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Monday, January 24, 2011

Terribly Written Esquire Magazine article on Roger Ailes pt 1

I think Roger Ailes is possibly the most dangerous man in America.  If there were any justice, the man would be behind bars for his work with the Nixon campaign alone.

That said, this blog is not about Roger Ailes.  It's about possibly the worst written article in Esquire, that I've ever read in a respected magazine.  I am happy to note, that New York Magazine felt the same way calling the article "puzzingly overwritten."

First of all, let me applaud Esquire and Tom Junod for their article.  More needs to be written about Mr. Ailes, and a good old fashioned subpoena duces tecum needs to be issued to the man.  WikiLeaks, who cares about state secrets.  Get me Fox News emails and memos and I'll start a donation campaign for you.

Also, having looked at Mr. Junod's wikipedia page, it seems the man is mature, and fairly accomplished.  He has won several awards.  And he's writing for a men's magazine.  Men today are silly people--but we're not stupid.  And as much as my own blog is written with a jokey, relaxed manner, the piece gave up toeing the line and plunged straight into the benalities of bad writing.  Thanks a lot Esquire, it's no wonder men are failing out of school at such  prodigious rates.

"Today, here at Esquire — and only at Esquire, because only Esquire has the guts to tell you this story — we're going to tell you about a man you need to know a little better, maybe a lot better: a man named Roger Ailes."  Word count: 43

Rewritten:  This story is about a political operative named Roger Ailes.  Yay Esquire.  Word count:  12

"he made a reported $23 million in 2009, which, to do the math, was not just more money than you earned, it was more money than everyone related to you earned, combined, even if you count the sudden windfall that came your aunt Ida's way after she got five out of six in Powerball. Nice work if you can get it, Mr. Ailes — especially when that "work" consisted of nothing but advancing your own agenda at the expense of the president of the United States of America during a time of war."  Word count 92

Rewritten:   He made $23 million in 2009, compared to the X million made by CEO, XXX of NBC, and the Y million made by CBS.  This amount was one tenth of one percent of what the average American made in 2009.  Word count: 40.  More informative, less stupid.

"So yes, you might have heard of Roger Eugene Ailes, because you read the newspapers, you read books, you stay informed (despite what members in good standing of the East Coast media elite like, well, oh, like Roger Ailes might say about you), but how much do you really know about him?" 

Word Count: -52.  No comment.

"For forty years, he has stood astride the intertwined worlds of media and politics like a veritable colossus, making sure the worlds of media and politics stay intertwined, the better to control them. He has used his considerable powers of persuasion to persuade us to elect presidents, and, if they're not following the "Ailes Agenda," to turn against them."  Word count: 59  41

Normally, I'd think it'd be insipid to call him a colossus, but I have a penchant for grandiose verbiage.
"At seventy years of age, when most hardworking American seniors have had enough of the rat race and are looking forward to spending some more quality time with the grandkids, Roger Ailes is at the height, perhaps the apogee, maybe even — some say — the very zenith of his power. Indeed, with most of the potential Republican candidates for president in 2012 on his payroll, he may be said to be just getting started. Hmmm. Maybe we don't know this Roger Ailes as well as we think we do. Maybe we don't know him very well at all, which is, of course, just the way he likes it"  Word count 107

Rewritten:  At seventy, he has no plans to retire, and may well be at the very zenith of his power, given that most of the Republican potential candidates of 2012 are paid Fox contributors.  Word Count 33.  More informative.  I like big words, but choose one for god's sake.

"No, Mr. Ailes, you're wrong. You're not the only fat man in America. And we're not going to call you fat, either. Or bald. Or old. First of all, Esquire is completely unbiased, and beholden to no agendas. Second, we're not going to call you any names. We're not going to hurt your feelings, because in our extensive and exclusive investigation, we've found that you actually have them. You're a sensitive guy, Mr. Ailes. You're vulnerable."  Word count: 76

Rewritten:  Mr. Ailes is an overweight, aging baby boomer, who is balding.  Yay Esquire.  Word Count: 13  Is Esquire a 14 year old anorexic who needs constant ego boosting to prevent her from throwing up her lunch in the bathroom?  Wtf?  Further, if you're going to engage in ad hominems, at least own them.

