‘Divide & Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes’ DVD Review: A Harrowing Account Of A Republican Kingmaker
When it comes to influencing the realm of politics, few have had an effect as profound as the late Roger Ailes. His career was characterized by paranoia and power, and director Alexis Bloom’s Divide & Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes offers a chilling synopsis of the man’s life and the empire he created.
DIVIDE & CONQUER: THE STORY OF ROGER AILES DVD REVIEW
Divide & Conquer is well-researched, covering Ailes’ childhood and rise from a television producer to the scandals that ultimately lost him his position at Fox News. Stock footage, generally clips of Fox News segments or of interviews Ailes participated in, are utilized throughout the film. In addition, many people who knew Ailes in a professional capacity are interviewed, including some of his victims. (Notably, none of Ailes’ family members are interviewed.)
Bloom and her guests paint a horrifying picture of the work environments Ailes cultivated as a consequence of his nature. We hear accounts of how Ailes bugged Fox’s building so he could listen in to his employees’ conversations and how he coerced the women in his charge for sexual favors. Bloom also delves into how Ailes’ paranoia and retherotic informed the programing Fox specialized in; Divide & Conquer explores Ailes’s talent for feeding into his audience’s fear and misguided sense of patriotism, with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and conspiracies he popularized concerning former President Barack Obama being two examples. These are accompanied with clips of Fox’s most emblematic personalities, including Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Glenn Beck. Bloom does nevertheless offer some sympathy to Ailes as well, primarily through his haemophilia.
The documentary runs for nearly an hour and fifty minutes. While not every topic is touched upon as thoroughly as they would ideally be, Bloom concisely covers a wealth of material and uses her time intelligently. If there’s one major flaw in Divide & Conquer, however, it’s in its reliance on Beck. He’s prominently featured throughout the film, providing the opening narration and serving as one of the most frequent interviewees. He recounts valuable anecdotes no one else could and comes across as sympathetic in comparison to his former boss’s draconian rule, but there’s one moment where he solemnly asks, “How am I now in this position of where I’m the most polarizing, divisive figure in the country?” That’s because he himself is partially responsible for helping spread Ailes’ message.
And because of how deeply that message has spread, Divide & Conquer’s ending, which depicts Donald Trump’s playful relationship with Fox & Friends, has a harrowing, saddening undertone. Ailes was often labeled a kingmaker for helping to elect Republican presidents, and his news network was a tool in that. He may have passed away nearly two years ago, but his impact will reverberate for decades to come.