Banter M Issue 57

In this issue of Banter M: 

Roger Ailes and the Sexist TV News Boys' Club - Chez Pazienza recounts working with a tediously boring general manager in TV news who turned out to be "one of most sexist assholes anyone was likely to find anywhere". It was Chez's introduction to the TV News boy's club, of which Fox News head honcho Roger Ailes presides over. 

Loving Republicans? I'm Trying - Ben Cohen discusses his attempts to show Republicans compassion and failing miserably every time. "American conservatives may claim to want the best for their country, but their openly hostile attitude towards women, LGBT people, minorities and liberals makes it incredibly difficult to believe," says Ben. 

From Brussels With Love - Tommy Christopher has some news you can use, with some delicious ways you can rebel against the politics of fear that led to the Brexit, and threatens to take over our country. Get your notepad ready. 

Roger Ailes and the Sexist TV News Boys' Club

by Chez Pazienza

Let me tell you a little story. Several years ago, I did a stint at a local TV station that brought me into contact with a general manager that was like none I'd ever met up to that point in my career. I had just come off of working at the network level and was actually kind of eager to return to the simplicity of making my job something I did to fund my free time rather than having it be the sort of thing that didn't actually leave me with any free time. But what I wasn't prepared for was a return to an upper management that seemed to do its business over rounds of golf: the kinds of dumpy middle-aged white guys in off-the-rack suits or casual-day polo shirts who just exuded the painful averageness of local news. If nothing else, network was a place where you took pride in what you did because you were, in fact, living and breathing TV journalism and typically doing it in a bustling urban setting. It was something you lived and died by. Local? That was gated community shit. 

So this GM, who was new to the market, called me to his office for a get-to-know-me meeting, sat me down in front of his desk adorned with pictures of his Stepford wife and 2.3 kids, and prepared to tell me a little about himself. There was something that stood out about him right off the bat that put me at a noticeable unease. He had an unusually sly Cheshire Cat smile, the kind that exuded not warmth but banal menace -- what I imagine a pedophile's smile looks like when he's talking safely to a friend about how little boys and girls fully understand their sexuality and are simply calling out to be touched. It was the damndest thing, having just come from a place where it was of the utmost importance that the environment be kept professional at all times, lest HR come raining down on you from above with threats of sensitivity training and co-worker harassment suits. This guy -- he was the furthest thing from that, though, and it was obvious right off the bat.

The truth about him was that behind his tediously boring exterior lurked one of most sexist assholes anyone was likely to find anywhere. His story about himself, which he related to me surprisingly freely -- I suppose assuming that I'd be up for that sort of thing since I was relatively young and had a Y chromosome -- involved all the hot women he'd hired in his lifetime and the orders he'd given and games he'd engaged in with them to play up their hotness in the name of bringing in TV ratings. He had hired a woman who I knew was considered one of the more unabashedly buxom and showy up-and-comers in television -- a woman who was just beginning to branch out into syndicated programming and who has now, of course, long since fallen by the wayside since she aged out -- and had ordered her to "always keep those top three buttons undone" on her shirts. He had warned the on-air women under his purview -- all ostensibly TV journalists -- never to wear skirts. He chuckled lasciviously when told me he had made his staff "keep it really cold" in the newsroom and on-set, to keep the girls "perky" (even going so far as to call in from his office or home whenever they "weren't.")

The story could go on and on. Basically, this guy was something I'd honestly never really had any noteworthy interaction with but whom I'd heard so much about through cultural stereotypes and apocryphal stories. He was a member of the sexist "boys' club." I may have been a bit of a dirtbag in my time, but that typically involved atrocious personal behavior like sleeping around or being cavalier with the hearts of those who cared about me. And of course I had an appreciation for more than a few of the women I worked with, but I had always kept it to myself unless we actually did become either good friends or genuinely intimate. But this -- this was different. I never wanted to be this kind of prick. I was never someone who used my authority as a manager to professionally demean the women who worked for me. I'd never looked at the women who worked in television news as props or sex bombs, even though a couple of them had obviously been hired more for their looks than anything else. Everybody got treated with respect. Not only was that the way it was supposed to be -- that was how upper management at most of my former employers had demanded it.           

