Fixer

The Wolf

fixer is a person who is skillful at solving problems for others. In American usage, to describe a person as a fixer implies that their methods may be of questionable legality. In sports, a fixer is someone who makes (usually illegal) arrangements to fix, i.e., manipulate or pre-arrange the outcome of a sporting contest.

In British usage the term is neutral, meaning ‘the sort of person who solves problems and gets things done.’ In journalism, a fixer is a local person who expedites the work of a correspondent working in a foreign country.

Fixers may primarily use legal means, such as lawsuits and payoffs, to accomplish their ends, or they may carry out unlawful activities. The White House Plumbers have been described as fixers for Richard Nixon; their methods included break-ins and burglary. Fixers who specialize in disposing of evidence or bodies are called ‘cleaners,’ like the character of Victor ‘The Cleaner’ in the film ‘La Femme Nikita,’ or the fictional Jonathan Quinn, subject of the Brett Battles novel ‘The Cleaner.’

In Britain, a fixer is a commercial consultant for business improvement, whereas in an American context a fixer is often an associate of a powerful person who carries out difficult, undercover, or stealth actions, or extricates a client out of personal or legal trouble. A fixer may freelance, like Judy Smith, a well-known American public relations ‘crisis consultant’ whose career provided inspiration for the popular 2012 television series ‘Scandal.’

More commonly a fixer works for a single employer, under a title such as ‘attorney’ or ‘bodyguard,’ which does not typically describe the kinds of services that they provide. For example, lawyer Michael Cohen was officially Donald Trump’s personal attorney, but press accounts commonly describe him as Trump’s fixer. Cohen later stated that it was his ‘duty to cover up [Trump]’s dirty deeds.’

In sports, when a match fixer arranges a preordained outcome of a sporting or athletic contest, the motivation is often gambling, and the fixer is often employed by organized crime. In the Black Sox Scandal, for instance, Major League Baseball players became involved with a gambling syndicate and agreed to lose the 1919 World Series in exchange for payoffs.

In another example, Boston mobster Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Ciulla of the Winter Hill Gang was identified in 1975 as the fixer who routinely bribed jockeys to throw horse races. Other insiders may also be fixers, as in the case of veterinarian Mark Gerard, who, in 1978, was convicted of fraud for ‘masterminding a horse-racing scandal that involved switching two thoroughbreds’ so that he could cash in on a long-shot bet.

In journalism, a fixer is someone, often a local journalist, hired by a foreign correspondent or a media company to help arrange a story. Fixers will most often act as a translator and guide, and will help to arrange local interviews that the correspondent would not otherwise have access to. They help to collect information for the story and sometimes play a crucial role in the outcome. Fixers are rarely credited, and often put themselves in danger, especially in regimes where they might face consequences from an oppressive government for exposing iniquities the state may want to censor.

In modern journalism, these aides are often the prime risk mitigators within a journalist’s team, making crucial decisions for the reporter. According to journalist Laurie Few, ‘You don’t have time not to listen (to the fixer),’ and anybody who disregards a fixer’s advice ‘is going to step on a landmine, figurative or actual.’ Throughout the last 20 years, fixers have ranged from civilians to local journalists within the regions of conflict. They are rarely credited and paid menially, which has begun a conversation for the compensation rights of these individuals. According to statistics gathered from the Global Investigative Journalism Network, the base pay for a fixer’s time ranged from $50–400 USD per day.

Numerous films and several songs have been named ‘The Fixer,’ and, as a genre, illustrate the different meanings of the term. The 1994 film ‘Pulp Fiction’ features Harvey Keitel as ‘Winston Wolfe,’ a notorious fixer and cleaner, who helps the protagonists dispose of a corpse. The 2007 film ‘Michael Clayton’ stars George Clooney as a fixer who works for a prestigious law firm and uses his connections and knowledge of legal loopholes to help his clients. The TV series ‘Ray Donovan’ follows the eponymous character, played by Liev Schrieber, a Los Angeles-based fixer for celebrity clients. The character was inspired by a variety of Hollywood fixers such as Eddie Mannix and Fred Otash.

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