The Loudest Voice (2019)
Roger Ailes was Victor Frankenstein of cable Television, just that he never expressed any regrets for unleashing Fox News upon an unsuspecting America. Here was a TV ringmaster who transformed himself into a magician , conjured right-wing clamour for war, racial supremacy, honour and greatness, and channelled conservative population’s worst biases into votes and ratings. Fox News not just lined up the pockets of Rupert Murdoch and NewCorp’s shareholders, but also won a lot of public support for Bush Jr, Trump and US military interventions and domestic government crackdown .
In 1995, a huffing and puffing Roger Ailes walked into Jack Welch’s home and manipulated him into waiving off the non-compete clause even as the former was being removed by the CNBC. Rupert Murdoch lapped him up instantly and together they created a conservative news network , Fox News, which aimed to give people what they wanted (to hear).
“People do not want to be informed, they want to feel informed,” said Roger. Validation of conservative views on religion, immigrants ,economy and American values on Fox News hooked white America onto it, making it the most watched cable news network in the US. Fox did not even attempt to present a ‘fair and balanced’ view, rather specifically targeted America’s conservative audience.
Ailes was a showman-par-excellence. He delivered spice into people’s drawing-rooms. Newsroom debates were hotly contested, blatantly biased experts made scathing comments, models were hired as anchors and asked to wear legless dresses, propaganda masqueraded as news was served with abandon , voices were always loud and insistent for the aim was to turn right-wing sentiment into the ‘loudest voice’. Roger was out to reclaim media hegemony from liberals of CNN and MSCNBC and to give White America a voice, and by god, he succeeded marvellously .
The series is based on Gabriel Sharman’s book of the same name. It explores how Roger Ailes steered mainstream media and by implication the whole nation on a rightward course, and utilised key moments in history to solidify his gains . 9/11 presented him with an opportunity to raise war hysteria and whip up sentiment in favour of revenge. Not just war against Taliban, but also against Iraq was sold to people as struggle between good and evil, and key to the survival of American greatness . Fabricated news was one of FOX’S weapon.His jingoism , and innate racism, then saw him take on Obama over the birther controversy. It was standard for Fox News to mention his full name, stress being on ‘Hussein’. By this time, Ailes had become an influential voice in the Republican Party.It was in Garrison town in 2008 that he came up with ‘Make America Great Again’.
Roger Ailes was quite close to Donald Trump and Roger Stone. Right from early days , he approved of DJT’s candidature as he found him TV-friendly and ideologically-suited to win approval of the core conservative base. Right from drafting many of his speeches and preparing his appearances, Ailes played a key role in catapulting Trump into the White House. That was the successful culmination of his life project, one that he himself had made possible by the misuse of media power.
Ailes was forced to resign as the CEO of Fox News in 2016 after a sexual harassment suit was filed against him by one of the former Fox anchors, Gretchen Carlson. Following the filing of this suit, many other women came out with their allegations. Russell Crowe has played Roger Ailes very convincingly . Embedded inside prosthetics, emanating confidence through those Oscar winner eyes and bolstered through his fiery voice, the actor just about owns the screen. Siena Miller as his wife Beth , Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson and Simon McBurney as Rupert Murdoch have played their parts well. The series is a tribute to the power of media and is worth a watch.
A liberal might judge Roger Ailes harshly on his personal and professional choices. Fact remains he always gave others what they craved for. Howsoever guilty he might of sexual misconduct, one must ask why and who allowed him to get away all through his working life. Its not out of place to question those who indulge in Faustain bargain and later play victim when they are rebuffed, or sidelined. As for people, well, who wants to be lectured in his own home when one can be entertained like in a circus ? We want our bigotry to be reinforced by those sitting in TV studios to feel correct. Roger Ailes just recognised this fact earlier than most, and for that he shall forever be remembered.