Now I don't doubt that behind closed doors a lot of the middle-aged white guys who were my managers in the past had also confided in each other about their office attractions, but they'd at least been discrete. Even though this was "one manager to another," it felt like anything but -- and he'd made it clear that everybody who worked for him knew he was a fucking lecherous pig. Maybe this is why it's not so hard to imagine that everything Gretchen Carlson is saying about Roger Ailes right now is true. Granted, it may be a he-said-she-said kind of thing, and I admit that maybe his unscrupulous behavior as an alleged "journalist" taints my perception of him, but it's simply not impossible, when you consider everything about the Fox News style, that Ailes is a sexist dickhead. He's the head of a network that traffics in casual sexism day in and day out, one that self-evidently holds its female hosts up to its reactionary white guy audience to be judged by their looks. His network proudly harkens back to a time when men could leer at women unapologetically and not be called out for it -- with its hosts even defending catcalling on more than one occasion and chiding the liberal women (who should be grateful, considering, am I right?) who'd have a problem with it -- and caters to that "traditional" worldview 24/7.

Still, if you haven't been paying attention, here's what Carlson is basically saying: in a truly ballsy lawsuit, she claims Ailes had a pattern of sexually harassing her and that when she rebuffed those advances she was ultimately fired. Carlson, the 1989 Miss America winner, started with the network back in 2005 and was the co-host of the daily on-air abortion of logic and reason that is Fox & Friends. To her credit, she's the one who famously walked off the set four years ago after her co-host, talking monkey Brian Kilmeade, made a sexist comment. After she was removed from the show and replaced by, of all people, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, she landed in the afternoons, but her contract wasn't renewed this year -- allegedly because of poor ratings. The truth is that her ratings were strong, with her show typically finishing first in her time-slot. However, she lost by a hair in key demos to CNN, which isn't surprising given that Fox News's median audience age is "near death," and her show wasn't the ratings bonanza most Fox News shows are. Was it enough to get her canned? Who knows.

Maybe helping Carlson's claim are the other women who are now coming out of the woodwork to claim that Ailes also harassed them. Six have alleged a pattern of harassment dating back to when Ailes was a producer on The Mike Douglas Show in the 60s. Meanwhile, ten women in total have contacted the law firm that filed the Carlson suit saying they were also lucky enough to be on the receiving end of sexual advances from a guy who literally looks like Jabba the Hutt. Now allegations are allegations, but you can ask Bill Cosby about what happens when the floodgates open and women from your past start telling the same basic story about what a monster you are. The thing is that unlike with America's Dad Bill Cosby, it's tough to imagine anybody being surprised by Roger Ailes being a huge dick with women behind the scenes. Again, look at the network he runs. Look at the worldview it espouses and the unrepentant sexism and outright misogyny often on display -- from both the male hosts and the female hosts.

Now of course several of those female hosts -- women still gainfully employed by Fox News and no doubt aiming to keep it that way -- have come forward in defense of their boss. Harris Faulkner and Megyn Kelly have both said they've experienced nothing like what Carlson alleges, with some other hosts even going so far as to say that Ailes behaves more like a father to the female talent than anything else. (Take a second to swallow that little bit of vomit that just seeped into your mouth.) But anyone with a brain has no choice but to take these testimonials with a grain of salt given two things: One, as Carlson has said in response to Faulkner and Kelly's supportive comments, "They're still being paid by Fox," and two, Fox News has a grand history of circling the wagons and going scorched earth whenever anyone attacks from outside. Fox News's pit-bullish media relations team doesn't just maintain a "no comment" policy during times of criticism -- it attacks over and over again until its enemy is destroyed. It's always been more a political dirty tricks operation than an above-the-board news outlet -- and that's all the result of Ailes. 

