Taking On A Controversy With Man In The Arena’s Michael Barnes Image

Taking On A Controversy With Man In The Arena’s Michael Barnes

By Alan Ng | August 24, 2020

My frustration with the stories surrounding Roger and the allegations is that we’re primarily litigating a case in public and on the news, as opposed through the proper venue, which is a court of law. There you can present facts, rebut stories, bring in real evidence. What was presented on the news is always open for interpretation.
I’ll give you an example. If you’re a football fan, think of the worst team in the league going against the best team. If the best team isn’t allowed on the field, I guarantee you that the worst team is going to win every time. You have to let the other side on the field.

I discovered with Roger Ailes that he was subject to a gag order, and his story was never told. So that’s my lens on the situation. I didn’t make a #MeToo film, that would be a defense of Roger Ailes, Fox News, and the claimants. It’s not the film I made. The film I made is about Roger Ailes in the context of his entire life.

In the documentary, you mentioned that you were limited in what you could address about the allegations. What was your approach to how you wanted to present that final chapter of his life?
In the downfall chapter of the film, I mention that to get access to Roger’s archives, the filmmakers and myself were made aware that there was an NDA, a contractual restriction, between Roger, Fox News, and one of the accusers that stipulated that nobody could say anything. I had to agree that I wouldn’t say anything pro or con…that I wouldn’t say anything. Otherwise, there’s no movie without access to all that primary source material. Believe me. I would have liked not to be subject to that restriction.

The workaround, as people will see, is fairly presented in the downfall segment. It includes the charges and adds just the basic defense in Roger’s own words. It’s left for viewers to decide.

“…the first two minutes is an assault on Roger…an overwhelming barrage of the accusations made against Roger…”

When I started watching the movie right from the beginning, you can’t help but be reminded of the allegations and the final chapter of his life. Every moment I was thinking about it. Was this a concern, or was it a matter of bearing down and just telling the story?
Absolutely, the first two minutes is an assault on Roger…an overwhelming barrage of the accusations made against Roger, not only in the downfall for the hostile environment and the sexual assault at Fox. The political assaults that poisoned him in the public arena. The claims that Fox News was evil or Roger was evil. He’s racist and the antichrist. We packed it all upfront. Rather than try to tiptoe around it, my angle was to put it out on the table from the start. Don’t be coy about it.

Here’s what struck me most about the documentary. Suppose you remove the politics and the controversy that surrounds the man. In that case, Roger’s accomplishments and influence, regarding media, and the political landscape, especially about how campaigns are run on both sides today, is undeniable. His footprint is everywhere.
That’s a very good take on one of the themes about the media world that Roger was born into in 1940. He was primarily born of radio and stage to an extent. Roger pointed out that when he was a teenager, and television was a six-inch black-and-white screen with one static camera and 22 little ants supposedly playing football. People would stare at that six-inch screen and undecipherable ants for three hours. It was a non-medium at that point. Roger was there and was successfully a part of the fusion between those different artforms of radio and television and even set the stage today in the digital world.

I listened to the tapes of him talking about what percentage of your perception of watching television is visual and what is auditory. I understood that audio/visible mix—something we take for granted nowadays. He knew it was a good question to answer in 1965 and still a good question today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon