The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine

By Martin, Jim | Journalism History, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine


Martin, Jim, Journalism History


Brock, David and Ari Rabin-Havt. The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine. New York: Anchor Books, 2012. 329 pp. $15.

It's easy to find at least 300 titles on Amazon Books arguing the media are biased in one way or another. Many deal with liberal bias and its mirror image, conservative bias. But others fault the press on other fronts: bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anti-Christian bias, anti-family bias, anti-gay or pro-homosexual bias, bias against female candidates for political office, bias against the poor, bias against guns, and even media bias against pit bull terriers. The long list supports the truism that bias is in the eye of the beholder. People tend to view the media from the perspective of their own biases. Nowhere is this notion more pronounced than in the political arena.

Conservatives have long maintained that the media have a liberal bias, while liberals see just the opposite. Both sides try to bolster their case in the strongest terms: from emotional arguments to rational explanations. But the most appealing evidence - to both sides - is real-world illustrations. Both liberals and conservatives try to prove media bias by flaunting egregious examples. Bernard Goldberg raised eyebrows and hackles with Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. He used his twenty-eight years with CBS News to support his claim that producers and anchors exhibit a systematic liberal slant in reporting the news. He was especially hard on his former boss, Dan Rather. In Bias, Goldberg linked the rising popularity of the Fox News Channel and Bill O'Reilly to a backlash against the liberal bias of the major networks. Agree or disagree with its premise, Bias is insightful, witty, and entertaining. The same cannot be said for its opposite number, The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine.

In The Fox Effect, conservative-turnedliberal David Brock rails against Ailes and the Fox Network for their "partisan political agenda." He sets Ailes up as "the most powerful voice in the Republican Party." But after the first two chapters, Brock drops Ailes to hammer a theme established early on: Fox News "claims to be a 'fair and balanced' news network while brazenly broadcasting demonstrable lies and distortions, always with a conservative spin." Most of the later chapters belabor a second point: "Fox News was always a political operation at heart," a "news business that is willing to put politics above all else." Brock seeks to illustrate his charge of conservative bias with specific examples of Fox News misbehavior. …

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