Have you ever wondered what kind of people work at Fox? The kind who consider their home network a “bastion of truth,” and who make a proud living out of lining Rupert Murdoch’s pockets? If you’ve been reading the news the last couple of days, you probably know about one type — the dead kind, in front of Fox’s corporate headquarters in New York. But there’s a lot more to this bizarre story than you might think…and it’s pretty telling of the kind of model employees who aspire to climb Bullsh*t Mountain. And what it does to those who try.
Before making news in front of the News Corporation building in Manhattan (home to both Fox News and the Wall Street Journal), 41-year-old Phillip Perea of Irving, Texas made news in a more subtle way. Specifically, as a producer in Fox’s Austin, Texas affiliate station. If you’ve been following the news at all you’ll know how Perea’s story ends.
What we know is this: Last year, Fox fired Perea after ten months of employment, leaving him utterly destitute. On January 26th, Perea stood out in front of Fox’s New York headquarters handing out fliers saying that Fox had “ended his career.” Moments later, Perea put a gun to his head, and spattered the New York snow read with the contents of his cranium. And that is the majority of what you will read of this story: “Disgruntled former Fox producer commits suicide in front of Fox headquarters.” To be fair, a story in itself.
But it’s the story behind this story that’s the most interesting.
Prior to being fired, Perea was reportedly the victim of “Workplace bullying.” We know this because after he was fired, Perea put out a series of stunning YouTube videos titled “The American Workplace Bully: How FOX News Ended my Career.”
But it might just as well have been called “When Delusional Sociopathic Narcissism Goes Wrong.”
Just to preface: Perea was a big fan of his network, which he called a “beacon of truth.” His sole ambition was to climb to the heady heights of the Fox News food chain, and work with greats like Hannity and O’Reilly.
The series (which we admit we couldn’t sit through all of) seems to focus on a manager named “Lorena,” who is in Perea’s own words the “Salieri to [his] Mozart.” Perea paints a picture of himself as the brilliant composer, surrounded by lesser talents conspiring to deprive him of his rightful place in media production history. According to Mozart, Salieri and company forever conspired to create unsolvable crises for him, setting him up for failure through sheer hatred and jealousy. He plays back audio recordings of meeting with management, and continuously dissects every nuanced inflection as evidence that he was “set up.”
Management maintains, meanwhile that, essentially…he’s just not a very good producer. He doesn’t have “the eye” for big stories, and can’t follow directions on what to air. Perea, meanwhile, spends the next 35 half-hour videos — a total of 17 HOURS — playing back meeting audio, and justifying his every decision. All to provide evidence that the dastardly and jealous Lorena was out to get him. Or something. We didn’t have 17 hours to listen to all of it.
But that’s not the good part. Most of the 17 hours of Perea’s “corporate expose” are, to put it mildly, exactly the kind of banal office politics everyone else in media has to deal with. Hell, a few of them sound like conversations I’ve had with editors here. To be fair, some of it might be interesting if you’ve never worked in this business — behold, aspiring journalists, for this is the industry glory that awaits! But, almost through and through, the entire series is just the journalism business, seen through the eyes of a delusional, paranoid narcists.
That is: “Fox employee.”
Still, no. That’s not the best part.
After being fired, Perea effectively became his own cause célèbre. He became the center of his own movement against the evils of duplicitous corporate management; which is probably a perfectly valid thing for any Fox employee. But Perea went so far as to contact senators, other newspapers and news agencies with his brand new Twitter campaign: #We’reWithPhil. Unfortunately, nobody cared, nobody bothered to watch his 17-hour video series, ABC didn’t want to expose the evils of Lorena, Sean Hannity didn’t return his phone calls, and CNN wasn’t interesting in #BeingWithPhil.
Still not the best part.
The #We’reWithPhil campaign wasn’t entirely a “peaceful protest.” It was part of a scheme to extort from Fox “as penance”…
…wait for it…
TWO. BILLION. DOLLARS.
That’s right, Mr. Powers.
Phil’s viral Twitter campaign was designed to blackmail and humiliate Fox into paying “as penance” a billion dollars EACH to Perea (“for posterity”) and to his two younger sisters. And it is for this brave sacrifice of recieving three billion dollars that Perea nobly refers to himself as “a martyr.”
THAT’S the best part.
And he won’t just take the money as a pay-off, either. There are conditions. Actually, reasonably magnanimous ones for a guy that just made two billion dollars on a hashtag. And they are:
- Fox is prohibited from massive layoffs or salary reductions — does not apply to executives of their bonuses
- Fox is prohibited from selling off assets, breaking up the company, moving its base of operations or declaring bankruptcy
- Fox is prohibited from compensating with transfers of stocks or other items of value. Payment must be in $1 billion cash
- Fox is prohibited from making side deals with family members and charitable donations via proxy or otherwise
- Fox is prohibited from seeking outside help to pay for penance, including government
- Fox is prohibited from being “creative” in finding loopholes, and is explicitly forbidden from engaging in a scorched earth policy.
- Fox has a window of one year to complete its $1 billion payment to posterity; the amount will double for each year past due. The entire added amount will go to salary increases for Fox’s low to non-salary employees.
Additionally, 90 percent of the $1 billion “penance” payment will go to the charitable organizations of Perea’s choosing. He planned only to keep a paltry $100 million for himself, in addition to the $1 billion split between his sisters.
And should Fox decide not to pay Perea his $2 billion “penance” (plus interest), the public relations juggernaut that is #We’reWithPhil would utterly destroy Murdoch’s NewsCorp via defamatory Twitter posts and Facebook memes.
(Note to Ed: See, Jason? Could be worse.)
None of that actually happened.
So, after waiting the better part of a year for #We’reWithPhil to bring Fox to its knees, Perea spent his last $140 on a bus ticket to New York to bring his brilliant plan to fruition. By blowing his brains out in front of Fox Headquarters.
This plan brought to you by Fox strategic analyst, Karl Rove.
And thus ends the story behind the story of a Fox News producer named Phil Perea. If you’re feeling a bit conflicted about the guy, it’s OK — you’re not alone. Phil was clearly a disturbed individual, which even those he worked with noted beforehand. In fact, likely a few of them are just thankful that he shot himself, instead of going postal at Fox Austin after being fired. On our end, we’re chosing to respond to Phil’s bizarre story and death the same way we respond to all morally conflicted tragedies — by laughing at them. It’s simpler that way, when you don’t know how to feel about someone. But here are a few things we do know for certain about Phil Perea:
He was a paranoid, delusional narcissist with a persecution complex, and an inflated sense of his own value, intelligence and importance, who went out on a twisted sense moral righteousness and martyrdom, which he used to justify his own blatant greed.
Maybe he had a future at Fox after all.