The day Teflon Don emerged

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the U...

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, Trump had a disastrous press conference. By all accounts it appeared Trump bombed. Some comments compare him to Nixon as he crumbled under Watergate. For others, he sounded confused, discombobulated, and incoherent. All of this is true and it is wrong.

Trump has measured the media and found them wanting.

Trump won this press conference. He came into his own. You could see him enjoying himself as he played with reporters, humiliated them, and dismissed them. Throughout the questions, he was in control. Not a single question rattled him or even caused him discomfort. He made the point that the leaked telephone calls were like a test. Will future highly sensitive calls be leaked? He could plant the view that it was test that showed how far the press and those who are not loyal to him would go.

If the press do not report what Trump wants, they are dishonest.

For his base, his behaviour was what they wanted. Even if the press try to report or explain why Trump is wrong or had a poor performance, they can point to his opening remarks “The press are dishonest”. By doing this, he appeals to what his supporters want to believe and most importantly, he creates the belief that what is said is what is.

Trump isolates the media from America just as he isolated CNN from the media.

For his audience, his supporters, he has hit a theme that resonates. Just as he isolated CNN within the media, he has begun to isolate the media within America. Most importantly, he was able to insult the media, “take it to them” in a way that his supporters wanted. Note how he says “The failing New York Times”, yet complains about the “hateful tone” in his coverage. His refrain that the press will report him as “ranting and raving”, shows how he shapes the narrative. When the press respond, and explain; calmly, clearly, cogently what Trump did, the public have the narrative to explain the headlines and stories—the press are lying. It is fake news.

If you question him, you disagree with him. If you disagree with him, you will lie about him.

Even when he was confronted about the electoral college win, he could dismiss that by “someone told me”. The response is just as his supporters would expect. Trump was given duff information. What matters is Trump won. For Trump, even a single electoral vote is a large margin. To argue that point shows you are a sore loser. You argue about an irrelevant detail because you disagree with the outcome and don’t like Trump. Why else would you question it?

The Sophist’s revenge on those who believe in the Philosopher’s truth.

Is any of this true? No. Does it matter? No. Trump does not have to tell the truth as fact checked by the media, he only has to manage the appearance of truth for the public. He shapes a truth, a narrative, that is created by the appearance of what he says. For Trump, what is said *becomes* what is.[1] Anyone who questions him already starts at a disadvantage because to question him is a sure sign you disagree with him. If you disagree with him, you will lie about him. In this scenario, only Trump, and those who Trump verifies, tell the truth. Everything else is fake news.


[1] “What permits the sophist to accomplish this feat of forgery is the assumption that what is said is actually is. In other words, sayings are equal to that which is (to on). Hence, words once coupled with deductive reasoning provide a true account of the generic being (i.e. what is).”

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Is Donald Trump the American Kurtz?

English: Joseph Conrad

English: Joseph Conrad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the classic book, Heart of Darkness, which inspired the film Apocalypse Now[1], Joseph Conrad tells the story of Charles Marlowe who has been sent to Africa by an unnamed company to find one of its agents—Kurtz. Kurtz went deep into Africa to find ivory for the company. He had been very successful with large shipments, but the company had lost touch with him.

When Marlow tracks down Kurtz at the trading station, he finds that he has become like a demigod among the natives. On the trip back with Kurtz, Marlow reads his report for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs. The report, despite its cogency, lacks a practical solution. What Marlow finds instead is a disturbing hand written postscript. His eloquent report on civilization to suppress savage customs ends with: “Exterminate all the brutes!”

Trump like Kurtz has been absorbed into the life of the natives.[2] With his wealth, wide array of sexual partners, and now political power, he has become a demigod to the white nationalists. To reward their loyalty and support, he celebrates the “unspeakable rites” done in his name.

When Trump humiliates the CIA by using the Wall of Stars as a political backdrop, he attacks the “establishment”. He is in charge. When Trump makes Supreme Court nominees take part in a dog and pony show, reduces the law’s guardians to game show participants. He tells the natives the law serves him. When he berates leaders from Australia and Mexico, he appears to be the tough negotiator. He lets foreigners know he is wise to their tricks. Yet, for the natives these rituals are esoteric minutia to his greatest display of power, his greatest success, and his most important spectacle.

