When they’re not coming to get you, it’s paranoia

Roger Ailes, the Republican media professional who runs the entire Fox News propaganda machine, has been the subject of several recent magazine profiles, including interesting pieces in Esquire, the New York Times, and New York magazine. It’s tempting to think there are no more interesting tidbits to be learned.

But let’s face it, Ailes is such a strange figure, there’s always more to be learned. In the new Rolling Stone, for example, Tim Dickinson shares an anecdote I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Murdoch installed Ailes in the corner office on Fox’s second floor at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. The location made Ailes queasy: It was close to the street, and he lived in fear that gay activists would try to attack him in retaliation over his hostility to gay rights. (In 1989, Ailes had broken up a protest of a Rudy Giuliani speech by gay activists, grabbing demonstrator by the throat and shoving him out the door.)

Barricading himself behind a massive mahogany desk, Ailes insisted on having “bombproof glass” installed in the windows — even going so far as to personally inspect samples of high-tech plexiglass, as though he were picking out new carpet. Looking down on the street below, he expressed his fears to Cooper, the editor he had tasked with up-armoring his office. “They’ll be down there protesting,” Ailes said. “Those gays.”

Keep in mind, this is entirely consistent with other things we’ve learned about the Fox News chief. Ailes travels with “a phalanx of corporate-provided security,” and en route to and from his office, he travels in “a miniature convoy of two sport utility vehicles.” Ailes’ office has seven television screens — six for various on-air broadcasts and one on his desk that “shows nothing but the live feed from the security cameras” in Fox News’ building in New York.

We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s not paranoia when they’re actually out to get you.” But if Ailes lives in constant fear of violent gays attacking him and bombing his office, it’s worth noting that the inverse is also true — it is paranoia when they’re not out to get you.

Jon Chait recently argued Ailes is “totally bonkers.” I think that’s a fair assessment, and just as important, it also helps explain much of what’s wrong with the broadcasts of the Republican cable news network. Ailes takes a very hands-on role at Fox News, and if you’ve ever wondered why the channel routinely covers developments through a deeply paranoid lens, it should now be pretty obvious.