That's the old saying: "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." Well, in the case of Roger Ailes and Fox News, what they wished for was a network that didn't even have to try and hide it's pro-conservative bias, that used fear and sensationalism to maximum effectiveness, that exploited ignorance, prejudice, xenophobia, misplaced patriotism and Christianity and created an unstoppable juggernaut of extreme, right-wing ideology that rolled across the country like a horde of F-5 tornadoes - and, well... they got it.
They got more than they could have imagined, or bargained for. It was like "Little Shop of Horrors", and the small, seemingly innocuous Venus Fly Trap was a guy named Glenn Beck. He came in under the radar, another fair-haired, charismatic Aryan to join the toe-headed ranks of the Fox News on-air personality roster. He was rather unassuming, with his bespectacled visage and the haircut of a 10 year old boy, almost awkward and geeky, certainly non-threatening. When he recited the Fox News conservative talking points it was almost cute, like "Aww, look at the wittle hate monger in training! Who's gonna be a big scary tool of the Murdoch/Ailes propaganda machine? Huh? Whoooos gonna be a big scary tool of the Murdoch/Ailes propaganda machine? You are! Yes you are!"
And then it happened. Beck un-assumed and aw-shucked his way into a decent rating's share, and the more people started tuning in, the more the rhetoric ramped up, until finally he was the loudest, and most popular voice on Fox News. Obviously, this was a problem for many of the old guard at the network who were used to being the marquis names. It didn't sit well with O'Reilly and Hannity to not be the loudest, scariest, most over-reactionary voices on the network with the highest rating's shares to show for it. But it wasn't just interpersonal dissent that was causing problems for Ailes. Beck was out of control, and Ailes knew it. Beck was saying the most outrageous things imaginable - calling Obama a racist, saying he hated all white people, painting pictures of jack-booted liberal soldiers marching in lock-step and forcing America into a Nazi-eque socialist nightmare world. He went far beyond the popular Fox News methodology of leading the horses to water and letting them drink on their own - Beck led you to the water and then water boarded you with it until you broke.
Of course, playing off of fear, ignorance, distrust, xenophobia, religious ideology and educational laziness builds you a hell of an army of dumb, reactionary, scared and bafflingly organized white people. Beck had his army of followers. He collected them at his Taking Back America rally in D.C., where he proceeded to dig up the corpse of Martin Luther King Jr. and dance around with it. He spoke to his sea of followers like someone who had taken all the best parts of famous speeches made by dictators and people who played dictators in movies, and Ronald Reagan, wrote them all down on 3x5 cards, then threw them up into the air and whatever order he collected them back together in, that was his speech. He evoked fear, stirred up reactionary emotion, roused patriotism, fueled distrust, sewed the seeds of divisiveness, painted a bleak future, offered moral platitudes and ultimately gave even more incentive to the great, ignorant masses gathered before him to continue running, full speed, in pitch black darkness, in the wrong direction. He inspired the birthers to renew their efforts with even greater zeal, he inspired the Tea Partiers to evoke even more Nazi rhetoric about Obama, to spread more misinformation about his "socialist agenda", to distrust the brown people even more than they already did. He gave the Fox News Nation - you know, those people who are walking and talking examples of the phrase "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" - just a little bit more knowledge to run around parroting to further prove how right and smart they were to everyone else who agreed with them and wouldn't bother to take 5 minutes on Google to vet their "sources".
Before you could say Obama's secret Kenyan warlord name, Fox News found themselves painted into a corner where they had to suddenly cater to the birthers, the zealots, the wackiest of the Tea Party wackos. They had to seriously entertain the ideas of people like Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell and Donald Trump - who had completely usurped the leadership of the birther movement and was on a one-man fact-finding mission to both completely discredit Obama using every wacky conspiracy theory ever put forward, while at the same time milking all the camera time he could get to put his name at the top of the short list of potential GOP nominees to run against Obama in 2012. Fox News had to legitimize these people because they had so exalted the man who inspired them and a nation of like-minded ignoramuses who adulated them. They had created a monster in Beck. The cute little Venus Fly Trap who meekly said "Feed me?" when it tasted a little blood from Ailes' finger was now a 20-foot tall, swaggering, man-eating, singing and dancing killing machine bent on world domination, and it had the highest ratings on FNC.