"Indeed, for a guy who attributes his power to the power of not caring what people think about him, you really care what people think about you. You even care what bloggers think about you. You not only read the blog posts that your wife sends you, you remember what they say. And so, when you yourself are accused of unfairness, you'll say, "Well, the Huffington Post says I'm a J. Edgar Hoover look-alike with a face like a clenched fist. Keith Olbermann calls me the worst person in the world. How is that fair?" And then you go out and crush them."  Word count: 106

Rewritten: Opining on his detractors, Ailes fumes "Well..."  Word count: -57.  His wife sends him blogs to read.  How cute.  And pointless.  Hoover is a better looking man than Ailes, possibly a better man in general.  And he's a murderer.  Poor Olbermann.
Believe it or not, the next paragraph is perfectly fine.  More physical description.  Ailes is fat and ugly.  But--who cares?  William F. Buckley was a very good looking man, who was an out and out bigot.

"On the one hand, you sit at the very heart of the world that you have made — a world of information and power, of information as power — and all you have to do to reach virtually any of the world's most powerful people is pick up a phone. On the other, you communicate by means so personal and old-fashioned, they would make Tony Soprano comfortable."  Word count: 65

Rewritten: It is surprising to note, for someone whose work in political media revolutionized political campaigning, Ailes himself is a Luddite, eschewing the use of Mobile devices entirely.  Word count: 27.  This is neither surprising nor useful.  The world turned before the iPhone, probably faster and probably more effectively.  Filed under: Ailes is Old.  My sentence was more informative, more specific, and didn't use a pop culture reference six years past its sell-by date.

"Now, when you talk to Roger Ailes, he will inevitably tell you a few things. One is that he's a simple man. Another is that he's from Warren, Ohio. Another is that he owes his success to the fact that he's a simple man from Warren, Ohio. Another is that he knows you — the American viewer. Another is that he knows you because he is like you — "an average guy from flyover country." And yet another is that because he is like you, he likes you, and thinks that America is a "pretty good country" that we ought to think twice about blaming for the world's problems. " Word count: 107

Rewritten:  Roger Ailes, born in Warren, Ohio, believes himself to be representative of an "average guy from flyover country."  Like many on the right, he conflates "flyover country" with "average American" and falsely assumes himself, a career political operative, to be "like you."  Word count: 42.  This sort of colloquial writing is by now making me a bit nauseous.  These continued set ups for sit-com style comedic beats, detract from the story and make finding actual information very difficult.  Not to mention, extremely confusing.

"Okay, Mr. Ailes, we get it. You don't have to tell Esquire that America is the greatest country in the world. And there's no doubt you have a talent for giving American audiences television news that they want to watch. But if you're such an average guy, can you please tell us what happened to your BlackBerry?

Oh, you don't have one, do you?

We didn't think so.

Of course, a lot of average Americans do have BlackBerrys, or something like them — "smartphones," they're called. And a lot of Americans can be depended upon to handle their BlackBerrys responsibly, to be "smart" with their "smartphones." Not Roger Ailes. For Roger Ailes, having a BlackBerry was a very big deal — or, to be more precise, a very small one. You see, while most of us average Americans are very happy with our BlackBerrys, our iPhones, and our Androids — happy for the chance to stay "connected" with our loved ones when we're out there trying to make ends meet — Roger Ailes was not. Roger Ailes admits that he thought his BlackBerry was too ... small for a man of his size and stature. Roger Ailes thought that his BlackBerry made him look ... ridiculous." Word count: 202

Rewritten: Mr. Ailes doesn't use a smart phone, preferring to use smoke signals and morse code.  Word count: 15.  Filed under Ailes is Old.  Junod likes Smartphones.  Is breaking up an entire paragraph to make some obscenely inane joke about cell phones really worth it?  You only get to use techniques like that once or twice per article.  This is not the time.  I might also add that we're at least seven hundred words into this article and we have only learned that Ailes is Old, Ailes is Fat, Ailes is a Luddite, and Junod is not.  Mostly, we would have learned that from a single picture of the man.  I am now only reading this article out of pure spite.

