The current Elsewhere series has been far more intensely researched than most of the others. This is not to state that I have simply invented historical incident in order to tell a story. And while ‘editorial history’ seems to imply that the so-called facts are opinion based, the pieces I publish on here have different distinctions. In fact, some of them are editorials and, like with Elsewhere, others are history. And while there are unquestionable judgments parsed throughout the text, those are based upon what did and did not occur, on the realities versus the myths that develop around the past as we get further and further away from it.
Today I will republish an older piece, one that is less relevant today than when I wrote it, but provides a good example of the ‘editorial’ side to these histories. The final part of Elsewhere Series 4, on Scandinavia, will appear within the next few days. So please, enjoy this, probably the meanest piece I have written since the birth of this site:
I would like to take a moment to discuss an angry, hysterical fool named Lou Dobbs from FOX Business News.
Remember way back when Lou Dobbs was some sort of business anchor on CNN? He seemed like a real asshole at the time, ranting and raving vitriolic hatred of Mexicans as though more than one of his wives had left him for a caballero. He hated those south of the border, from Mexico all the way down through South America, and I am sure he probably hates people from most other nations too.
I also remember Lou Dobbs with a fine, more salt than pepper conservative hairstyle (featured above)–a decent enough looking man, with a booming voice and an arrogant confidence in the truth of whatever gospel he decided to peddle on any given day (it eventually devolved into the same clearly racist diatribe against his extremist perception of liberal ideology). Now his hair seems to have regained its color (or some color, orangey off-brown) after years of at least looking dignified.
He left CNN in some kind of huff, replaced by women, or another hour of Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper. The very pleasant Christine Romans replaced him as chief business correspondent. Lou Dobbs was rapidly becoming irrelevant. He had once been network vice-president at CNN. He was one of its founding newscasters. Now he seems to be little more than a cranky old man shouting his be-spooked opinions at an indifferent television set, blaring out things that frighten him.
Fox News eventually hired him (or Fox business news, but Dobbs’ style of paranoid blame is far more at home in their prime time line-up). He was given a new sort of freedom at Fox, aware that his new home was more interested in hiring personalities and opinion makers. He was allowed his to vent not just his rage, but his modesty suppressed bitterness, his partisan contempt, which undermines anything he might have to say. Any theory the man has about business, or politics, or the validity of living a certain lifestyle, is now by nature a question mark. But Fox News loves his talk show, frenzied interviews with unreliable conspiracy theorists, hosted by a cruel man putting everyone down and shouting conspiracy theories that only a handful of other kooks will believe. And in the Trump era this is a growing audience, which gives a 73-year old man the ability to righteously loath America while pretending to be a true patriot.
If we were to go back in time we would see the slow evolution of the modern newsman through the fractured lens of Lou Dobbs. He was the son of a failed propane salesman, born in Texas. When his father’s business drained every penny that they had, the Dobbs’ moved to Nowheresville, Idaho, and seethed with contempt over what they perceived was a bitter world out to get them.
Lou was a smart boy, and he worked hard, got terrific grades, and eventually went to Harvard, where he graduated with a degree in Economics. After leaving college, the true asshole that the man continues to be began to make itself known. His first job was working with a special interest group promoting anti-poverty programs in Boston. Sounds honorable too, like the noble work of a talented young man looking to save the poor from misery. After all–Lou Dobbs knew what it was like being poor, having such a profound failure as his primary role model.
But Lou disagreed with many of the liberal platforms these economic planners wanted to implement and he started, briefly, his own right-wing economic revivalist movement that saw the elimination of poverty as a statistical concern. If you were to remove unemployment and other government benefits all together, then people need not be counted. America could have the lowest unemployment rate of any nation in the history of the world if only the dirty, the filthy, the lazy and the unlucky were no longer treated as citizens.
Dobbs returned to Idaho after this, briefly attended law school, but dropped out when he learned that the US Constitution violated his own ideas on how the nation should be run. He then moved to Los Angeles, got a job as a ‘cash-management specialist,’ which is basically a stock trader for a bank. He made some wild and unlikely investments, but the man knew what he was doing. He was very successful.
But Lou hated the backroom reality of his otherwise important job. He was certainly respected by his bosses, but he wanted to be in the public eye. Lou Dobbs wanted to be famous. He got married to the girl he was dating in high school (they divorced a few years later), had a kid, then moved to Arizona. There he got his first taste of television, joining a local news team as a police and fire reporter. This experience exposed him to some pretty awful things, and he increasingly wanted to place blame for all social problems on a group of people. But this was not allowed in the meant-to-be judicious newscasts of the early 1970s.
Within a few years Dobbs was the chief anchor on his Arizona station, until he left for the same job in Seattle for a whole lot more money. And then, in 1979, Ted Turner got in touch with Lou, and offered him a job as the chief economics reporter of his new 24-hour news network. He was even given his own show: Moneyline. The title annoyed Dobbs, who was otherwise very excited about his national exposure. He had wanted to call it The Lou Dobbs Show, or Lou Dobbs Tonight, which is what it was eventually called as his increasingly controversial and panicked views made him more and more popular. He has kept the same eponymous name since he arrived at Fox in 2011.
At CNN, at first, Dobbs was heavily relied upon. He was involved in program development and even the hiring of correspondents. And the more this went on, the more sour Lou became, annoyed at the growing multiculturalism in the news room. There were stories of Dobbs using racial epitaphs to the face of Hispanic and Black co-workers, and he insisted, as much as possible, having white male Republicans reporting the stories he wanted aired, or so some people claimed.