Thus, Roger Ailes found himself and his network a victim of their own vision. He had hoped to find a way to capitalize on the large segment of the population who didn't vote for Obama, he had hoped to find as many angles as he could to play off their fear, ignorance, distrust and simple differences of opinion to create a majority who would almost certainly not vote for him again in 2012. He was carrying out the agenda that Mitch McConnell had boasted publicly was the GOP's priority after the Republican success in the midterm election, to make Obama a one-term president. The problem is that it worked too well. His pitbull got off it's chain and was running wild through the streets, whipping the people into a frenzy. He gave Beck carte blanche to do and say whatever he wanted, as long as it got people worked up and drinking the kool-aid, and Beck went above and beyond the call of duty. He went beyond the "give them just enough biased information to reach the conclusion we want them to but still think they realized it on their own" mantra. He went to crazytown and became mayor, and brought all his fans with him. He created a huge segment of Republicans who believed Obama was a Kenyan plant, who believed in wild conspiracies and vast government efforts to subvert their freedoms and brainwash them chemically in the water supply. He created a segment that believed schools were indoctrinating children into homosexuality, that God, country and family were under attack. He created an unstoppable force of ignorant, reactionary fear and prejudice and thanks to his bully pulpit at Fox News, it spread like a virus through the heartland.
Now, instead of strong, accomplished, viable candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, people like Donald Trump were throwing their hats in the ring. Now, instead of getting out ahead of the 2012 campaign by controlling the dialogue to discussions about topics where Republicans were traditionally viewed as being stronger, such as the economy, military defense, family values and so on, the conversation was dominated by talk of birth certificates and long-form birth certificates and secret Muslim allegiances and topic after topic which gave the critics of the GOP and all of these conspiracy loons piles of ammunition to use against them, including opportunity upon opportunity to point out the racially-based hypocrisy of the birther movement, an accusation that was increasingly sticking and blackening the eye of everyone associated with it, including Fox News, who was trying to figure out a way to kill this crazy plant before it could eat it's girlfriend and destroy the whole town.
Then, the worst possible thing that could happen to Fox News happened. In the midst of Trump's boastful appearances on the channel, arrogantly calling out Obama for his reluctance to release his long-form birth certificate, Obama did exactly that. Proving once and for all that the birthers were completely full of shit from the beginning and sucking a huge gust of wind out from under the right wing. Almost immediately following that, Obama would appear at the press correspondents dinner, an event famous for its almost roast-like atmosphere and uncharacteristic levity from the president. At this dinner, Obama blasted Trump mercilessly and got guffaws of laughter from the attendees, while Trump sat in silence, seeming almost embarrassed. This was Obama spiking the ball on the birth certificate hoopla, and it worked.
As if all of this wasn't bad enough, a week later Obama announced that our military had finally caught and killed Osama Bin Laden. That was the nail in Trump's presidential coffin. He quietly pulled his name out of consideration and hasn't really been too eager to get in front of a camera since then, a sharp contrast to his Gloria Allred-like attention whoring just weeks prior. The domino effect was beginning. People were starting to view this fringe of the Republican/Tea Party as a joke, as a bunch of ignorant, misguided wackos who will believe anything as long as it's negative about Obama. The problem is, this "fringe" group was actually a surprisingly large segment of the current Republican voter base.
Prior to the birth certificate revelation, something like 38% of registered Republicans didn't believe Obama was born in America. That's not a "fringe", that's a "base". The lunatics are running the asylum and they want one of their own to lead them against Obama in 2012. This is Roger Ailes nightmare, because a wacko candidate will never win the majority of the vote. People within the Republican party are trying to distance themselves from the extremist Tea Party element. Even other Tea Partiers are trying to distance themselves, using qualifiers "I'm a Tea Partier, but I'm not one of those wacky birther Tea Partiers!" Sorry guys, but as someone who grew up going to the Mormon church, I can tell you, no matter how much you tell people "We don't believe in polygamy, that's the wacko fringe element who isn't really Mormon at all!" it doesn't stop people from thinking you want to have sister wives...
So, this is what we're looking at. A GOP base who wants a Donald Trump, a Michelle Bachman, a Rick Santorum to represent them. They want someone who reinforces their crazy ass bullshit. They want a spokesman for the completely misguided ideology that their hero, Glenn Beck, instilled in them with such effectiveness. If they don't get that guy, then about 2/3 of the Republican party won't support him, but 2/3 of the Republican party isn't enough to win an election. They're doomed to pick someone who the democrats, the moderates and the independent swing voters will just rip to shreds. They're doomed to follow a wacko because they were encouraged by a different wacko who they were told to follow by the "Only trusted source for fair and balanced news."
You wished for it, Fox, and you got it. Good luck in 2012.