Erick Erickson, best known for being the Lord Grantham of conservative website RedState, is newly ensconced as an on-air contributor to the Fox News Network. It's a move that seems like destiny, delayed only by Erickson's brief tenure as one of the 479 talking-head pundits that CNN would deploy to blather its audiences into a comatose state.
I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you think of this as positively as Business Insider's Brett LoGiurato (who manages to simultaneously note the "more than a few controversial statements Erickson has made over the past few years that could get him into hot water at the network" and still call him a producer of "measured commentary"), but it's hard to quibble with what Fox News gains by adding Erickson, when weighed alongside some of the networks more celebrated recent departures.
Per LoGiurato: "It's a smart hire for Fox News, which appears to be trying to revamp its image by replacing the largely stale partisan commentary of contributors like Morris and the recently let-go Sarah Palin."
LoGiurato notes, accurately to my mind, that the network's audience spent the last year being "conned by conservatives like Morris," who helped erect the now famously derided alternative universe in which Mitt Romney was going to cruise to reelection and Nate Silver was a charlatan. Erickson, as LoGiurato points out, would have been a tonic for that condition -- he wrote rivetingly about Romney's lack of fitness to serve, and in general can be counted on to be reliably skeptical of what's brewing in the upper echelons of the establishment GOP.
Speaking of! Fox News has also elected to retain the services of Karl Rove, who also helped engineer that Fox News holodeck in which Romney was a shoo-in, battling up until election night with a reality that would not conform to his estimations. And, lo, here's Erickson's take on Rove's new "Conservative Victory Project":
American Crossroads is creating a new Super PAC to crush conservatives, destroy the tea party, and put a bunch of squishes in Republican leadership positions. Thank God they are behind this. In 2012, they spent hundreds of millions of rich donors’ money and had jack to show for it.
"I dare say any candidate who gets this group’s support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement," Erickson wrote, and this is probably why Rove's new outfit "will consist of a super PAC that discloses its donations, and ... a tax-exempt group that allows it to shield donors."
Ana Marie Cox has a piece up at the Guardian, in which she wonders, "Can Fox News break its fatal embrace with the Republican party?" The jury's still out, obviously, but her observation here is worth noting:
No matter who may be trying to end the marriage first, extricating themselves from the relationship won't be graceful: the habits of mental cohabitation are too difficult to break. Witness the coverage of Benghazi, where conservative outrage on the channel remains strident and forceful and in harmony with Republican officials, despite the willingness of most of the country to move on to matters closer to home. It's a positive feedback loop that spirals into irrevelance: Republicans pursue a conspiracy that only Fox viewers believe, based on reports only Fox airs, and new information gets hammered into a shape that fits the existing narrative.
Roger Ailes deserves credit for understanding that he could transform the traditional functions of a "news channel" -- you know, actually relating the events of the day to viewers -- into a cable network that took those events and hammered them into a frame through which viewers could tune in and just feel good about themselves. While CNN was having to contend with the fact that we don't have oracles and thus "news events" are unforseeable commodities, Ailes removed the uncertainty from the news business and just served up heaping helpings of Soma to conservative viewers who got to spend their evenings defending the (parts of) America they love along with Fox's celebrity presenters. Frankly, liberals got the same thing out of watching the network -- the chance to feel superior to the "enemy" and its addled arguments. (Roger Ailes should perhaps get credit for pioneering the whole "hate watching" trend.)
But license eventually leads to decadence and in 2012, Fox truly did become the "positive feedback loop that spiraled into irrelevance." Rove's on-air fussery with the network's polling team on election night can rightly be seen as the moment all that deliberately constructed pretense finally became unsustainable.
At the same time, though, maybe that riveting moment birthed a new idea. Now, Fox viewers will be treated to more cross-currents and, perhaps, an open on-air war between the architect of the Bush administration and a blog-maven who'd like to tear those works asunder and prevent new ones from being built. In this way, perhaps Fox is taking steps to break away from its well-worn past and trouble its normally serene waters with entertaining internecine tensions. This tactic is, conventionally speaking, "good television." But it's also, conventionally speaking, rather conventional.
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