If you were watching yesterday's "Fox & Friends," the world's most insipid and insidious morning show, you learned that a guy named Ben Smith, who writes for "a lefty website" called Politico, is hated by his commenters.
There was no context or explanation. Ben Smith works for Politico. Politico is liberal. Ben Smith wrote something about "a guy" who works at Fox. Ben Smith's commenters say awful things about him.
Why did this happen? Because Smith, the day before, had linked to Esquire's extended interview with Roger Ailes. Smith called Ailes "one of the most powerful men in American politics" and even said he was correct to speak of "the plot to take me down." The only remotely critical thing in the brief introduction to an extended quotation of Ailes' own words was when Smith said it was "ill-advised" of Ailes to call everyone at NPR "Nazis."
Smith seemed baffled by the attack, though he acknowledged that Ailes himself is said to read everything written about him. (Hi, Roger! It would be hilarious if you hired Olbermann. Just a thought!)
As Smith was reminded later, there is a lengthy history of Fox lashing out at people it perceives to be its enemies, and the list goes well beyond liberal partisan critics to include journalists who dare to report on the goings-on at the network without kowtowing to its company line. The New York Times' David Carr wrote a great column on the subject. One frequent tactic the famously vicious Fox P.R. department engages in is leaking damaging material on supposedly adversarial reporters to friendly blogs. But my favorite method is the Doocy smear.
The king of the bizarre on-air smear against an enemy reporter is Steve Doocy, that unintentionally savage parody of a morning news empty grin. After years of yukking it up in the trenches of local news "on the lighter side" segments, "Fox & Friends" finally allowed Doocy to stop repressing his inner asshole. And so, with the soothing cadence of a guy who promises he's just as imbecilic as he presumes his viewers are, Doocy attacks.
(David Carr, of course, has been a target.)
Previous victims also include Times reporters Jacques Steinberg and Steven Reddicliffe, guilty of reporting that CNN's rating were then rising. The Fox crew Photoshopped images of Steinberg and Reddicliffe, making them into grotesque (and in Steinberg's case, arguably anti-Semitic) caricatures without acknowledging that the images were doctored.
In another case that is almost as bizarre as the Smith attack, Doocy went after a P.R. firm that had issued a funny press release about Fox having bedbugs:
Just look how much of a torturous reach this is, shoehorning a counterattack into the rigorously bland and conversational medium of the morning show.
This clip, in fact, illustrates the single weirdest thing about the Doocy smear: Who the hell cares? More than a million people watch "Fox & Friends" regularly. Do you think any of them know what Politico is or understand why they should care about a P.R. firm's CEO? If part of your smear involves not explaining why you're smearing someone, it must just be baffling to the viewer not familiar with all the characters involved. When Bill O'Reilly calls David Carr a "crackhead," the little words on the screen explain why you are supposed to hate him. How many 6 a.m. Fox viewers know what Graydon Carter looks like? Doocy just releases these little non sequiturs of bile into the ether -- a reminder to journos, I guess, that FOX IS WATCHING YOU -- and moves on to the funny animal story.
Why is Doocy so vigilant in defense of his boss Roger Ailes, you ask? Because, as Doocy explains in his book about fatherhood, Roger is like his father.
Aww. Anyway, here is a clip of Steve Doocy reporting on one man's "lucky potatoes."