Trump has rewarded his followers immediately and publicly. He has given them a public spectacle that humiliates Muslims. Tired of the liberal tolerance that defines America, the natives hungered to inflict intolerance on a hated minority. When the Border Patrol stops, questions, and sends back Muslims, his followers roar their approval. What is especially pleasing is that the hated federal government and the law, both of which kept them in check, are seen to do their bidding. Trump, though, knows his powers are limited so he must hide his true nature with the veneer of national security. After eight years of apologies, American natives will show the world that the strong do what they want and the weak suffer what they must.

The more Trump believes in his power, the faster he, and America, race to the heart of darkness. On this journey, all that matters is the force of his personality. With each success, with each ritual, with each spectacle, Trump’s mask slips a bit more to reveal what he has always been. At the heart of darkness is nihilism where all that matters is his will. To reach that point, Trump will reward his followers with their greatest wish and what will be his greatest success–He will kill America.


[1] The film was based on this book with the story shifted to Vietnam and set during the Vietnam War. For more information on the film see

[2] Other people have compared Trump to Kurtz although with much less detail.

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Trump threatens US reporters to make them obedient

English: Donald Trump at a press conference an...

English: Donald Trump at a press conference announcing David Blaine’s latest feat in New York City at the Trump Tower. The photographer dedicates this portrait of Donald Trump to Tony Santiago, Wikipedia editor Marine 69-71, perhaps the most officially recognized and accomplished content contributor to Wikipedia, for his outstanding contributions to improving articles related to his Puerto Rican heritage. He is also a close friend. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For I know that some human beings are like horses—the more they get what they want, the more unruly they are apt to become. The way to manage men like that is to put the fear of the bodyguard into them. Xenophon Hiero 10, 1-3

Donald Trump’s team want to eject journalists from press conferences.[1] At the last press conference, Trump attacked CNN as “fake news.”. In response, Jim Acosta from CNN tried repeatedly to ask a question. Trump refused. After the incident, Sean Spicer[2] is reported to have threatened to eject Mr Acosta.[3] A few days later, Reince Priebus[4] said that press access to the White House was in doubt.[5] Their threats serve a purpose.

If you don’t support the Trump administration, you cannot do your job.

It would appear that Trump wants the press to behave in a way that suits his political interests. He appears to want to change the press by threatening to move them from the White House or by ejecting any reporters he, or his staff, believe are less than helpful to the administration. If we look at the UK, experience, it would appear that US journalists and their companies will need to answer the same question. Will they hold the government to account or will they work for the government?[6]

A free press is one that is not beholden to the government

Throughout its history, the idea of a free press has been central to a healthy democracy.[7] In the United States, the 1st Amendment, which enshrines the right of free speech and a free press, is the basis by which the press help democracy. The press informs the public about the government’s business. The public need the press to be informed about what is happening on their behalf. They need someone to ask the questions they want answered as well as to ask the questions the government might not want to answer. Both are needed to keep the public informed. If the public are not informed public, then democracy cannot work effectively.[8]

The press works to ensure the government serves the public not the party interest

When journalists and their companies work properly they help the public by holding the government to account. They deflate a government’s utopian ambitions. They encourage the government to be better when they are in doubt. Journalists and their companies are expected to be independent from the governments they cover. Even though they may develop a closeness necessary for access, they are independent.

In the UK, that independence died when Margaret Thatcher’s made Rupert Murdoch her media bodyguard.[9] Murdoch reporters are docile, deferential, and demure, when they question, if they question, a figure that Murdoch supports. For Trump, who is supported by Murdoch, reporters need to be as craven as the Murdoch reporters. They do as they are told. They obey.

Stroke the leader’s will or you will be ejected: long live democracy

To eject reporters (or any protestors), Trump has private security.[10] As we know from history, when a leader seeks a bodyguard, they seek to be a tyrant.

All these examples are contained under the same universal proposition, that one who is aiming at a tyranny asks for a bodyguard.[11] (Aristotle, Rhetoric 1357b 19)

Without the bodyguard, the threats would be idle. Instead, the two work together. They habituate the press to be deferential.

