Screening Room: ‘Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes’

Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes

The scarifying new documentary Divide and Conquer tells the ugly and all-too-true story of the rapacious and predatory instinct that drove Roger Ailes from small-time TV producer to history-changing right-wing propagandist and serial predator.

My review is at Slant Magazine:

By the time Alexis Bloom’s Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes opens at the end of 2018, its subject will have been dead for over a year and a half. But the media colossus he willed into existence out of spite and rage continues to beam his message across the nation with as much dark vigor as ever. As such, Bloom’s keenly insightful and deeply depressing documentary about the mastermind behind the Fox News Channel and much of what passes for modern conservative discourse is probably best viewed not as a record of the past but a document of what’s to come…

Here’s the trailer:

Weekend Reading: May 26, 2017

Screening Room: ‘The Brainwashing of My Dad’

brainwashing1

It’s the kind of thing too many people are familiar with. Once middle-of-the-road parents suddenly, after immersing themselves in Fox News and talk radio, turn into angry ditto-heads, sending email forwards filled with birther conspiracy theories and ALL CAPS freakout. That’s what happened to filmmaker Jen Senko, who chronicled the experience in a new documentary.

The Brainwashing of My Dad opens this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Presenting itself as a Chomsky-esque takedown of a well-oiled propaganda machine, Jen Senko’s The Brainwashing of My Dad defines itself as “a story about a media phenomenon that changed a father and divided a nation.” The phenomenon Senko’s referring to is the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton identified back in 1998, after years of unhinged assaults on her and Bill by a well-funded network of conservative magazines, columnists, TV personalities and talk-radio hosts. It’s a conspiracy that Senko knows quite well, having watched her father turn from a “nonpolitical Kennedy Democrat,” the kind who would give a homeless black man money while calling him “Sir,” into the sort of splenetic crank who rants about “feminazis” and how the liberals are destroying America…

Here’s the trailer:

Department of Weekend Reading: November 22, 2014

reading1

Department of Weekend Reading: November 7, 2014

reading1

New in Books: ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’

capital-cover1The most curious blockbuster book of 2014 has easily been Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty’s a French economist who wrote a nearly 700-page book about the Western world’s history (and probable near-future) of economic inequality.

My review is at PopMatters:

[Piketty] thinks it’s actually a good thing that economists aren’t treated with as much respect in France as they are in the United States. This refreshing humility doesn’t keep the book from over-relying on a few points and concluding in too narrow a fashion. But Piketty’s conviction that economists normally don’t get it—in part, he suggests, because many of them are much better off financially than the average citizen—goes a long way towards attracting a readership that would normally recoil as violently from brick-like economics texts as Fox News viewers would from kale. Even with Piketty’s occasional stumbles, Capital in the Twenty-First Century is easily the book of the year. With agreeably clear prose and an aversion to orthodoxy, it grapples with mountains of data and wrestles them into a more manageably daunting form…

You can see an interview with Piketty here: