O’Reilly, Ailes, and the Toxic Conservative-Celebrity Culture from David French at National Review
What followed was a toxic culture of conservative celebrity, where the public elevated personalities more because of their pugnaciousness than anything else. Indeed, the fastest way to become the next conservative star is to “destroy” the Left, feeding the same kind of instinct that causes leftists to lap up content from John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and Stephen Colbert. Liberals use condescending mockery. Conservatives use righteous indignation. That’s not much of a difference.
The cost has been a loss of integrity and, crucially, a loss of emphasis on ideas and, more important, ideals. There exists in some quarters an assumption that if you’re truly going to “fight,” then you have to be ready to get your hands dirty. You can’t be squeamish about details like truth or civility or decency. When searching for ideological gladiators, we emphasize their knifework, not their character or integrity.
Of course, this notion reached its apex in the person and personality of Donald Trump, but Trump had an advantage that O’Reilly, Ailes, and others simply didn’t enjoy. When he was under fire, especially in the general election, he could argue that the choice wasn’t between truth and lies but between him and Hillary, between lies and lies. Which liar do you want? The one allegedly on your side, right?
Make no mistake, there are conservative “fighters” who are men and women of integrity. Fox News still has a number of journalists and pundits whom I trust and admire. But when we ask for fighters first, and we elevate aggression over truth and competence, we ask for exactly the kind of scandals we’ve endured.