Friday, April 25, 2014

The Mouse that Roared

It would seem that the boys at Fox have thin skin.  First, Bill O'Reilly apparently told Gabriel Sherman to "drop dead, man!" at a little soire held by the Hollywood Reporter at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, leading Sherman to offer his account of the evening.  Of course, it goes a long to plugging his own book on Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, which seems to have set Big Bill and everyone else at Fox off.  O'Reilly hulked over the diminutive Sherman to the point the young writer thought Bill might take him out.

But, this is nothing compared to the verbal fist-a-cuffs we have seen between O'Reilly and Stephen Colbert in recent weeks, as "Papa Bear" got notably upset over Colbert mocking the auction of his notes from the Super Bowl interview with President Obama.  Then came an unflattering segment on Bill's tough stance opposing equal pay for women.  

Colbert has long adopted a conservative persona that he has said is modeled on the O'Reilly Factor, which he holds up as the paragon of conservative values.  This endless mocking seems to have taken its toll on Papa Bear, who got visibly snippy with Colbert and vented his rage when he heard Colbert had been tapped to fill David Letterman's seat on the Late Show.  O'Reilly vowed to lead a boycott against Colbert when his "protege" takes over the Late Show.

All this would be highly amusing if Fox News didn't take itself so seriously, but apparently it still regards itself as "fair and balanced," even after the Cliven Bundy fiasco. Its pundits, notably Sean Hannity, were forced to tone down their support of the Nevada cattle baron.  Jon Stewart had a field day with this brazen partisanship, taking the pious Fox pundit to task for his effusive support of Bundy.  Hannity got very upset and devoted a segment of his own to Jon Stewart, only to be taken down again the following day.

For most of us, we only watch Fox News via Comedy Central, but this network has a sizable viewing audience, albeit a rather elder one, and still appears to be highly influential in the Republican Party. This was the subject of Sherman's book, noting how Ailes worked his way up through the Republican ranks and then hatched the idea of a propaganda news arm of the GOP to Rupert Murdoch, who provided $200 million in seed money back in the mid 90s.

In its nearly 20 years on the screen it has never steered very far away from the conservative fold, although it has lured a few liberal types like Juan Williams and Bob Beckel over to the dark side to create the illusion of being non-partisan.  

Stephen and Jon plotting their strategy
You would think that with all this clout, Fox and its pundits would shrug off the endless jibing from Comedy Central faux news programs, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  However, O'Reilly and Hannity view Stewart and Colbert as part of a young liberal conspiracy designed to undermine their programs, and the thought that Colbert is now moving up to CBS has O'Reilly literally squirming in his seat.

All this reminds me of that wonderful Peter Sellers' movie, The Mouse That Roared, where a tiny country threatens the hegemony of the United States.  It seems that Comedy Central is now a network to be reckoned with.

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