Divide and Conquer

As founder and longtime CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes may have done more than anyone else to foster the angry political divide now hobbling America; his cultural influence was so profound that his decades-long sexual harassment of female employees, which led to his ouster from Fox in 2016, seems almost to belong in a separate documentary. Yet director Alexis Bloom reaches back far enough into Ailes’s unhappy youth in small-town Ohio to explain both his deep understanding of the heartland and his ruthless abuse of those in his professional orbit. A hemophiliac, Ailes lived his whole life in fear of bleeding to death, and as more than one witness observes, he developed a dark talent for exploiting viewers’ worst fears, even as he bullied and intimidated his colleagues and underlings. Above all, Ailes was a showbiz genius, though ironically his own downfall became just another titillating scandal in the 24-hour news cycle.