by Doctor Science
I've just finished reading (well, partly reading -- dipping into for the bits that interested me) Gabriel Sherman's biography of Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News -- and Divided a Country. It's interesting, but very little of it is *surprising*. I mean, I already knew Ailes' politics and the rough trajectory of his career, from The Mike Douglas Show to Nixon to Fox News. And it was hard to miss learning about his personality, which is loud, in every way.
But there was one revelation that really surprised me. Writing about the situation at News Corp in 2013:
When one sales executive pointed out in a meeting that Fox's audience demographics skewed older than those of its cable news rivals, Ailes did not believe him. "Our demos suck," the executive siad. "No they don't!" Ailes barked. When Ailes was shown the numbers, he seemed genuinely surprised. "Why didn't I know about this?" he asked. The truth was, over the years, executives, fearing Ailes's wrath, had shielded him from bad news.Roger Ailes has many flaws, but he *really* knows television. For him to have lost track of his demos -- normally the core of the TV business -- is astonishing, even though FoxNews gets almost all its profits from subscriber fees, not ads.
Reading the book, I can definitely understand why Ailes's underlings didn't tell him anything he didn't want to hear: he's a big believer in screaming, cursing, and threats as interpersonal skills. I was really taken aback by how much enraged yelling Sherman reports going on in various corporate or political offices. In Ailes's case, he *was* raised by wolves -- or rather, a violently abusive father (wolves deeply resent the comparison). What I don't understand is why this sort of rageaholic behavior seems to be widely tolerated in business.
Ailes created Fox News, and he made it in his own image: easily angered, paranoid, simplistic, and fond of blonde women. He gets his own information only from people who work for him, who are flattering and/or fearful, and *they* get their information from each other. This is epistemic closure, and Ailes is both its chief architect and one of its victims. He thought Romney was going to win, too, which as far as I'm concerned is clear proof that he was too caught in his own hall of mirrors to see his way out. It's got many of the ingredients of tragedy, except that I cannot pity Ailes, he's too unaffected by the damage he does to the country.