It started to unravel shortly after the shooting at Columbine high school in 1999. President Bill Clinton was giving a speech in Littleton, Colorado, discussing the tragedy and trying to promote a time of healing. In a rage, Dobbs demanded that his producer cut away from the “anti-gun nonsense” of the President and the meaninglessness of this amoral man trying to comfort children (a paraphrase of his actual words), and return to the regular broadcast of stock market futures, and how the Democrats were destroying everything that was America with their open border policies that they couldn’t possibly believe in.
The then president of CNN, Rick Kaplan, overruled Dobbs on this issue and, on the air, clearly seething, Dobbs said through clenched teeth that “CNN President Rick Kaplan wants us to return to Littleton.” Within days Lou Dobbs announced that he was leaving CNN to start Space.com, a website on everything astronomical. This was something Dobbs was utterly unqualified to do, and seems to be the moment, perhaps, when the man lost his mind, like the ‘mad as hell’ Howard Beale from the classic film Network (and the now classic stage play starring Bryan Cranston).
When Rick Kaplan left CNN in 2000, Ted Turner asked Dobbs to return, which he did, now hosting a broader news program at first called Lou Dobbs Reporting. This eventually morphed into CNN News Sunday Morning, and Lou was returned to daily evenings with Lou Dobbs Moneyline. In 2003 he finally fulfilled his self-referential dreams by becoming host of Lou Dobbs Tonight, a more general title that gave him, he thought, the freedom to talk about anything.
The rapid decline of Lou Dobbs’ career at CNN came shortly after the election of Barrack Obama. Dobbs could not believe it. A black man–a Kenyan he declared on live TV. Dobbs was the first mainstream news host to promote the birther theory, and he circled back around to this every single night. He grew angrier and angrier, believing America was being thrown away, overtaken by savages and foreigners and what happened to the good old American way when the white man was in charge and kept everything safe?
In late 2009 Dobbs abruptly announced his “immediate departure” from CNN. He gave no reasons, and later promoted the theory that he was pushed out because of his views. This is a curious response, as Dobbs told no one at the network he was leaving prior to his live statement. In a later interview, between his shrieks about how unfairly he had been treated, he declared that he was considering running for President.
After that Dobbs spent a number of years in the sewer of right-wing talk radio, far more at home promoting new conspiracy theories and reaching an angry audience wanting to be told who and what to hate. More than most, Lou Dobbs provided this fuel. He could probably be peripherally blamed for a number of hate crimes, although I am personally against charging someone who says something with the crimes it may have inspired in some lunatic listening. He even announced on the air that he desperately wanted a job with the Treasury Department, claiming that he could “do more good than the clowns currently in position.” He blamed the economic slowdown of 2012 not on the corruption of banks, or the cost of war, but on Obama himself, claiming that the President was bankrupting the nation on purpose to help his Muslim brothers take over the world.
Lou also wrote about these ideas in mainstream magazines like Money and US News and World Report. He would even occasionally have a mean-spirited editorial in the New York Daily News, generally a repetition of whichever conspiracy he was peddling on the radio that week.
By the time Dobbs was hired by the FOX Business Network he had radically shifted his political views. He started trashing George W. Bush as “a failure” and “a disgrace,” and increasingly shifted more and more to the right, eventually sinking into the bowels of nativist ranting. He shouted about the need to close the borders, warning of all the Muslim terrorists that were trying to sneak in, and the invasion of Mexicans and other Spanish-speakers who (although he never explained exactly how) were going to destroy America. Everything on his show was now an apocalypse theory, all the things he was scared of being the spark that would kill the fewer and fewer things he cared about.
When Donald Trump ran for President, Lou Dobbs saw a savior, a personal messiah. This was the deity America needed, and the government needed to be changed in order to give this heroic man absolute power. After all, Trump knew how to make money.
The birther theory remained in full effect, and the Muslim/Mexican/Black/Jewish/George Soros/Illuminati/New World Order, et cetera ideology spread until, conspiracy theorist himself, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, giving the erratic Lou Dobbs justification, finally, for his public hatred campaigns. No longer would he talk about money (Trump was in place–everything was going to be fine, he said). He even had the President on his show a few times, Dobbs melting into submissive worship, begging his lord for a blessing.
And now Lou Dobbs has become so petty, so small (or perhaps he always was), so hysterically emotional and resentful of his own hurt feelings (something he projects onto other people, claiming that liberals are the ones always whining about something that offends them), that he will go after anyone or any idea that does not fall absolutely in line with his fascism.
On a personal note, Lou Dobbs reported me to Twitter when I responded to one of his overtly racist tweets with one that threw the same idea back in his face, declaring his own Irish ancestors illegals in their time and that, perhaps, his own rights to citizenship should be revoked. Of course this was stated far more harshly. In the end, I was suspended for “offensive and hateful speech,” which made me laugh out loud for longer than was necessary. I thought, “this small-minded motherfucker. All he does is criticize everyone he disagrees with, and comes to extreme solutions and conclusions without even caring about the issue. Yet he can’t take it himself.”
In the end, I guess, the angry old man Lou Dobbs is just a whining pussy who thinks that his opinions are gospel truth. Before too long some younger, sharper right-wing commentator with a background in making money will have his job. How much longer can Dobbs and his writers convince people to be paranoid? How much longer can this germ of a human being possibly be listened to?
©2018, 2019 Lance Polin