Russ Mitchell

The Mitchell Report

Russ Mitchell is editor of The Dickinson County News. He has been in Spirit Lake since January 2010 and began in journalism in 1997. The Mitchell Report can be about anything and everything. Comments are invited.

The truth is somewhere in the middle

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Slate staff writer Isaac Chotiner tells us “we live in the world Roger Ailes broke.”

The column was his keyboard dance on a 77-year-old man’s grave. And, to be fair, Chotiner was far from alone on Twitter as he waited in line to add fertilizer to the gravesite Thursday. That’s when Ailes, the creator and two-decade leader of Fox News Channel, died after falling at his home in Palm Beach, Florida.

Mr. Ailes won’t find absolution in this space, either. Sexual harassment allegations led to his ouster in 2016. He is indeed part of a cable news culture that allows commentators to cherry-pick information, shout down dissenting opinions and ignore facts that are important for context.

We can’t get an accurate world view from websites like Slate or the most well-known cable news or online destinations. The Ailes channel’s message is bombastic and would be well-served by a dose of understanding – Ailes “made our country nastier, stupider, cruder and more bigoted,” as Chotiner described the man’s Fox News legacy.

I can’t speak to Mr. Chotiner’s intelligence, but it is interesting to hear him call someone nasty, crude or bigoted when he goes on to say: “Ailes was not some phony elitist playing a con on the rubes. No, he really loved degrading people, and he held the same resentments as the pathetic viewers whose worlds he manipulated.”

You see the problem. He tries to decry the toxic discourse we all endure today by using a tasteless takedown of a flawed man on the day Ailes died. Then his website tweeted it over and over again so that we were all sure to see it.

That is nasty. The timing is crude. But is Chotiner bigoted? The definition of bigotry is “the stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief or opinion that differs from one’s own.”

If it helps Chotiner’s cause at all – not that he seeks advice here – but dismissing Fox News Channel viewers as pathetic rubes who can be conned by a TV executive is exactly why we don’t have a President Hillary Clinton.

People didn’t vote for Donald Trump just because they watch Fox News – most reasonable people take what they hear on the cable channels with a grain of salt. Some of those poor degraded voters went to the polls for candidate Trump simply because they are sick of being dismissed by people like Chotiner, The Non-Rube. Hypocrisy fatigue was a factor no pre-election poll could measure.

Sure, we live in a world that Roger Ailes broke. But make no mistake, the very-much alive Mr. Chotiner has broken it, too.

The middle of a branch is bound to snap when we apply so much pressure at the extreme ends.