Roger Ailes and that German Lance Corporal

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by Neil Godfrey

After having bought the book five and a half years ago I finally got around to reading last week The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country by Gabriel Sherman. Hopefully, now, I’m a little better informed about the role of the media in the United States. Not only the media, but I kept reflecting on the entire capitalist system, virtually unbridled. Courts appear to be sporting arenas where the rich can have their final showdowns against one another. But it was encouraging to be reminded that journalism is a profession and that journalistic ideals are still treasured by many trained in that area, though they may too often be frustrated by their corporate bosses.

If Sherman’s book is a true indicator then I was surprised to learn that Fox News has had a far more powerful effect on both politics and the entire media landscape than I had realized. Simply ignoring and laughing at it did nothing to stop its growing influence in society and the political arena. Ailes so often reminded me of Donald Trump, too, and this book was written before Trump emerged on the political scene.

I don’t know who is directly in charge of Fox News now but I do learn from Trump that Fox occasionally broadcasts a story that is not favourable to him. I cannot imagine that happening under Ailes, but Rupert Murdoch does have a reputation (certainly in Australia and UK) of being something of a kingmaker through his media arms.

It’s an ugly scenario. News transformed into entertainment, more about making people “feel empowered/informed” than truly informing them.

But two days ago a new book arrived, one originally published in the late 1930s, that put a different perspective on it all. Theodore Abel’s Why Hitler Came to Power, is a presentation of the words of Germans who lived through the Germany at the end of the First World War and who were influenced by Hitler. Their description of Germany in 1918 and 1919, the breakdown of society, the traumas of the population and of the armed forces, — one can see at a glance how WW2 was pretty much inevitable. There were moments when it did look like peace would emerge, but it only took a few more economic setbacks to put the whole thing back into a tailspin. Also interesting was the amount of loathing of the Nazis in Germany. Those who blame “the Germans” for WW2 do not do justice to the many.

Another “little” analogy that came to mind: We cannot abide futility, of losing all, our dearest ones, our honour, everything, for nothing. It has to have meaning; it cannot have been all in vain. So grieving parents of a suicide bomber would be caught on TV saying that they were proud of their child, — and returning soldiers cannot agree that all they experienced was for nothing but loss of identity, loss of everything they held dear. The fight has to continue.

What sticks out through my early years as a lover of history in high school is the power and responsibility of a single person. I was taught to believe that “historical forces” created history: learn both (1) the background causes and then (2) the immediate causes of this or that historic moment. Really, though, it’s not so predictable. Sure, there are “forces” there, but unless a certain person with a certain makeup happens to exploit them for either personal or ideological motives, there is no telling which forces will simply wash themselves out which ones will continue to grow and consume others and change a nation’s direction.

And some readers thought I only read books about the bible!

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Neil Godfrey

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6 thoughts on “Roger Ailes and that German Lance Corporal”

  1. I watched the TV series, “The Loudest Voice” and if it is anywhere close to true, (of course it’s Hollywood) he was a megalomaniac that was obsessed with power. Him and his wife. And to think, to an extent, the world is controlled by people like him. The alpha male rules. And so many want to be the alpha male.

    1. The impression I took away from the book was that he was certainly a ruthless bully but that he was also serious about his extremist right wing ideology cum paranoia. Truth and facts be damned. And if the events did not work in his favour (e.g. Katrina wrt Bush) his ratings slumped and he was at a loss. Murdoch also loves power but is willing to shift to a liberal prime minister or president if he prefers him to the more conservative option — or rather if he believes the public momentum is shifting in that direction.

  2. Thanks again Neil for your diligence. I need to read that book “Why Hitler Came to Power” and will order it. As you know, and we agree to disagree, my conviction is that Hitler’s infamy and renown is mainly the result of the German government’s hatred of the Jews as a race, because their leaders were responsible for Germany’s defeat in WW1 by bringing the US into WW1, through the Balfour Declaration (bargain). Let’s not go back into that argument here, but it is relevant to the topic, and Benjamin Freedman’s 1961 speech encapsulates it.

  3. I don’t think you can fairly say that “the argument” to which you say I refer, is anti-semitic. It’s Hitler who was anti-Jewish, and a psychopath. Yes, I am inclined to believe Freedman’s explanation for Hitler’s motives; but Freedman was anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish in the way I think that you mean it. Rather he says that modern day Jews are mainly descended from Eastern European proselytes, not from the Middle Eastern people nor their Spanish migration. He disagrees with the claims of modern Jews to the rights in Palestine given by the Balfour Declaration. I agree.

    We should first agree what a Jew is ? Then for someone to be called anti-Semitic (a misnomer in itself) we have to agree why the so-called anti-semite dislikes Jews within that meaning of what a Jew is. It’s confusing because the mass of proselysed Jews have redefined Judaism as a whole. And the Zionists, many of whom are not Jews, also give Judaism a bad name. Most people cannot grasp these distinctions.

    We agree that we cannot blame all Germans for the atrocities committed by their leaders in WW2. So we cannot blame all Jews for the avarice and scheming of the Zionists in WW1. It was Lord Balfour whom I understand was anti-Jewish in 1917, in that he was glad to see Jews leave England and pleased to strike up a bargain with the Zionists to have rights in Palestine.

    The Jews are widely held to this day to be responsible for the death of the son of God – another propagandistic myth championed by the empire of the day, the Romans. Today the US is the empire of the day, and Freedman speaks out against its leaders who have woven propaganda into the very fabric of our society. If they can do it with 911, which gave us the mythic “war on terror” they can surely have done it with the World Wars, for the winners write history.

    1. Freedman himself makes antisemitic accusations; his statements were well beyond Zionism and targeted the Jews themselves as a race — it makes no difference if he accuses them of being descendants of X or Y — as was pointed out in our earlier discussion. Accusing the Jewish people and/or some conspiratorial cabal of them today of embodying evil, and inferring that that evil is related to their being related to Satan, Cain, Turks, Edomites, Ashkenazis, Jacob, you name it, it makes no difference to the racist slurs being used by Freedman. Sophistry that tries to say, hey, let’s redefine a Jew by attributing his origin to some other tribal group (or Satan or Cain or Edom as has been done by various groups), or simply limit the world conspirators responsible for the great evils today to a secret cabal of a handful of “Jews” (or whatever origin is imagined) is all part and parcel of the anti-semitic rubbish that befouls too many minds today as in the past.

      No more posts on this topic. Take those arguments and rationalizations elsewhere.

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