A major threat to the predominance of the Kultursmog in these United States passed away last week, but he had succeeded in what he set out to do, namely: to damage the left in America beyond any hope of recovery. Not many people recognize this, but it is nonetheless true. Possibly it will take years before this realization becomes apparent to all, but for now 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. 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 Broadcasting is the pre-eminent challenger to the smog on the horizon, and Sinclair may even challenge a badly weakened Fox. Sinclair has agreed to buy Tribune Media and with it, Sinclair will have 215 stations in 108 markets, even in major markets such as 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 it 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, perforce, inhabiting, especially on both coasts.
The Kultursmog is that collection of attitudes, ideas, tastes and personages that are all polluted by the politics of the American left. Politically, the left has been making heavy weather of it for years. It has a hard time competing in free elections and in an open marketplace. Yet in the realms of Kultur the left has had almost dictatorial sway. Over the past year, its influence was even felt at Fox News where the 76-year-old Ailes was given the heave-ho over as-yet unproven charges of sexual harassment. He got the boot unceremoniously along with various of his understudies and stars. Well, we shall see how the smog’s understudies and stars play with the conservative audience that Ailes built up at Fox, a conservative audience that can now simply turn its dials to Sinclair and to others.
I knew Roger for many years and had him for dinners with my writers and supporters in New York on several occasions. Often he was 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 him, “an absolute genius,” and more, a “wonderful companion.” I can attest to that. Often I would 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, particularly in Washington, which I doubt was that useful to him. I always agreed with my jaunty indomitable friend.
At his funeral in Palm Beach over the weekend there were many memorable lines. Rush Limbaugh was there saying Roger was “an American original,” and Sean Hannity pronounced him “an American patriot of 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 my reading[s] on the theme of suffering. I believe Roger suffered quite a bit with these accusations.” That reminded me of things he had said to me at our dinners and in conversations at his office.
I think it was at a dinner at the River Club in the winter of 2010 that 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, making Fox a fortune. And in his office he told me that his son had 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 reinforced 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 is 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 Churchill reportedly uttered about Asquith, Roger’s son will be his greatest monument.
• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is author of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.