Michiko Kakutani is not a fan of Roger Ailes: Off Camera, Zev Chafets’ new biography of the Fox News chairman which comes out today.
“The overall book, however, reads like a long, soft-focus, poorly edited magazine article. For the most part Mr. Chafets serves as little more than a plastic funnel for Mr. Ailes’s observations — much as he did for Rush Limbaugh in his 2010 book Rush Limbaugh: Army of One,” the Times book critic writes. “Although Mr. Chafets supplies a tiny bit of context here and there, he doesn’t ask his subject many tough questions about Fox News’s incestuous relationship with the Republican Party, its role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarized society or the consequences of its often tabloidy blurring of the lines between news and entertainment.”
Even worse than a poorly edited magazine article whose author serves as a plastic funnel and fails to ask hard questions? We’ve already heard these stories.
“What’s more, much of the material that Mr. Chafets provides about the Fox News chairman’s past will be familiar from Mr. Ailes’s own book, and from newspaper and magazine articles over the years,” Ms. Kakutani writes. Although Ms. Kakutani charges that Mr. Chafets recycles anecdotes, he fails to properly address some of the less positive charges against Fox News like the lack of diversity in viewership, the predominece of blondes and the effect of the channel’s conservative slant on the “national conversation.”
The book is one of two biographies coming out this spring. Gabriel Sherman’s book pubs in late May, something that Ms. Kakutani notes is thought to be no coincidence.
Although Ms. Kakutani’s literary influence is legendary, it’s hard to imagine that anybody who wants to read a mostly positive biography of the Fox News chairman cares what the Times thinks. For those who care, Mr. Sherman’s book will be out in a two months, and, we assume, so will the corresponding Times review.