But this time the allegations have kept coming. One anonymous Fox News staffer -- apparently a man, because as I can attest that's often who the sexist secrets come out to -- told The Huffington Post about Ailes, “He always brags to people about how he doesn’t do polling or testing when he chooses his on-air talent. He told me that if he was thinking of hiring a woman, he’d ask himself if he would fuck her, and if he would, then he’d hire her to be on-camera. He then said if it was a man he’d think about whether he could sit down for a baseball game with him and not get annoyed of him. If he could, then he’d hire him.” What a dove, that Ailes. This feeds nicely into the claim by both Carlson and another anonymous female employee at Fox News that Ailes would gawk at them regularly. Says the staffer, “He asked me to turn around so he can see my ass."     

The thing to keep in mind here is that if the network could get away with it -- meaning that if it wasn't at the center of this lawsuit -- it would be easy to see some of its hosts actually mocking Gretchen Carlson for daring to file a sexual harassment lawsuit at all. Because in the world of Fox News, women should be grateful for the attention of their male bosses and coworkers. It was only two years ago that the couch of dumbshits on Fox News's "female-skewing" show Outnumbered actually defended guys who made lewd comments at women, saying that America should "let men be men." Again, this is the kind of environment Fox News foments, and it's important to remember that unlike at other networks, everything at Fox comes down straight from the top. It all comes from Roger Ailes. Everything about that network is 100% his worldview. So when you consider the casual sexism and misogyny on display on the air day after day after day, do Gretchen Carlson's claims sound at all far-fetched?

 It's difficult to fathom that anyone who works in television journalism, an otherwise relatively respectable vocation that's now highlighted by as many brilliant women as there are men, can still cling to the boys' club mentality. But it's important to keep in mind that as in any business that was once dominated by men -- and there was a time when TV news was nothing but swinging dicks as far as the eye could see -- there are always going to be those who cling to the ugliness of the past. They're relics, though. Whether at the national or local level, there's no place for that kind of thinking and certainly for that kind of behavior anymore. 

By the way, that GM I used to work for? Guess where he first really made a name for himself. That's right -- Fox News.   

Next: Loving Republicans? I'm Trying - by Ben Cohen


Loving Republicans? I'm Trying. 

by Ben Cohen

As I get older I have generally grown more tolerant and more understanding of those with diametrically opposed belief systems to my own. I count religious fundamentalists, atheists, radical feminists, vegans, and militant political activists as friends, despite thinking a lot of their beliefs are, well, pretty bonkers. 10 years ago, I would probably be arguing with most of them, trying to talk them out of whatever it was they believed in and attempting to get them to see things from my point of view. 

At the age of 34 however, I have come to terms with the fact that a) changing peoples' minds is nearly always impossible, b) I don't really care too much as long as they aren't hurting people, and c) if they are hurting people I don't have to talk to them anyway. I'm a grown man with enough normal friends and can generally take it or leave it.

I certainly find reading the rantings of angry leftists, feminists and vegans jarring (or angry anyone for that matter), but in recent times I have come to the conclusion that the majority have good intentions and likely find meaning in their activism and a sense of identity through it. At the Banter, we often mock social justice warriors and the loony left (see Chez's extensive body of work), but much of it is done out of a sense of frustration at their often counterproductive tactics rather than any serious animosity.

However, I cannot claim to take this more zen like attitude with Republicans, and I must confess to struggling with my own feelings towards them despite an intent to not take it so personally. The extreme Right in American hits a nerve and almost always induces a sense of unbridled outrage in me -- and it is an outrage that I find almost impossible to contain.

Mostly, it is the unashamed ignorance, vindictiveness and pettiness that gets to me, and it is something I am unable to ignore. Coming from a country where conservatives and liberals at least operate in the same realm of reality (ie. a belief in science, supporting women's reproductive rights, being opposed to climate change and so on), I am still unable to come to terms with a mainstream political party with prominent members who believe president Obama is a terrorist sympathizer and global warming a giant conspiracy orchestrated by liberal scientists. And I've lived in American on and off for almost 14 years now.

