Not many people recognize this, but it is nonetheless true. It will possibly take years before this realization becomes apparent to all, but we discerning minds understand what has happened. Broadcasting will never be the same after Roger Ailes, the begetter of Fox News on cable, died last week.
He alone made it happen. He challenged the Kultursmog, that collection of attitudes, ideas, tastes and personages that are polluted by the politics of the American left. He won. He beat it night after night, day after day. And, now, others networks are rising to challenge the dispensers of the smog.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is the preeminent challenger of the smog on the horizon, and it may even challenge a badly weakened Fox. It has agreed to buy Tribune Media, and after, it will have 233 stations in 108 markets, even major markets like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Other networks will doubtless follow.
Even The New York Times understands the threat facing the Kultursmog.
In front-page news stories, the Times and the Washington Post warn of the coming threat from Sinclair. The threat is also called competition, and it will come like gale-force winds wiping away the fetid, debilitating atmosphere that Americans have been inhabiting perforce, especially on both coasts.
Politically, the left has been making heavy weather of it for years. It has a hard time competing in free elections and an open marketplace. Yet in the realms of Kultur, the left has had an almost dictatorial sway. Over the past year, its influence was even felt at Fox News, where then-76-year-old Ailes was given the heave-ho over charges of sexual harassment. He got the boot unceremoniously, along with various understudies and stars of his.
Well, we shall see how the smog's understudies and stars play with the conservative audience that Ailes built up at Fox, an audience that can now simply turn its dials to Sinclair and others.
I knew Roger for many years and had him over for dinners with my writers and supporters in New York. He was often our honored guest. He was "an absolute star every time," recalled Andrew Whist, one of my wisest friends and the former chairman of the U.S. chapter of the America-European Community Association.
Roger was, as Andrew assessed, "an absolute genius" and "a wonderful companion." I can attest to that. I would often stop by his Manhattan office for a chat. He always had time. Sitting back in his easy chair, he would tour the horizon, much as his friend Richard Nixon was famous for doing. He was at ease talking for an hour or more and always asking questions. He was interested in my slant on politics, which I doubt was that useful to him. I always agreed with my jaunty indomitable friend.
At his funeral in Palm Beach, Florida, over the weekend, there were many memorable lines.
Rush Limbaugh was there; he said Roger was "an American original."
And Fox News host Sean Hannity pronounced him "an American patriot at the highest level."
Yet there was another theme that struck me powerfully. The priest presiding said Roger's wife had asked him to base some of his readings on "the theme of suffering," and he believes Roger suffered "quite a bit" with the accusations.
That reminded me of things Roger said to me at our dinners and in conversations.
I think it was at a dinner at the River Club in the winter of 2010 when he mentioned he had to be careful. There were people out to get him. I thought, "How could that be?" He had dominated the cable market for years and made Fox a fortune. And he told me that his son had to defend his dad's reputation in fights at school. The louses. I called him a few times in his retirement. He was always his old jaunty self, but on one thing he was adamant: He had done nothing wrong.
My doubts about the charges these women have brought against Roger were re-enforced when I saw a picture of his wife, Elizabeth Tilson. She is by far prettier than any woman sniping at Roger today, and those readings that she requested from the priest suggest that she well understood the world that Roger inhabited. It is never easy to be a conservative up against the Kultursmog.
In the end, Roger won. What's more, my agents who were everywhere at his funeral have reported to me that his son, Zachary, spoke with eloquence and grace beyond his years. To steal a line that Winston Churchill reportedly uttered about British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, Roger's son will be his greatest monument.