There’s no figure more polarizing in politics (aside from Trump) than Fox News founder, Roger Ailes. His antics, as portrayed in Bombshell and The Loudest Voice and his politics, certainly paint Ailes is the evilest person in the world. Michael Barnes’ Man in the Arena is a documentary about the life and accomplishments of Roger Ailes.
We could argue all day about whether Ailes is worthy of a documentary. Barnes does not shy away from the 600-pound gorilla in the room as he opens with a barrage of media stories surrounding his #MeToo downfall. Make no mistake, Man in the Arena is serves as neither prosecution nor defense of Ailes final days at Fox News. Like him or not, his impact on today’s political culture and how campaigns are run in the media, on both sides, is undeniable.
In its 115-minute runtime, Barnes tells a fairly complete story of Roger’s life from the beginning. Early on in the sixties, Roger was a man of the stage and used his knowledge to pioneer entertainment on a fledgling form of media known as television. Politically, he gained incredible knowledge from Nixon’s trouncing in the first live Presidential debate against Kennedy and was instrumental in crafting Nixon’s overall public presentation in his 1968 campaign.
“Roger’s impact on today’s political culture and how campaigns are run in the media, on both sides, is undeniable.”
Barnes documents Roger’s influence in politics over the next twenty years. Roger is the guy who invented the town hall debate, where the average American can ask questions directly to the candidate. He’s also the father of the political sound bite as he authored Reagan’s “young and inexperienced” retort to Walter Mondale. The Democrats would use the same tactics four years later with his infamous “You’re no Jack Kennedy” zinger against a naïve Dan Quayle.
When Roger was booted out of politics, his knowledge of media helped start the fledgling MSNBC. He’d go on to host his own talk show on the channel featuring conversations with everyone from the world of politics and entertainment. Believing that the mainstream news media was one-sided in its political filter, he created Fox News. When it started, the news staff and commentators were split right down the middle with liberals and conservatives. He had relatively no money. The sets were cheap, and nobody knew what Fox News was nor where to find it. But the gamble paid off, and not only did Fox News see profits within years but would become the number one news station today.
"…had relatively no money. The sets were cheap, and nobody knew what Fox News was…"