The thing about TV miniseries is they can seldom pack in all the information you want to know. And even if you’ve read The Loudest Voice in the Room, the Gabriel Sherman book on which Showtime’s new Roger Ailes-focused miniseries is based, you’ll likely come away wanting to know more: What was it really like to work at Fox News during Ailes’ reign? How did we get to this point in history? Did Richard Nixon have anything to do with this?
Fortunately for you inquisitive folks, EW has assembled a list of books for you to further indulge your curiosity. They aren’t all directly related to Roger Ailes or Fox News or even Donald Trump, but all of them have something to do with the themes and concerns of The Loudest Voice: the rise of conservative media; how our current, cacophonous political and media landscapes developed; and how the modern conservative movement was shaped. Read on for eight books that make perfect, if not always obvious, companion pieces to The Loudest Voice.
Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Media Wizard
Fox News was the brainchild of two men. One, of course, was Ailes, who led the network from its inception until his 2016 ouster. The other, who tasked Ailes with building a 24-hour news channel, was Rupert Murdoch, head of the (pre-Disney) News Corp/Fox media empire. In this 2001 tome, journalist Neil Chenoweth chronicles how Murdoch built that empire, digging with excruciating detail into the mogul’s ruthless business practices and aggressive expansion tactics. (For instance: While trying to expand his business in China, Murdoch forced News Corp-owned HarperCollins to drop a book by the last British governor of Hong Kong.) It’s a timely tale of kingdom-scale conglomerates and ever-more-consolidated media brands.
In 1967, a young Roger Ailes met Richard Nixon on the set of The Mike Douglas Show. A year later, Ailes was working for the Nixon campaign as an “executive producer for television,” helping refashion the infamously stilted candidate and propel him to triumph. Of course, there was more at work behind Nixon’s victory. Nixonland surveys the many Americans reeling from the 1960s’ cultural upheaval, racial tensions, and political violence. Over nearly 900 riveting pages, author Rick Perlstein details how Nixon exploited fear, bigotry, and paranoia to win the presidency twice, and in the process solidified the ideological divisions we live with today. Upon the book’s release, some critics were unconvinced, noting the chaotic ’60s bore less resemblance to contemporary America than Perlstein claimed. Eight years later, Roger Ailes helped another man, with similar promises to restore “law and order” in the U.S., ascend to the Oval Office. Nixonland just might offer some insight into how and why that happened.
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
The Loudest Voice chronicles the rise of Fox News over 20 years, as Ailes shepherded it from upstart channel to full-fledged juggernaut, not just in its ratings (it was America’s most-watched cable channel in 2018) but its influence. Like it or not, the network is a major player in our modern political discourse, and its sway in the Trump White House is well-documented. But it’s hardly the only force at work in modern politics, and Dark Money examines one with even greater influence.
In this eye-opening book, New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer untangles the network of lobbyists, think tanks, and fundraisers who have helped shape conservative politics and policies in recent decades. Mainly focused on the Koch brothers, Dark Money details their efforts to push their anti-regulation, anti-taxes, anti-environmental philosophy into mainstream politics and, thus, legislation. It’s hardly a spoiler to say those efforts have been successful.
The Fifth Risk
After departing Fox News in 2016 amid multiple harassment allegations, Ailes joined the Trump campaign in an advisory role. His political experience didn’t make much of a difference, it seems. In The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball and The Big Short) documents the chaos, to put it mildly, of Team Trump’s takeover. Through his reporting, a portrait emerges of a woefully unprepared and willfully ignorant administration, leaving key roles unfilled and filling others with people openly hostile to the departments they were appointed to lead. Lewis relates all this with a sharp, dark sense of humor (“It will make an excellent ruin,” he says of the building containing the Department of Energy) and emphasizes the very real danger in a government that doesn’t know how the government works. If The Loudest Voice chronicles what Roger Ailes built, The Fifth Risk (reportedly set to be adapted for Netflix by the Obamas, no less) is reveals what he has wrought.
An Atheist in the FOXhole
The Loudest Voice is a portrait of Fox News from the very top, but this rollicking memoir provides the view from the ground. In 2004, Joe Muto was a staunch liberal who took a job at the notoriously conservative network, eventually working his way up to associate producer on The O’Reilly Factor, then one of Fox’s flagship shows. (Host Bill O’Reilly was fired in 2017, also amid allegations of harassment, which he denies.) The book culminates with Muto’s 2012 departure from the network, in spectacular fashion: He became the “Fox Mole” for Gawker, leaking inside information to the gossip blog for all of two days before getting caught. Along the way, Atheist provides a heap of anecdotes about Fox News and such figures as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck (who gets a dedicated chapter entitled “Rhymes with ‘Cat Bit Hazy'”). It’s nothing particularly explosive, but it’s an amusing ride with self-deprecating humor aplenty, and a compulsively readable account of Fox News’ day-to-day workings.
Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics
“Conservative media” is more or less synonymous with “Fox News” these days, but its history stretches further back than many people realize. Nicole Hemmer’s Messengers of the Right tells the story of conservative media’s “little-known first generation,” with a focus on three figures: broadcaster Clarence Manion (whose talk radio show was a forerunner of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck), book publisher Henry Regnery, and National Review publisher William Rusher. Hemmer’s well-researched, witty book follows these men shaking up the media landscape and shrewdly using their platforms to grow the conservative movement and influence national politics. You could almost call Messengers a prequel to The Loudest Voice; the parallels to our current age are that striking.
Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News
Once upon a time, there was a thing called radio that entertained Americans nationwide. And once upon a time, Orson Welles, the impresario who would go on to make Citizen Kane, used it to mount an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. That legendary 1938 broadcast caused an infamous mass panic, sending millions of people scrambling in terror, convinced the country had been invaded.
Or did it? As further research revealed decades later, contemporary reports of that “mass panic” highly exaggerated the public’s reaction. In Broadcast Hysteria, A. Brad Schwartz investigates not just the veracity of those hyperbolic reports, but why they were so hyperbolic, as well as the ongoing history of truth and fakery in the media. This book, of course, isn’t strictly related to Roger Ailes or Fox News. But it spins a compelling, highly entertaining yarn about how and why people manipulate information (something Ailes knew about) and serves as a cautionary tale for our current moment.
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
This book is a bit of an outlier, but it reads in hindsight like a vital exploration of so-called “Trump’s America.” (The book was published in 2013.) Since 2016, a raft of thinkpieces and profiles have emerged on the “forgotten” people who bought into Trump’s brand of nostalgic populism. But George Packer got there first. In The Unwinding, the author weaves the true, twisty tales of a former factory worker, a biodiesel entrepreneur, impoverished residents of Tampa, and a disillusioned political operative together with profiles of Elizabeth Warren, Jay-Z, Oprah, and others. He also intersperses “newsreels,” text collages of headlines, song lyrics, and slogans to conjure the mood of a particular time. In its way, The Unwinding explains our current political environment as much as Nixonland or Dark Money: it’s a portrait of an America coming unglued, a country primed for someone to come along with a promise to make it great again.