Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Only Interesting Thing About Roger Ailes

The death of Roger Ailes, the evil genius behind Fox News and, prior to that, to the late-20th-century rise of the Republican Party, should not be any cause for mourning on anyone's part.  His talents for media manipulation, and his propensity for humiliating women, have both been well documented enough that no one with an ounce of decency should miss him.  (If, on the other hand, you are in need of a refresher course, or have not been following politics for the past four decades, you can look here, and here.)

Or, you could look here.  And, in addition to a fair summary of Ailes' odious career, you will learn something about him that may surprise you.  I have to admit that it surprised me.  And made me wonder.

Roger Ailes, as it turns out, was a hemophiliac.  As a child, he was hospitalized several times as a result.  Hemophilia is a serious blood disorder in which blood fails to clot; as a consequence, it can prove to be fatal.   For a boy with hemophilia, life is a constant struggle in which natural childhood instincts to play and explore need to be constrained in order to avoid injuries that cause bleeding and, potentially death.  For an adult with hemophilia, it is a constant reminder of how fragile life can be.

One might expect that living with such a condition would have given Ailes some degree of empathy for the weaknesses of others.  If anything, he seemed to have gone in the other direction.  His entire career in media was defined by finding weaknesses in others, and then exploiting those weaknesses as ruthlessly as possible.  It's easy to imagine that, if one of his clients' opponents had hemophilia, he would not have hesitated to use it offensively, without regard to his own suffering as well as the suffering of others.

It would be worth knowing why tragedy makes some people empathetic, while hardening others. Perhaps we will never know.  In the meantime, I am sure I am not alone in wishing that Roger Ailes had developed some degree of empathy from his affliction.  Among other things, it might have spared him his own ignominious ending, professionally speaking.

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