Journalists force power to speak the truth

When the press is deferential, they no longer speak truth to power. More to the point, they no longer force power to speak the truth. Instead, they fluff the government to speak as it wants to speak.


[1] See See also Despite these reports, one has to note with caution anything from the Trump transition since they have displayed a pattern of “picking fights” to avoid scrutiny, deflect attention, and manage the news cycle. However, given past behaviour, notably the Acosta incident, the plan appears to have credibility and would reflect Trump’s temperament.

[2] Incoming Trump White House Press Secretary


[4] Incoming White House Chief of Staff


[6] In more direct language, they have to ask if they will be journalists or fluffers.

In the pornography industry, there is a specific role called a “fluffer”. The fluffer’s job is to keep the male performer tumescent while the scene is set or changed. A fluffer does this through a variety of methods.


[8] In the UK, the recent Leveson Inquiry explore the relationship between the press and politicians.  and




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Who won Trump’s press conference? Rupert Murdoch

English: Rupert Murdoch at the Vanity Fair par...

English: Rupert Murdoch at the Vanity Fair party celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the public recover from their first experience with a Trump presidential press conference, we can take stock of what has happened. For Trump supporters, this was a masterpiece. This is what they wanted. This is what they want. They want someone to insult the press. They want someone to tell the media to “shut up”. They have elected someone who will tell the press to “go fuck themselves” and they love it.

The powerful tell the weak what to do.

The public who voted for Trump have waited a long time for a man like Trump to stick up for them. That Mr Acosta is a Cuban-American is close enough to being a Mexican-American for the Trump supporters to walk a bit taller when Trump told him and CNN he was fake news. For once, Trump supporters can feel that they can do what they want they do not have to be told to behave. They can insult people and treat them like inferiors because no one is going to tell them that they are not superior. Their leader, the man who will make the world right, is now the President. He will tell the media to shut up and they will take it because that is how the world is supposed to work. The powerful tell the weak what to do.

Equality is what makes America weak.

What is clear is that equality is for wimps and losers. It was something that the weak and whiners used against strong Americans. Trump supporters are the strong Americans tired of being told they need to treat others as equals. They’re tired of being told that common decency means they can’t insult minorities, women, or the disabled. When they tell a minority, a woman, or a person with a disability to shut up and get out of their way, they will do it. They are now the powerful and no one will ever tell them again that they aren’t. There will be no apology tour.

When Trump speaks; you shut up or we will shut you up!

For Trump supporters, they have a President who will punch back. Who will not accept being called a racist by the press. Who will not accept being called a bully. He will punch back. They will punch back. He will tell the press to shut up. He will tell his critics to “Get out”. If you don’t like it get out of the way because the Trump Train will run you over. If you speak up, then his private security will eject you. If you are lucky, you will escape without a beating. Shut up when Trump is speaking or someone will shut you up.

Rupert Murdoch has a president.

Who benefits the most? Rupert Murdoch. Trump is the politician that Murdoch always wanted to be but couldn’t. Here is a man who embodies the resentment, the cynicism, mercenary’s callousness, and uncouthness that Murdoch has always promoted and enjoyed. With Trump telling CNN it is fake news, he has begun to repay Murdoch’s support. Murdoch has a President. Trump’s vision is his vision. Trump has a media bodyguard and the pact is sealed.

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Will the next “Trump” unite all the dispossessed?

Trump has succeeded to a large extent because he appears to speak for those who feel dispossessed by the American political and economic systems. For the most part, though, that appeal has been limited to the White middle class. However, the American dispossessed are more than these voters who have reaped globalisation’s material benefits even as it takes away their jobs and prosperity. For these voters, they feel dispossessed for they have been convinced in large part that other groups have gained from the government at their expense. In this resentment Trump also appeals to the extreme groups such as white supremacists. However, the dispossessed are not only white Republicans, or white supremacists. Bernie Sanders has shown that there are dispossessed within the Democratic party who feel they too have been abandoned. These are voters who feel that the Democratic party has failed to protect them or promote their interests. To these voters, Trump to his credit has tried to reach out to these voters but his pitch was so tone deaf that it became counter-productive. The pitch, though, shows us a deeper problem for American politics that Trump reveals.

