Divide and Conquer

I distinctly remember a time before the 24-hour news cycle existed. Sure, it’s a distant and faint memory, but a vivid one. I used to get my news from one of the Big 3 networks, or the early days of upstart CNN and scrappy ESPN. Those quaint days seem very far away now that we have CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and all the other ways in which people get their news/commentary. Divide and Conquer is a documentary about the very successful and controversial creator of Fox News, Roger Ailes. On the eve of Donald Trump's ascendancy to the top at the RNC Convention, Roger Ailes stepped down and was ultimately fired due to sexual misconduct allegations. The timing was ironic because it is reasonable to give Mr. Ailes some of the credit for creating Donald Trump and the world where he could get elected to the Presidency. Early in his career, he moved from TV producer to political media advisor for Richard Nixon, a role he would basically invent for modern politics. He became the man behind successful campaigns; a generation of politicians didn't make a move without first consulting him. The movie then identifies his complicity with fear-mongering, beginning with the Willie Horton ads during the Bush/Dukakis race. This gambit contributed to Bush's victory and was the onset of Mr. Ailes divisive political strategies. The game plan of recognizing and exploiting people's vulnerabilities apparently wasn't just in his professional life, but also his personal. And here we are today. I miss the (slower) Network News cycle!