow-up question, though, is how will she explain her father’s comments to her children? If her husband made such comments about her own children, how would she react?[7]

What can Ivanka do in such a situation?

Ivanka is in an invidious position. She cannot publicly rebuke her father even though such comments amount to a form of sexual harassment. As she has admitted, she lives within his shadow.[8] As Trump runs his empire, like a patriarch of old, Ivanka knows that to cross him would be sever herself from the family. The family and business blur to the point where there is no difference.[9] As a friend commented, the Trump empire rotates around Donald. It is all about him and the children are accessories to his success.[10] To cross him would destroy her brands and her personal life. As such, is it a relationship she is free to leave?

How far has America’s public morality declined?

One wonders why Trump’s comments and behaviour on The Howard Stern Show and the View were not a cause for scandal.[11] He seems impervious to moderation or shame as he appears to believe he speaks the truth. Yet, as we know from Oedipus Rex, such a truth, while perhaps personally liberating, has political and societal consequences.

Clayton Williams must be shaking his head in disbelief

In 1990 Clayton Williams made an off the cuff remark.  The remark, that women should “relax and enjoy it [rape]”, caused a political and societal furore, which helped to end his political career. He had been tipped to win the Texas governorship.[12] Today, 26 years later, America seems singularly unconcerned that a Presidential candidate that can talk candidly of incest with his daughter.[13] One could argue that rape involves violence and the other is not violent. Yet, both are a coercive and abusive relationship. They both reflect an unhealthy view of women. The comments violate the normal societal constraints that allow a society, or a person, to call itself decent. With Trump have we lost any sense of decency? 

[1] See for example, her response to the question here:

“On whether she ever admonishes her father for his more outrageous assertions and personal insults: “Well, I’m his daughter. In a political capacity, I don’t. It’s his campaign. I don’t feel that’s my role. But I would challenge him as a child. That’s what children do. [My daughter] Arabella challenges me every day. People ask me, do I ever disagree with my father? It would be a little strange if I didn’t.””

She also responded indirectly when the issue was raised directly.

“Notoriously, appearing on the View in 2006 with Ivanka sitting beside him, Trump announced: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Ivanka gamely shook her head, tongue firmly in cheek, as if to say, “Yep, that’s my dad!” (This was before she became someone who tweeted out #ITWiseWords, including quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt about self-worth).”


[3] One recalls that Bill Clinton had a less than psychologically healthy relationship with his mother and that showed in his ability to empathize with other people. In a curious parallel, Chelsea Clinton remarked on that she shared the emotional sensitivity of her father Bill Clinton. .

“Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky. “She’s always aware of everyone around her and ensuring that everyone is enjoying the moment,” says Chelsea. “It’s an awareness that in some ways reminds me of my dad, and his ability to increase the joy of the room.””

Consider this view of Bill Clinton’s behaviour and his success as a politician who could “feel your pain” because he had lived with the pain of abuse. The abuse, perhaps, made him acutely sensitive to the emotions of others.

“”He was abused,” Clinton told Franks. “When a mother does what she does, it affects you forever.”

Clinton continued: “I am not going into it, but I’ll say that when this happens in children, it scars you. You keep looking in all the wrong places for the parent who abused you.”

Franks does not specify the nature of the abuse in the the book passage and writes that the then-first lady “declined to give me details.””




[7] The Atlantic article speculated on this point as well.

One can only imagine Ivanka the Mompreneur’s potential displeasure if her husband, Jared Kushner, spent their daughter’s teenage years crowing about her hotness, and his desire to date her, if not for the for taboos on incest.

[8] In 2003, he told Howard Stern,

“You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her? Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s six feet tall, she’s got the best body. She made a lot of money as a model—a tremendous amount.”

[9] “The Trump Organization has a unique culture. Everyone calls the boss “Mr. Trump.” Employees often eat lunch at the Trump Grill, in the lobby of Trump Tower, which offers a dish called Ivanka’s Salad. The higher you get in the company, the more the family and business blur. Michael Cohen, the executive vice-president of the Trump Organization, told the Jewish Chronicle, “To those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch.””

[10] “A Trump family friend told me, “It’s a close family in many ways—except it’s all about Donald all the time.” He went on, “Donald only thinks of himself. When you say, ‘Donald, it’s raining today,’ he says, ‘It doesn’t matter, I’m indoors.’ ”



[13] For Clayton Williams the comments were never forgotten or forgiven. In 2008, he raised funds for the McCain campaign. When he wanted to host a fundraiser at his home, the comment was publicized, so the campaign severed their ties with him.