A crude appeal that shows the potential for the future.

When Trump tried to court the African American vote, especially within Democratic strongholds, it appeared as a crude, obvious tactic. For the residents of the Chicago’s West Side who face a bleak future such a candidate could have had an appeal. They live within a city renowned for decades of police and institutional brutality that segregates black crime areas from the white Gold Coast plutocratic wealth.[1] They are taken for granted by the Democrats.

Who will speak for the dispossessed?

The Chicago communities, and others in Democratic strongholds, are ignored by the Republicans. [2] In Chicago, the fate of the black population is bleak with no end in sight.[3] What young black men in Chicago have experienced for the past 60 years reflects what fuels America’s political discontent. What has changed though is that their fate is now shared by white Republicans. These Republicans now find themselves dependent upon the government when their party used to be one of self-government.

Trump though is a symptom of a deeper problem: an unending war

Without the open-ended war that started in 2001, it is unlikely Trump could have emerged let alone succeeded. The war has pulled America between its domestic commitment to equality and a foreign policy of freedom. In the shadow of this war America has become polarized and Trump has exploited the gaps between the two cities that are emerging. One is assured of wealth, privilege, and security, while the other lives with poverty, disadvantage, and fear. Trump has failed to harness this divide. The next Trump, though, will learn from his failures and his success. To prevent this America must heal its divisions and ends its war otherwise it may die from suicide.



[1] For a city like Chicago with several of the wealthiest families  in the America (if not the world) to have this degree of segregation, poverty, brutality is like something out of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Dickens Tale of Two Cities, or Hobbes Leviathan. Chicago is a city ruled by a tyrant in the guise of a mayor. It is literally a tale of two cities one rich, the other poor; one white, the other black.

On Chicago’s wealth consider: #7 Pritzker family 13 Billion #27 Crown family 8.8 Billion and #28 Reyes family 8.6 Billion and #46 Smith Family 6.3 Billion.

See also

[2] See for example  and Yet, even the call to save the cities is faint in comparison to the thunder aimed at Trump. If the conservatives were fighting for the cities, would Trump have even emerged?


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Trump and the crisis of journalism.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Donald Trump lies and we know this because journalists tell us. If a journalist is not willing to call Trump a liar, they are no doing their job. The journalist’s job is now to confirm the popular or desired prejudice. Trump has brought journalism’s hidden crisis to the  surface. Social media had forced journalism to reassess itself, its purpose, and its audience, but it took the Trump crisis to challenge its existence. Is journalism a truth teller, a source of opinion, or does it gather the facts to report? These different roles were bound up with and hidden by the idea of objectivity and implicit impartiality. Journalism might not have the Truth, but it would help the public to discover political truths needed for citizens to act in the public domain. Armed with the facts, a citizen could take part in the public domain. News organisations could appear objective and impartial because the only facts or opinions in the public domain were mediated by them. With social media changed journalism no longer mediates the public domain.

Social media allows you to tell your own story and create your own facts.

Social media has shattered journalism’s political consensus. Instead of citizens and politicians who rely on journalists to give the facts to develop and define political truths, the public domain has been transformed by social media. The public domain is beset by opinions, often extreme opinions that masquerade as facts and truths. If you can get enough followers, you can promote whatever truth you want regardless of the facts. With a seductive “truth” they want to hear, you can shape the public opinion so your opinions are accepted as the truth. The audience believes that what it disagrees with must be a lie so that what they agree with must be the truth. Opinion, not a lie, is the opposite of the truth, which requires us to discern and develop the truth when opinions conflict. The hard work to develop a political truth is no longer trusted to journalists. No one has emerged to who can discern or develop a truth from conflicting opinions. Instead, the public avoid the hard work needed to judge whether one opinion corresponds more or less closely to the facts from which reasoned judgement can develop a political truth.

Easier to call someone a liar than to discern the truth between opinions

With this changed audience, journalism attempt to be a truth teller or to mediate the public domain has collapsed. A truth teller is not a journalist who writes a headline to say that Trump lied. Journalism requires is faithful adherence to facts, the hard work to uncover and fit them within a reasonable narrative. From this work, we create a political truth. As opinions easily parade as fact if not as truth, it is easier to indulge opinions paraded as facts than to counter opinions unmoored from facts.