If Republicans did not control one major branch of government and were not taken seriously by the mainstream media, I am certain I would pay them absolutely no attention. There are right wing lunatics in the UK, but they are (up until recently that is), largely irrelevant to the national dialogue and treated as pariahs by the media. When a right wing idiot gets invited on television, they are invariably humiliated in the most withering fashion by the host and treated so badly they rarely show their faces again. The BBC's Jeremy Paxman brutalized many a moron who dared to venture onto his Newsnight show, and the least competent politicians were routinely harangued and exposed.  As well as being highly entertaining television, the savaging of idiocy in Britain serves to reinforce the message that mainstream political culture is not racist, not sexist, and not stupid. Of course there is wide disagreement between the two major parties, but for the most part conservatives genuinely want the best for the country and simply differ in how they believe it can be achieved. 

The same cannot be said of many, many mainstream Republicans however, and their astonishing intransigence and obstructionism betrays the malevolence of their intent and their far, far more toxic attitude towards the public. American conservatives may claim to want the best for their country, but their openly hostile attitude towards women, LGBT people, minorities and liberals makes it incredibly difficult to believe. 

The more sophisticated Republican operators do not come out and say it so blatantly, but the dog-whistle politics they employ cannot be interpreted any other way. Mitt Romney, the poster child for moderate Republicanism, used thinly veiled racism in his 2012 campaign against Obama, and insulted half of the country by implying they were parasites feeding off of the rich. When compared to other prominent Republicans like Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina though, Mitt Romney comes across as a compassionate liberal. 

So insane are the likes of Palin that they are not only hurling insults at gays and minorities, they are now openly advocating the overthrowing of their own government. Said Palin recently of the FBI's decision not to imprison Hillary Clinton for her non-existent email crimes:

I insist Americans rise up and tear down this tyrannical system that is destroying America from within. Truly, you're either with us or you're against us.

And then we have Donald Trump -- a grotesque freak, embodying the very worst elements of modern Republicanism who is now running for President. 

The danger this represents to not only America but the rest of the world is very, very real. The Republican's toxic brand of proud, xenophobic stupidity can be spread incredibly easily, particularly during times of economic hardship. If decent people do not work to contain this madness, then America could really have a fascist in office at the end of this year who would build a wall to keep out Mexicans, engage in war crimes, and openly discriminate against Muslim Americans. 

The question in all of this then, is whether compassion is needed in dealing with Republican bigotry, or all out anger. It is a question I grapple with, and almost always come out in favor of fighting fire with fire. I have called voters for Donald Trump idiots, perhaps unjustly so. There are reasons why poor, disenfranchised people vote for monsters like Trump -- they are scared and live uncertain, volatile lives due to economic circumstances not of their own making. Perhaps they are deserving of some sympathy as they are victims of a dysfunctional political system and a rigged economic game that works relentlessly to devalue their labor and enrich corporations and the wealthy. 

But I cannot find much sympathy for the architects of this system and the politicians who have dedicated their lives to making it harder for working people to make a living and lead happy, healthy lives. The Republicans in congress work day in day out to gut environmental regulation, to prevent the raising of the minimum wage, to cut funding for public education, to lower taxes for the rich, to destroy welfare and limit access to affordable healthcare. They do this knowing the effect it will have, hiding behind the voodoo economic theory they have been promoting for 40 years that has seen the rich get richer and the poor fall off a cliff. 

"Deficits don't matter," said Dick Cheney when he was warned of a looming fiscal crisis Bush's Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill in 2002. Of course they didn't when that money was used to bomb Iraq and Afghanistan back into the Stone Age and give trillions back to corporate America. Yet deficits did matter to Republicans when Democrats wanted to spend money on schools and health care. 

It is almost impossible to believe that Republicans don't know exactly what they are doing, because the results of their disastrous policies are everywhere to see. After 8 years in the White House, Bush left the economy in tatters and the country's infrastructure breaking at the seams. Yet the rich had more money than ever after the Bush administration solidified the tax structure and almost permanently rigged the economy to work for their benefit. 

The truth is, modern Republicans don't actually believe in anything other than lining their own pockets and helping out their wealthy friends. In America, they are still regarded as politicians, whereas elsewhere they would be considered dangerous oligarchs and gangsters. 

