One Sad Thing About Ailes’ Death


Now that Roger Ailes has gone to the great place where all are equal (i.e.: nowhere) we’ll have a few days of people trying to burnish his reputation on the way out. The valkyries will not come to take him to valhalla, though.

They won’t be coming for Ailes

Then, a month or two from now, the drip will start and it’ll drip for about a year.

The drip will be the “Renfields” – not valkyries – the submissive enabler servants, who have finally realized that their lord and master cannot hurt or reward them anymore, so it’s finally safe to dish a great big shovelful of dirt.

Where will it start? We don’t know. Maybe it’ll be a former business partner who comes clean about vast fortunes that were buried away. Or maybe it’ll be an abuse victim. Or, worse, someone who pimped for him. Remember Cosby’s Renfield, Frank Scotti, who came clean after he turned 90 and the jig was already up for Cosby?

“I felt like a pimp,” Scotti, 90, told Kate Snow in an interview that aired on TODAY Monday. “Every time he had somebody I had to watch, I had the girl stay there. I felt dirty.”[today]

(That’s Frank Scotti) I bet you did, Frank. But … money…

Tom Waits killed it (and ate it!) as Renfield in Coppola’s Dracula

I’m fascinated by the “don’t speak ill of the dead” mindset. Admittedly, the best time to speak ill of someone is while they are alive, to their face: maybe they’ll cry. The second best time is when they’re dead.

It seems to be me that christianity is partly to blame for society’s attitude: they seem to think there’s a ghost of someone hanging around, or maybe if they’re down in hell they’ll hear you dishing on them and scream a little harder. That doesn’t make any sense, either – if there’s a god and a heaven and hell, then whether we tell the truth about them before or after they are dead is completely irrelevant.

And then there are the dishonest ones, who know deep in their hearts that there is no heaven or hell, and do whatever the heck they can get away with while they are alive, still pretending that they’ll be forgiven and it’ll all be OK. Then, once they’re old and the finish-line is coming into sight, they suddenly rediscover honesty. What blows my mind is that they are not utterly reviled for doing so – for example: Warren Buffet, age 86, finally realizes that he’s got tremendous tax advantages and maybe it’s uncool that his secretary pays more in taxes than he does. Really, Warren? Why don’t you write a fat check to the IRS going back 50 years, then? No, it’s “the finish line is in sight so I don’t care anymore.”  Shorter form: “hahahaha! I got mine!”

There are other cases of “finish line syndrome” that are more egregious and disgusting than Buffet, of course. There always are. Perhaps you remember the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 – a brutal and vicious killing that helped spark the civil rights revolution in the US – it turns out that, with the finish line in sight, the woman who got Till killed decided to admit she lied. Carolyn Bryant, whose lie caused a bunch of racist white assholes to torture-murder a beautiful 14-year-old boy, waited until she was 72 to admit that it was all a story: 50 years. [vf]  Or, you can watch Fog Of War [wikipedia] and see brilliant Robert MacNamara, still sharp as a fragment of artillery shell, recalling in comfort all of the choices of the Vietnam War but never, not once, uttering the words “I was wrong.”

My dad’s told me that it’s part of growing older. As the people around you start dropping, some of them get busy polishing their halos. Then he said, the time to do that is when you’re making your decisions.

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I hit a deer at 70mph last year, and it got me thinking a bit about my own death. So I did ponder “what will people say?”  My feeling is that it’ll be net neutral. There’ll be some people who think I was a real asshole (and: fuck them!) and a few who may say something like that I saved their lives. I’m trying to leave as little a footprint behind me as possible – my view of history is that the “great men” are mostly great fuckups: Churchill, Bonaparte, Hitler, Bush, Obama, Nixon, Temujin – we remember them not because their deeds were particularly clear one way or another. I wish I had the skills of a Michaelangelo or a Caravaggio (but I don’t) because perhaps art works like they left are one place where you can leave a legacy that is nearly pure. Like a great guitar solo, or a scientific discovery. But nothing is completely free of context, or it’s also free from being interesting. I suppose if I could really have a wish it’d be to leave a legacy like some of the great Japanese sword-makers: a thing of perfect beauty and functionality that is morally neutral yet desirable for its own sake. But I’m actually OK not leaving a legacy like that.

If you’re dealing with a completely ruthless tyrant, then definitely wait to speak ill of them until after they’re dead. You shouldn’t ruin your life to give them the pleasure of crushing yours. Although, Charlotte Cordray’s approach is another one: make them dead then say your piece about them. It worked for Marcus Brutus!

