True friends stab you in the front.- Oscar Wilde
A killer who does not show his face has no honor.- Klingon proverb
Since I spent some time yesterday discussing the all-purpose response to right-wing whack-jobs proposed by Jim Derych, it's only fair to spend some time acknowledging this.
It's not often that I say things like "equal time and fair play demand that we pay attention to the Fox News Channel for a moment," but such is the state to which things have arrived. For it is indeed the FNC to which we turn now.
Great story on AP this morning by David Bauder, who catalogues examples of the classic FNC "well-wishing" press release. For example, former Fox News Center (and ESPN and MSNBC) anchor Keith Olberman, who has spent the last couple of years relentlessly mocking Fox and their poster boy Bill O'Reilly, received this Meow-O-Gram (via the NYTimes) by Fox spokesperson Irena Briganti:
"Because of his personal demons, Keith has imploded everywhere he's worked. From lashing out at coworkers to personally attacking Bill O'Reilly and all things Fox, it's obvious Keith is a train wreck waiting to happen. And like all train wrecks, people might tune in out of morbid curiosity, but they eventually tune out, as evidenced by Keith's recent ratings decline. In the meantime, we hope he enjoys his paranoid view from the bottom of the ratings ladder and wish him well on his inevitable trip to oblivion."See how it works?
Start with: [Long, detailed, gossipy, borderline-libelous reference to the target's past couched in over-familiar language]Here are some more examples for your study and review:
Follow with: The phrase: "but we wish him/her well as"
Finish with: [Brief, gossipy, borderline-libelous prediction about the target's future].
- Ted Turner. The CNN founder called Fox a "propaganda voice" of the Bush administration and compared its popularity to Adolf Hitler's rise in Germany before World War II. Briganti: "Ted is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network and now his mind. We wish him well."
- Tim Russert. A journalist asked the NBC Washington bureau chief whether Fox would get better treatment from the White House with Tony Snow as press secretary and he replied, "no more than they get right now." Fox's Paul Schur shot back: "Tim's sour grapes are obvious here, but at least he's not using his father as a prop to sell books this time around. That said, we wish him well on his latest self-promotion tour."
- George Clooney. Fox News branched out to Hollywood after the actor criticized O'Reilly. "We are disappointed that George has chosen to hurt Mr. O'Reilly's family in order to promote his movie," Schur said. "But it's obvious he needs publicity considering his recent string of failures. We wish him well in his struggle to regain relevancy."
- MSNBC correspondent David Shuster. After leaving a job at Fox, Shuster said that critical reporting on the Bush administration wouldn't have been welcomed at his former employer. Briganti came back with: "We can understand David's disappointment in being let go by Fox News Channel, but he's too young to be so bitter. We wish him well in getting his career back on track."
- Jonathan Klein. On the day the CNN U.S. president was hired, Briganti offered: "We wish CNN well in their annual executive shuffle." She later stuck the knife in further with: "We wish Jon well in his battle for second place with MSNBC."
Bauder adds: "Whatever name is attached to it, a wish-well is generally a team effort by Fox's PR staff, [Fox PR chief Brian] Lewis said. Fox News chief Roger Ailes even contributed the memorable 'his mind' line to the Turner kiss-off."
Actually, I'm not surprised to read that Ailes is involved; these "wish-wells" show a degree of wit that has never really trickled down from him to the rest of the network.
And honestly, if O'Reilly--or Coulter, Limbaugh, Savage, and the rest--had some tinge of letters, or of wit to color their discourse, if they could play at the level of these "wish-wells," the country might be no less divided, but the general level of public discourse would be greatly elevated.
Meanwhile, try it yourself. Using the generic formula above, construct "wish-wells" for your favorite figures of the right (or left):
________________________________________, but we wish him/her well as _______________.
And remember: Be witty, be clever, be arch, be snide if you must--after all, it's Fox who's set the bar--but if you don't come at them from the front, and if the knife doesn't go all the way in, you're not doing it right.