And for that reason, I still can't bring myself to tolerate their behavior or extend my compassion to them. The Zen can wait, at least until after November.

Next: From Brussels, With Love - by Tommy Christopher



From Brussels, With Love

by Tommy Christopher

There were a great many maddening things about the Brexit Fever that took over the American media a few weeks ago, not the least of which was the dopey insistence that the United Kingdom's referendum to leave the European Union was somehow a sign that Donald Trump is going to win despite being trounced in every poll, and that Democrats are in big trouble despite being perched on the edge of a glorious victory in November. It was as if the media thought they could will it to be so simply by repeating it over and over.

It's true that the racism, nativism, and xenophobia that propelled the Brexit are strong in America, but so far, only with about 40% of the population. It's also true that anything can happen, and Donald Trump is in no danger of making the mistake of overestimating the intelligence of the American voter. 

But we've also got a large population of non-peepants folks who aren't afraid of Mexicans, Negroes, and other foreigners, and I'm pretty confident we'll win in the end, even if the media tries its best to downplay or move past Donald Trump's racism every chance they get. I don't know that for sure, because the middle 15% are real dumb and easily scared by terrist attacks, but we'll see.

No, what really pisses me off about the whole post-Brexit narrative is the premise that these Brexiters, and by extension the Trumpists, are just honest hard-working folks who are rebelling against "elites," which makes the rest of us the elites, or at least people who fancy ourselves as allies to the "elites."

First of all, it's an extremely condescending view that lumps all working-class people into an insecure group that uses the word "elite" disdainfully, when to me, it means I'm about to see a crack special forces unit fuck some shit up in a kick-ass movie. "Elite" isn't an insult to most people. It's a code word to some, a signifier of someone who won't abide your ignorance because they think they're better 'n you.

It's also self-evidently false, as one look at the Brexit referendum map will tell you. As has been well-documented, the biggest margin for Britain to remain in the EU was from Scotland, and I don't think any Scottich person would be offended if I asked since when has Scotland ever represented elitism

The fact is that most of the people who rejected Brexit, and most of the people who reject Trump, are just as hard-working, honest, poor, and uneducated as those who embrace them, myself included. We don't oppose Trump because we have some love or trust for "elites," we oppose Trump because we're not flaming racists. This "elites" narrative is just one more way for the media to try to erase and excuse the resentment of a bare majority of white people.

As it happens, though, I got a really great Father's Day gift right around the time of the Brexit kerfuffle, one which has given me a terrific way to light a candle, rather than curse the Brexit darkness. My kids got me a Belgian waffle maker, and so I though what better way for us all to rebel against this dipshittery than by making some tasty treats from the European Union's seat of power?

I've also revolutionized the preparation of another Belgian treat, so while I wouldn't eat them together, here are some easy and delicious hacks for Belgian waffles and Brussels sprouts.

According to Wikipedia, Belgian waffles were first called "Brussels waffles" when they were introduced to North America by a Belgian named Walter Cleyman at the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle in 1962, then had their name changed to Belgian waffles at the 1964 New York World's Fair because Americans didn't know where the fuck Brussels even was.

 Now, they're a staple of diners and quality motel breakfast buffets everywhere, but thanks to the new, more compact Belgian waffle irons, you can make the best Belgian waffle you'll ever have right in your own home. I'm going to help you.

My waffle iron is a Waring model that retails for $50-$70, and fits on a corner of the top of my fridge when I'm not using it. Let me tell you off the bat that when you get it, you'll be tempted to use all kinds of other stuff like cake batter in it, but trust me, waffle batter is better. 

Now, I'm going to give you a Belgian waffle batter recipe just so you'll have it, but you don't really need it. I'll tell you why in a second.

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons melted butter

2 cups milk

Or you can use a premade Belgian waffle mix, to which I like to add a little extra vanilla, or you can use any other waffle mix and add the sugar and vanilla, just as long as you do this very important thing:

After you combine and mix all of the ingredients except the egg whites, beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until they form stiff peaks. That means it looks pretty much like whipped cream. Then, you dump them into your mix and fold them in. No matter what, you must only fold six times, no more, no less. Trust me, it'll be fine.

