Genius is a funny word. It has been attached to a variety of people over the years, some deserving, most not. It's a lot like 'superstar' or 'legend' or any of a number of other superlatives that when thrown around willy nilly lose their impact. So it is with 'genius.' The latest 'willy' is Don Imus, the 'nilly' is Roger Ailes.
Imus has been hired by Fox and will have his radio show simulcast on Fox Business News starting in October. Imus you may have heard of since he was fired by CBS and MSNBC two years ago in an ugly incident involving the women's basketball team at Rutgers. It made the news.
Suffice to say that in many people's opinion, Imus should never have been allowed to broadcast on the public airways again, that's just how ugly it was. But, that's moot. He was allowed back 'in,' albeit by the Citadel radio company and simulcast on RFD-TV.
That's okay, no one else has heard of it either. Although, it did, I always thought, perfectly fit Imus, what with his trumped up 'cowboy' persona and all.
So what has that got to do with genius? Well, Imus in his press release announcing his 'come back' is quoted as saying that he loves Fox, and that Roger Ailes, the guy in charge of all of Fox News, is the "pre-eminent genius of American Broadcasting."
Gee, is that like being the tallest guy in the short man's club?
It's less a sign of genius to hire Imus than it is a sign that the towel has been thrown in on the Fox Business News channel. For whichever of a number of reasons you can choose: lack of distribution, changing economics, size of the market, lack of first mover advantage -- whatever -- starting the darn thing to begin with was no 'genius' move.
There has always been speculation that the only reason it was conceived and executed in the first place was that Ailes had a burr under his saddle for CNBC.
It's his claim that he started it, CNBC, and that it wouldn't be where it is today without him. In other words, he was the 'genius' behind it. The truth of the matter of course is that even if he deserves credit for starting it, he wasn't around to push it to the successful heights (for cable) that is has reached.
No matter, he was going to show them, gosh darn it!
And FBN is what we got. It will not be surprising to see it eventually disappear and give way to some mutation -- a little Imus, a little business, a little politics, a little news. It won't be the first time Ailes' boss Rupert Murdoch throws in the towel either -- just how many news magazine shows did he try and start?
The one thing you can't take way from Ailes, of course, is Fox News. You want to call the creation of Fox News genius? Go ahead. In an industry where ABC claims that it will, "...change the face of morning news..." now that Diane Sawyer is moving to the evening shift, and then rolls out the same tired list of potential replacements (Alexis Glick?, Ashleigh Banfield?), the development of Fox News into a cable juggernaut is indeed something to behold.
I suppose then you have to ask what kind of 'genius' invents something like that? An entity that revels in discord, that counts among its broadcasters the McCarthy-esqe Bill O'Reilly and the Roy Cohn-like Glenn Beck. A place where civility often gives way to the angry talking heads of the day. A place that panders to the fear in many of it's listeners and pretends to "let them decide."
What kind of a 'genius' is that exactly? I know, let's ask Don Imus, or better yet, the Rutgers women's basketball team of a couple of years ago.