December 7, 2018

Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes comes out today, and if you want to learn about the inner workings of the man who engineered our current political and media climate, this looks like your best bet. (Note: I have only seen the trailer above.)

Fox News was hardly his first foray into politics — Ailes had been an operator in the Republican machine since Richard NIxon made a name for himself. It stands to reason, then, that fear and paranoia were the founding pillars on which he built the juggernaut for which he's best known. The movie goes even further back into his life, though, exploring his lifelong battle with hemophilia (another cause for paranoia and fear, if I ever heard one...) - though I don't know a lot of hemophiliacs who coped with the disease by creating a media breeding ground for nazis, and I'm sure that isn't a direct line the movie draws, either. Consider it simply part of his resumé under "lived experience" he brought to the table, perhaps.

The stories of both his public and private life were those of serial cruelty towards any and all marginalized groups. If you had fears and insecurities, you were at his mercy, and god help you if you entered his orbit. It's no small vindication that one of the groups he preyed upon — women — was the one responsible for bringing him down, and I won't dignify him by calling it his tragic flaw. Though he was a figure of Shakespearean power and proportions, he certainly wasn't heroic. His legacy isn't one worthy of praise, but it is for sure worthy of study.

This film seems like an excellent place to start.

From the NYT Review:

Any documentary — or obituary — that reckons with the legacy of Roger E. Ailes faces an almost impossible choice of emphasis...["Divide and Conquer"] may disappoint those looking for different inflections, but it does an impressive and absorbing job of covering all those bases. What’s more, it conveys a credible sense of Ailes’s psychology through the testimony of peers and co-workers who witnessed his ruthlessness firsthand.

The LA Times is raving, too...

[T]his gripping documentary, directed by Alexis Bloom with the veteran Alex Gibney serving as an executive producer, focuses on Ailes as a manipulator brilliant enough to make Machiavelli jealous, as well as a relentless harasser of women.

None of this is exactly news, but Bloom has worked hard to get extensive interviews with many people who knew Ailes well, including sympathetic colleagues like commentator Glenn Beck, so much so that we feel we’ve never really fully understood the man and his powerful influence on America’s political landscape until now.

Released today, you can see it in theaters, or stream it at home.

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