Journalism must recover the fading art of truth telling.

If journalism cannot develop truth teller, it will succumb to the easy allure of politics. In time, it will contribute to society’s attempt to tyrannize thought. When it calls someone a liar, *as if* they possess the Truth, they act politically, not objectively.

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Why Trump likes Chicago: it fits his world view

Bartender being punched and kicked by off duty...

Bartender being punched and kicked by off duty Chicago Police officer Anthony Abbate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump likes Chicago because it fits his world view. Chicago is a city of two halves one poor and the other wealthy. As the wealthy do not have to endure, the City’s corrupt politics, it never changes. In a city where you have to pay to play, Trump would be at home. It fits his temperament. The public have to endure the cronyism, ghost work crews, rigged electoral registrations, and the failing public services like schools. Trump never has to worry about that experience because his wealth insulates him.

Chicago’s corruption does not serve the common good.

Chicago has been a corrupt and racist one party city for decades. In the past, it might have been excused for it still served a common good. Today, the city’s failures are an embarrassment to the nation. It is the most segregated city in the the country. Tt contains the brutal divide between rich and poor, whites and minorities, strong and weak. Chicago is Trump’s kind of town. In Chicago you are either a winner (rich, Trump) or a loser (poor and a minority). Chicago is two cities an Oligarchic city where you get justice, prosperity, opportunity and law and order; and the people’s city, where you get crime, poverty, and misfortune. In Chicago, the common good is an illusion.

Chicago has some of the wealthiest people in America and the world.[1] Chicago’s elite are served by the city as it is presented as an Oligarch’s playground. Trump would be part of that establishment for that is how he behaves in New York. The wealthy benefit from the system and the system benefits them.

Chicago’s disappeared never get justice for no one speaks for them.

Trump claims he wants to help the less fortunate in Chicago. He promises to empower the police to deal with crime. The problem is that the police have the power and still fail to deal with crimes. Over the past few years, murder victims have disappeared from official statistics. In the city’s efforts to reduce the murder rate homicides have been changed to noncriminal deaths.[2] Despite claims that better policing reduced the murder rate, the reality was the city massaged the figures. In Chicago, the disappeared are the weak, the vulnerable, and the voiceless. Those like Trump, the wealthy, powerful, and protected, get justice.

Police Shootings: If you are black the city is more likely to kill you or abuse you.[3]

In Chicago, blacks, more than any other ethnic group, are more likely to be shot by the police. Laquan McDonald was the latest in a long line of people shot to death by Chicago police.[4] Over the past 10 years, Chicago has paid out over half a billion dollars in compensation for these events.[5] Such money could have helped to reduce crime, regenerate impoverished neighbourhoods, and improve schools. Despite these deaths and their cost, the Chicago Police act with near impunity with few officers disciplined or dismissed as a result.[6] Trump would give them more power and less accountability. It is how he views the world.

Chicago is Trump’s kind of town.


[1] The Pritzkers symbolizes Chicago’s oligarchy which contains many other Chicago plutocrats. The Pritzkers are the highest profile. Although they are not omnipotent




[5] Between 2004 and 2014, the city paid out over $520 million in settlements, legal fees and other costs related to police misconduct, according to the Better Government Association.”

[6] See also “Since 2001, civilians have lodged 20 complaints against Van Dyke. The complaints were not sustained by investigators. While it may seem surprising that so many complaints against one officer would be tossed out, a Huffington Post analysis of four years of city data released by the Invisible Institute, a non-profit journalism organization, reveals that there are more than 180 city police officers with more complaints than Van Dyke who weren’t disciplined at all over that time.”

[7] A person might say “Well, a Pritzker is never going to be shot by the police as they do not disobey police orders and they obey the law.” In this they would be correct. Yet, that misses the point. Would the police even dare to approach them with the same aggressiveness and brutality that they show to those in Lawndale or Austin? A critic would say “Well, they would not need to act aggressively as the situation could be resolved in a low key way; they are only a low level threat”. In this they would be true, but then we would remember that Laquan McDonald was not a threat.

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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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