"Indeed, when Roger Ailes sees one of his few peers in the rarefied world of media, business, or politics using a BlackBerry, he tells him to ... get rid of it, adding, "You have executives for that." Thanks, Mr. Ailes. Thanks for the tip. The next time one of our readers uses his BlackBerry to receive a photograph of his daughter in the school play he had to miss because he's out there making ends meet, we'll remind him: "You have executives for that." And we'll remind him of the reason that you gave us for giving up your BlackBerry in the first place: You don't get paid to think about some little device you have to work with your thumbs. You get paid to think about winning. And that's what you spend all day doing at Fox News: "thinking of ways to win.""  Word count: 144

Word count: -144.  Ailes is right jack ass.  Is this article about smart phones or Ailes?  I'm all for cheap populism, but "the workin' man" doesn't have a smart phone cause he can't afford the data plan.  At the very least get paid for selling smartphones and really shill the product.
The next paragraph is 389 words long and can be filed under Ailes is Old. Subcategory, Ailes is a Curmudgeon.  The only fact we have gleaned from this 389 word-long pile of fat ass flyover country droppings, (which I won't bother to copy) is that Ailes occaisonally responds to his critics' emails with venomous and wordy retaliations.  In addition to being completely useless, the paragraph is also poorly written, not funny and boring.  Are we having fun yet?  Go ahead, take a minute and read it.  Roll around in it.  Really get the taste of modern journalism in your mouth.

Then finally, at page three, roughly a thousand words in, some information:
"So who is this … Roger Ailes, if he's not who he says he is — if he's not an average American? Well, the short answer is this: He is not only a man who has spent his entire life thinking of ways to win; he is a man who has spent his entire life winning. Nothing wrong with that, of course: America loves a winner. But let's be honest here: We're all average Americans. Does any of us win all the time? Of course not, or else we wouldn't be average. But Roger Ailes does. And so, Mr. Ailes, Esquire has a question, on behalf of other average Americans: What kind of man wins all the time? What kind of man gives his country, in roughly this order, Mike Douglas, Richard Nixon, Tom Snyder, Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America," the Willie Horton ad, the ad in which Michael Dukakis rides around in a tank and looks like a chipmunk, the presidency of George H. W. Bush, CNBC, Fox News (upstart-insurgent edition), Fox News (airwaves-of-the-empire edition), Fox News ("Obama sux" edition), and Fox News (Tea Party edition)? More pointedly, what kind of man figures out at age twenty-seven how to use television to legitimize Richard Nixon and then at age seventy to legitimize Sarah Palin?"  Word count: 214

Word count: 104.  This maybe should have been your first paragraph Mr. Junod, since no one really cares about whether or not Ailes is Old, or Ailes is Fat, or Ailes is a Luddite.  The article might be improving, particularly if Junod now describes for younger and less knowledgable audiences all of the names on that list.

Wait. You didn't know that it was Roger Ailes who gave us Richard Nixon? Well, he did. And, more important, Richard Nixon gave America Roger Ailes. Put it this way: When Richard Nixon met Roger Ailes in 1967, Nixon was still the sweaty, shifty-eyed, self-pitying, petulant, paranoid perpetual candidate whom Americans instinctively mistrusted. And Roger Ailes was still the prodigy who'd started with The Mike Douglas Show — the first nationally syndicated daytime television talk show — when he was right out of Ohio University and was executive producer by the time he was twenty-five. Roger Ailes was still a card-carrying member of the notoriously liberal entertainment industry, still a guy who liked to go to clubs and listen to "folksingers" such as José Feliciano and Buffy Sainte-Marie and then put them on television, so American housewives could have their consciousness raised and realize that they hated their husbands. And it was as entertainment that Roger Ailes booked Richard Nixon on The Mike Douglas Show, along with "Little Egypt," a burlesque star who raised more than consciousnesses ... and who made American husbands realize that they hated their wives. Well, as Mr. Ailes tells it, even admitted pornographers have some scruples, so instead of making Richard Nixon wait in the same greenroom as Little Egypt, he asked the candidate back to his office. "It's a shame a man has to use gimmicks like this to get elected," Mr. Nixon is supposed to have remarked to Mr. Ailes. "Television is not a gimmick, and if you think it is, you'll lose again," Mr. Ailes is supposed to have remarked to Mr. Nixon. And there the modern conservative movement — not the ideological entity but the telegenic one — was born.  Word count: 289

Ok, so I knew all that.  Although the bit on the Mike Douglas show was helpful.  That's fine, younger audiencies and all that.  Even so the 300 word paragraph has over a hundred words of pure drecht.  As my ex-boss says, "minus eight."  This paragraph might well have been chalk full of information about Nixon and Ailes.  Sadly, this only gets filed under Ailes and Nixon.  New facts:  Ailes was a TV a young, successful tv producer, who helped get Nixon elected.

