May 18, 2017 marked the death of one of most influential television icons the history of the medium. Roger Ailes, the creator of Fox News, died at age 77 in Palm Beach, Florida, unable to overcome the medical complications of a previous home accident.
His death was the latest in a string of unfortunate events the conservative news channel suffered within the past few months. Without glossing over the personal aspects of his passing, conservatives as a whole must quickly take stock of what Ailes’ death means for the movement, and what this means for the future of right-wing media.
The Man Who Broke the Cycle
In order to fill a man’s shoes, one must first understand how big the fit actually was. Ailes was literally the force that brought the conservative movement into the modern age of television.
He was also an essential media advisor to many top Republican politicians during the 70s and 80s, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Donald Trump. Ailes was actually a huge part of beginning the political slant of CNBC and MSNBC as well – a move that conservatives may malign until they understand the long term cash in (MSNBC now employs Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly, along with many other staunchly conservative pundits).
In short, Roger Ailes IS the modern conservative movement. He was responsible for aligning and aggregating the interests of conservative businessmen to back a media conglomerate. He actually failed twice before founding Fox News with Rupert Murdoch’s money. It was a slow 30-year grind to create the biggest cable news network in the world – a trek that no one else was willing to take on.
A Future Without Roger Ailes
The conservative movement is in a great spot today because of Roger Ailes. With more monetary resources and assets than ever, conservative pundits, writers, and policymakers really have only to solidify their position in the American political landscape, a goal that is quite possible during the Trump administration.
Despite President Donald Trump’s rough few weeks, creating solidly Republican legislative majority within the next 8 years is still doable – if individual factions would cease their infighting.
However, none of this would be possible without the work of the past 30 years. Liberals have always been a step ahead when it comes to communicating through new technologies (see the 2008 online Obama campaign), and if liberals had been allowed to take over the medium of television during the 1970s, there might be no Republican party today.
As it currently stands, conservatives are actually better organized than liberals on television, radio and the Internet, with a tactical advantage because of the Trump election. The moral of Ailes’ career is never to stand on past laurels – an advantage quickly gained may be taken away just as quickly.
Learning from his previous two miscalculations before FNC’s launch, Ailes made sure to lean heavily on his political experience when meeting with Rupert Murdoch instead of distancing himself from it as he had previously. Ailes shamelessly combined marketing and politics to create a completely new type of news broadcast, and the format of conservative media has been in the lead ever since.
The modern conservative movement cannot get caught up in its petty arguments with the Trump administration. Obvious extremism must be brought to heel in favor of cultivating the resources of moderate and centrist sponsors – the money to back a cause is more important than yelling about that cause in the streets.
Most importantly, conservatives must commit themselves to an unyielding ideological standard around the world. Ailes established unapologetic conservatism in the United States, and it is time to take that message around the world.
Conservatives must be concerned with the electron of Emmanuel Macron in France – their next election should contain more of the influence and resources of the more effective American conservative zeitgeist. They should also understand the difference between a Saudi Arabia and a Syria, and understand why President Trump is allied with one and not the other. Ailes was an incredible strategist. We must learn from his genius.
Ailes’ death, although tragic in the sense that death always is, may also be our wake up call. It is time to move forward yet again with our message and philosophy, into the new realms of communication that are being created as we speak. It is certainly the end of an era, but the birth of so many new possibilities.
~ Liberty Planet