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Alexis Jay and the legal assassins

Alexis Jay is the fourth chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The three previous chairs were from the legal profession. The last chair Justice Goddard resigned. Critics have suggested she lacked the necessary skills to meet the task. In particular, she was considered to be a poor judge[1], which raises the question of why she was chosen. Leaving that question aside, we need to consider the problem of legal assassins.

What is clear is that Justice Goddard was unprepared for the legal challenges she would face. The same holds for Alexis Jay. Even though Jay has been on the panel for the past two years and dealt successfully with the Rotherham case, she has never faced the legal challenges that await her.

In the Rotherham case, there were no QCs arguing back or contesting her claims, her investigation, her method, or her motives. To the extent that Rotherham Council resisted it was more as muted criticism of a defeated opponent bitter in defeat. She will face institutions and QCs that are experienced at legal and bureaucratic infighting. She will face legal assassins. Men and women trained and experience in destroying victims and defending institutions. The QCs and Barristers she will face are well versed in these issues since they have been contesting them for the past 60 years on the side of the very institutions and people she is trying to hold to account.

Power does not like to be held to account and the laws that QCs wield so well are structured to sustain the status quo against such claims. As the Hillsborough survivors and victims’ families found, the legal system was their greatest barrier for it sustained the Police in their silence and sadism. The QC could claim they were “only following legal instruction” yet that raises the question does a QC have a moral duty to explain that legal instruction will fail?

Jay faces QCs and institutions that have no concerns about following a morally flawed legal strategy. Their goal is to defend their clients even at the expense of the inquiry. If the inquiry collapses it will serve their clients, individual or institutional, for they have no desire to see their clients be held to account in any way except on their terms. The difference with a criminal trial where legal combat between two arguments is judged by cold reason and an inquiry is that the goal is not guilt or innocence, it is to hold the parties to account. To hold an institution does not require legal combat. However, the legal assassins hired for this purpose will ensure that it does become and remain legal combat so that they can control the field of battle.

Jay has the unenviable task of trying to shift the battleground even as she tries to manage a complex and complicated Inquiry. I hope she succeeds; I doubt the forces arrayed against her will let her.

[1] See for example this survey see also

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Why Theresa May will fail

Theresa May

Theresa May (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theresa May faces an impossible task, a task that all statesmen want to avoid for it is the highest difficulty. She has to reconcile a divided people to a new path, a path that offers doubtful rewards and uncertain chances of success as it leaves behind known risks and benefits.

She will introduce a new UK that will navigate life outside of the EU. The political landscape will be reshaped by this departure as laws and institutions must be changed to accommodate the exit. The exit’s effects are far-reaching yet barely understood and it is within this uncertainty she has to plot a course. In this task, she has to carry with her the people as well as the regime as it is now constituted even as it too will be shaped by the change. The relationships within the UK, especially the one with Scotland, will need to reconsidered.

In leading the people, parliament, and her party, she will have to weave a web of state that reconciles the various competing, conflicting, and complementary parties. The web has to understand the tensions within and across each strand. The vote to leave the EU has made the task extraordinarily difficult. She is caught between two camps. She has for enemies the parties who did well under the old EU conditions. Within the EU exit camp she will have lukewarm defenders who will either not believe her sincerity or worry about her ability to deliver the exit. The parties who favour exit have the vote on their side, however, they know that the laws, the desire for precedent and continuity favour Remain. The public and parliament are less likely to believe in the promises of EU exit until they see them. Throughout this process, especially within Parliament, members of the Remain campaign will fight a rear guard campaign almost like partisans against an occupying force. Her defenders within the Leave campaign cannot show any gains except for illusory promises and postures. Her burden is lifted to the extent that the ministers who have to negotiate the exit are seen as responsible. However, when they make outrageous claims such as EU immigrants will be sent back in a reverse surge, she becomes their hostage.

May has made others responsible for delivering the exit, but this will only protect her temporarily for she has to manage the vote’s economic, political, social consequences. The consequences have begun to divide society. The division reflect a society disillusioned and discouraged by the process. As she prepares for the next general election, she knows a failure to deliver the exit will be fatal for her and her party. More worryingly, a failure will reveal the democratic voice to be useless. If she cannot ensure that the consequences are not felt equally or equitably, then cannot overcome the systemic inequality that they reflect. In that moment, she will realize she cannot weave together a web of politics that will create a true common good.





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