"You see, when Richard met Roger, it was not just a meeting of men; it was a meeting of need. It was a meeting of what Roger Ailes calls "stuff." As in: "If Richard Nixon was alive today, he'd be on the couch with Oprah, talking about how he was poor, his brother died, his mother didn't love him, and his father beat the shit out of him. And everybody would say, Oh, poor guy, he's doing the best he can. See, every human being has stuff — stuff they have to carry around, stuff they have to deal with. And Richard Nixon had a lot of stuff. He did the best he could with it, but it got him in the end. Still, he did a lot of good things as president." Yes, Roger Ailes is instinctively alert to people's stuff — perhaps because he's as surprisingly empathetic as he is sensitive, and perhaps because it allows him an all-important sense of advantage. But is he aware of his own? He began working for Richard Nixon a few months after he met him on the show. He began working to get Richard Nixon elected "by television," as he says, instead of in spite of it. He disavows his political commitment to Nixon by saying that he never worked in the White House and was more interested in the political potential of TV than he was in politics itself — "I wasn't worried about the message. I was worried about the backlighting." And a year later Richard Nixon was still sweaty, still shifty-eyed, still petulant, still paranoid, and still instinctively mistrusted by most Americans. The only difference was that thanks to Roger Ailes, he was president." Word count 283.

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
Clearly, I liked this paragraph, Junod's wit is put to better use.  Even so, file it under Ailes got Nixon Elected, and "says" don't be a playa hata.  Which is, despite the quotations, a much more direct sentence at ten words running.  So far, this interview hasn't produced much.  Reading Nixonland would have told you more.  Go ahead, buy it. Perlstein's prose is jokey too, but it's so crammed with facts you can only read a page or two at a time.

"As for Mr. Ailes, he was free to pursue what he was really interested in: raw power. But it was a new kind of power, based on the insight that came to him through his own "stuff." Before the arrival of Roger Ailes, television was thought to be a unifying medium — the "electronic hearth." Mr. Ailes knew better. Mr. Ailes knew that it was the fire itself. Mr. Ailes knew that the television screen in each American home was nothing less than a battleground, and he who controlled it controlled America, no matter what the message. He didn't even have to be overtly political, because television was by definition a political medium. Roger Ailes could win ... if the idea of a unified America lost. He could win ... if his own subversive vision of America was realized. He could win ... if American life became an endless, entrenched, and above all electronic argument. And you know what?
He did win.
Did you hear that, Mr. Ailes?
You won.
We surrender.
We concede." Word count 173

Word count: -173.  Good Christ.  I concede too.  Just when this article was turning around, we get another massive, and massively stupid comedic break that is neither witty nor well-timed.  That entire paragraph needs to GO.  Just delete it.  Why?  Did Mr. Ailes say any of that?  Is there any evidence for it?  Sure there is, tons of it, reams of it, marijuana fields of it, so where is it?  I'm skipping the next paragraph too, over two hundred words from which we learn nothing.

"Okay, come to think of it, there was one time Roger Ailes lost. Of course, he was a good sport about it, no big deal, all's fair in love and war and the rarefied world of the media elites.
Just kidding.
No, Mr. Ailes wasn't a good loser. Was he the kid who loses and takes his marbles home? Well, not exactly. More like the kid who takes his marbles, sells them to Russian spies, then works with the Russian government to deliver a thermonuclear device straight to your house.

In this case, though, it wasn't the Russians who were interested in what Mr. Ailes was selling. It was the Australian oligarch Rupert Murdoch. Talk about stuff meeting stuff! On the one hand: the cunning antipodean entrepreneur who is to "global domination" as Tiger Woods is to "be sure to tip your waitress." On the other: Roger Ailes, who had just lost out to the very media elite he'd always despised and distrusted." Word count: 183
Sigh.  Another worthless two hundred words wasted.  Why do I care?  Because this is confusing.  Not only does it refuse to identify how he lost (Sarah Palin, we find out later) it also confuses the issue with Russians and nuclear weapons.  I get that Junod doesn't mean any of that claptrap, but if its a joke, its a bad one.

This post needs to go into round two.  Sorry about the formatting, Blogger is pretty bad with copy and paste specials

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