May 19, 2024

It isn’t the only thing

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
It isn’t the only thing
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” So said Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi, never realizing how low some folks would go when hijacking that sentiment. But there was more to the quote: “You don’t do things right once and a while . . . . You do them right all the time” – the operative word being “right.” Exasperated over the misuse of his phrase in later years he said, “I wish to hell I’d never said the damned thing. I meant the effort . . . . I sure as hell didn’t mean for people to crush human values and morality.”
          But that is what they did.
          Our corporate system rewards CEOs based on a company’s stock price. Boost the stock and you’re a hero. After Fox News called the 2020 election for Joe Biden, Tucker Carlson went nuts, “It is galling to be lectured about democracy by a man who took power in an election so sketchy that many Americans don't believe it was even real,” Carlson said. “Joe Biden is far less popular in the United States than Vladimir Putin is in Russia.”
          “That is not an endorsement of Putin,” Carlson continued. “It's just true. And it says everything about Joe Biden's tenuous legitimacy. Democracy? Please.”
          In text messages, Carlson was even more blunt. If Fox kept toeing the line on the election, it would lose the base of support it had built. Viewers were flocking to smaller right-wing outlets, like Newsmax and OneAmerica News network. President Trump “could easily destroy us if we play it wrong,” Carlson said, at the same time declaring he “hated” Trump “passionately.”
          Dominion settled its defamation suit against Fox for $787.5 million, and that’s just the opening salvo against a network that parlayed lies into ratings and profits. The fake news Carlson told on air about gypsies taking over a small town in Pennsylvania and migrants coming across the border to replace hardworking Americans are just two of the lies he perpetrated to whip up support for the right-wing populism that Trump rode to the White House.
          Tucker’s lies are a big chunk of why Fox kingpin Rupert Murdoch had to accept such a huge payout, and firing Tucker is Rupert’s attempt to limit the damage.
          Murdoch does not want to take the stand and be questioned under oath why he let Carlson lie for so long without intervening. We know the answer, and it’s been obvious for some time. Carlson delivered the numbers that made him the top-rated host in cable news.
          If Carlson was good for the bottom line, he could get away with anything. He broadcast from a remote studio in Maine built to his specifications. But once it became clear that Carlson’s racist, misogynistic rants were in the crosshairs of Dominion’s lawyers, some so toxic that major portions were redacted when they became public, the Fox News board and its corporate Fox partner had seen enough.
          Word came down from the top that Carlson had to go. The media mogul doesn’t want to spend any more money than he must in defending Carlson’s lies. As for his own behavior in tolerating and encouraging the lies that made Fox the number-one standout conservative network, we’ll soon see whether Murdoch has been chastened enough to retreat from the Trumpist agenda Carlson set with his show.
          Winning at any cost is the concept that brought Fox to this place, but the phenomenon is not limited to the media. Political malefactors are well known and running wild. And the business world has been infected in ways reminiscent of the Robber Barons. Bed, Bath & Beyond is Exhibit A in the corporate attitude where the bottom line is the only thing that mattered. Although carrying $4 billion in debt, the company used $8.2 billion to buy back its own stock to boost the stock price. The gambit failed, and now they’re bankrupt.
          Wall Street analysts predict earnings, and CEOs know If you can’t beat the street, you’re on the street. This concept has gripped American business, taking focus away from long term planning, research and development, productivity, employee morale and incentives, product quality, environmental responsibility, patriotism, and good old fashioned human decency.
          But competition is good; it is the driving force of capitalism, and Lombardi placed it in perspective: “The objective is to win : fairly, squarely, decently, win by the rules.”
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2023 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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