No matter what people think about Fox News, no matter what conspiracy theories they may harbor about a devious Ailes, let's be decidedly fair and balanced: the network has been an extraordinary success. As it turns 15, Fox News has had an impressive and outsized effect on the news business and the political landscape.
Just one example: the network is launching a tour to promote its anniversary and taking certain shows on the road. "The O'Reilly Factor," hosted by the proudly conservative Bill O'Reilly, isn't going to Topeka or Oklahoma City, but the Democratic stronghold of Boston.
He'll host his show there Oct. 11 in venerable Faneuil Hall, giving him the stage where Samuel Adams argued for independence from Britain and Ted Kennedy entered the 1980 Presidential race.
O'Reilly the statesman? Not in Massachusetts. He couldn't draw enough people to fill a bus shelter in the Commonwealth, right.
Well, Fox is making sure to inform people, in Bieber-like fashion, that tickets will go on sale Monday at 9 a.m., suggesting they'll be gone by 9:15.
Looking over the history of Fox News, two characters stand out in its emergence: Ailes and O'Reilly. Ailes, the former Republican operative, has done a masterful job implementing Rupert Murdoch's vision of a 24/7 cable news network that would appeal to a would-be under-served conservative audience feeling ignored.
Murdoch may lean right personally, but Media 101 advises find an opening and move aggressively. And yet, even as Rush Limbaugh had done well on radio before, no one would have predicted Fox News had much of a shot in 1996 when it launched in few homes and paid for carriage.
CNN had established itself as the cable news leader with the first Gulf War and seemed likely to swat away any challengers. If anything, MSNBC, which launched a few months before Fox, seemed to have a better chance of succeeding with a sort of CNN-for-tech-savvy-young-people approach.
Over time, Fox surged and routinely topples CNN and MSNBC. Ailes was able to prove that an editorial page could thrive on TV, which MSNBC would follow years later by going left.
Ailes has faced all sorts of criticism about polluting the political discussion. There are the suggestions he's in cahoots with the GOP.
Maybe he does huddle with Mitch McConnell, but Ailes is a showman and he knows the more talk, the more interest. He's surely happy to have people spending their time wondering what miasmic strings he's pulling.
Fox News might only draw a few million people a night - a tiny slice of the electorate - but its right-leaning commentary is absorbed inside the Beltway and then flies out, reaching far more than the initial audience in the process. A provocative Karl Rove argument might get minimal notice if made just on the network, but by the time it cycles through the media-political ecosystem, it has broader reach.
And of course, if "liberal" late-night hosts grab clips from Fox, then the legs get longer, especially when the "Today" show plays clips of the comedians making fun of the clips.
O'Reilly's show helps spur the attention. His influence over the past 15 years has been nothing short of remarkable, if only because of how unlikely it seemed. He joined Fox News after hosting the tabloid show "Inside Edition."
What Ailes saw convincing him O'Reilly might be a dynamic political commentator is unclear. But, O'Reilly has become a beacon to the right and gets people buzzing.
Which suggests liberals or Democrats who dislike Fox might be better off doing more to ignore it, including the current White House. Their talk is proving to be expensive in political capital.