If you fold in your egg whites, your waffles will automatically be better than anything you can get at most of the places Belgian waffles are sold. 

While you're making your waffles, keep the completed waffles on their own individual plates in a 170 degree oven so they stay crispy. 

At least half of the point of Belgian waffles is what you top them with, so here are two surefire ways to do your waffles dessert-style, although you can also just butter and maple syrup them with some bacon or fried chicken.

Traditionally, they're topped with strawberries, but I like to do macerated berries. Basically, you just soak your strawberries or blueberries (which is what I'm using here) in alcohol, sugar, acid, and water. I'm using 2 cups of frozen blueberries (if you use strawberries, slice them thinnish), 1 cup of port wine, 1/4 cup of Balsamic vinegar (you can use lemon juice or another vinegar), and 1/2 cup of light brown sugar (you can use any sugar but confectioner's). You can also throw in cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or allspice, but my crew likes it simple.

Store in a covered glass container for at least two hours, but overnight is better. You can use it like this, but I like to strain the berries, then reduce the liquid into a syrup over low heat, until the bubbles look like this:

Then, let it cool just a little bit and pour it back over your blueberries. It will thin out some when you mix it in, so keep that in mind. Spoon it over your waffle, dust with powdered sugar, and tell Brexit to suck it! If your berry mixture is cool enough, you can even add some of the syrup to your whipped cream, which you should always make yourself because Redi-Wip is a fucking ripoff.

Then, there are Bananas Foster waffles, which you can serve either with whipped cream or ice cream. This recipe is for two bananas worth, which you could stretch onto four waffles if you want, but it wouldn't kill you to double the recipe.

Slice two bananas in 3/4 inch slices, pop them into a gallon-size Ziploc bag with 1/3 cup of brown sugar and shake it up. Melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a large saute' pan on medium-medium-high heat, and just when the butter is foaming, dump your bananas in. Quickly arrange them all so they're in a flat layer, and leave them be for two minutes. Then, toss them around using the old wrist-flick, or a spatula, to see if the bottoms got properly browned.

Then, with your face safely away from the pan, add 1/2 cup of rum, or cognac, or cognac mixed with banana liqueur, and set that shit on fire:

You can toss the bananas some more if you're feeling fancy, or just let the rum burn off, and bang! You're done. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, btw, and light it up with one of those Aim 'n Flame lighters so you don't burn off all your arm hair.

Spoon it on your waffle, add ice cream or whipped cream, maybe some chopped walnuts or pecans, and you will die from the goodness. When you're cleaning the pan, by all means pick the bits off the bottom and sides.

Finally, there's the subject of Brussels sprouts, which you definitely should not eat with Belgian waffles, but which are great with a steak. Now, if you hate Brussels sprouts, you're going to have to trust me that you just haven't had them made right. My ten year-old likes them better than french fries.

I used to do my Brussels sprouts in a wide frying pan, which was a pain in the ass, because you have to cut them all in half and make sure they all end up cut-side down, in about a tablespoon of butter, and let them cook at medium-high heat until they brown on the bottom, then toss them around for another minute or two. Always use frozen, otherwise you have to parboil them and dry them. Just nuke them on a plate for about 30-40 seconds so you can cut them.

Just recently, though, I've discovered that you can deep-fry the Brussels sprouts, and they're even better. I use frozen "baby" Brussels sprouts, 10 or so per serving, cut them in half, and deep-fry them on high for about 2 minutes. While they're draining (not over the hot oil), hit them with some kosher or sea salt and some cracked black pepper. 

If you use larger frozen sprouts, just do everything the same except give them a 30-second fry at 325, then let the oil heat up to high, say 375, and give them another minute and a half.

I know it seems counter-intuitive to deep-fry a healthy vegetable, but the moisture in the sprouts keeps the oil out during frying, so you end up with less fat than you would if you sautéed them in butter, and they taste better than when your mom boiled the life out of them.

So please, try these out, and while you do, keep in mind that you're not just getting fat, you're striking a blow against racism!