Comments

  1. says

    Caine@#2:
    It didn’t happen sooner?

    I’m sad that he didn’t get subjected to these mountains of abuse while he was alive. I wish Taibbi had written his obituary when Ailes was alive to read it.

    That gives me an idea. Maybe it’s time to write obituaries for people before they die, so they have a chance of seeing how thier legacy was interpreted by others.

  2. says

    I hit a deer at 70mph last year, and it got me thinking a bit about my own death. So I did ponder “what will people say?” My feeling is that it’ll be net neutral.

    A thing I try not to think about much. I fully expect to be cremated in a city incinerator, with no funeral because why hold a ceremony nobody – not even an enemy, not even an officiant – would attend?

  3. Brian English says

    I thought Obituaries where written before someone croaked. Then a few lines at the end to bring it up to date, and click ‘publish!’ Voila!

  4. Brian English says

    I’m working on ‘He was a crotchety ol’ curmugeon even when he was young, and he was from a crap vintage, didn’t age well!’

  5. anat says

    There was a guy who wanted to hear his own obituaries. His name was Dahn Ben-Amotz. He had a going away party for himself to which he gathered his many friends as well as his official biographer, Amnon Dankner. During that party he said some things that got said biographer digging more deeply. A few months later Ben-Amotz died, and some 2 years after that Dankner published the biography, in which it was revealed that Ben-Amotz had been a serial child-rapist (and that his ex-wife smuggled their kids out of the country before he had the chance to rape his daughter as he had been planning to do). For a short while there was a lot of talk in the media, the police investigated Ben-Amotz’s neighbors and friends (no idea what became of that), and then quiet. No more quotes of his one-liners, no more going on about how he was the embodiment of the mythical sabra. I have no idea if his book sales have recovered since then, but at least for several years he was erased from public memory.

    So even if you arrange to hear your own obituaries, if you have skeletons in your closet there might be a new round of those you won’t get to know.

  6. says

    Brian English@#6:
    I thought Obituaries where written before someone croaked. Then a few lines at the end to bring it up to date, and click ‘publish!’ Voila!

    There was a great interview I heard on some podcast or other, with the woman who writes obituaries… No, they’re mostly written at the moment, with some research…
    Ah:
    npr
    It’s worth the listen.

    The magazine’s obituary for Hunter S. Thompson, who committed suicide, begins: “There were always way too many guns around at Hunter S. Thompson’s farm.”

  7. says

    Brian English@#7:
    I’m working on ‘He was a crotchety ol’ curmugeon even when he was young, and he was from a crap vintage, didn’t age well!’

    Like some character in a Kafka story, he tried to live life backward.
    So he started out a crotchety old curmudgeon. And stayed there.
    Unlike a fine wine, he started vinegary and never aged to mellowness.

    Something like that?

  8. says

    abbeycadabara@#5:
    I fully expect to be cremated in a city incinerator, with no funeral because why hold a ceremony nobody – not even an enemy, not even an officiant – would attend?

    I’m sure there’s an app for getting mourners.

    I don’t feel like I can promise to attend anyone’s funeral, since most of the people I talk to now are likely to outlive me.

  9. says

    anat@#8:
    Holy shit, that sounds like something out of a movie.

    Sounds like he saw the finish line coming. I remember reading a review of a book that’s coming soon written by a woman who was in an abusive relationship from age 13 to 24, with a much older man. She finally decided to tell her story after he killed himself. In the context of some of the stories in this posting: after he was safely across the finish line, then she decided to tell the story. I am probably not going to read it because I don’t like feeling like I’m being manipulated by my morbid curiosity.

  10. kestrel says

    Yeah, I don’t get that “don’t speak ill of the dead” thing, as if they were still alive somehow and could hear you or something. Hey, if you don’t want people to say bad things about you that are true, don’t do bad things, is how I look at it. They might NOT wait until you’re dead, so if you’re that sensitive, don’t do those bad things.

    We had an NPD family member who died (finally) and everyone got upset if we told the truth about this person. Well, it was well and truly earned. And what about the victims? Are they supposed to pretend like they have no scars? Our NPD spent a lifetime abusing and harming others. The victims should be allowed to say whatever they want about that person without everyone else trying to shut them down.

  11. kestrel says

    Oh, and sorry to hear you hit a deer, and glad you didn’t die. Hope the vehicle is OK…

  12. says

    kestrel@#13:
    We had an NPD family member who died (finally) and everyone got upset if we told the truth about this person. Well, it was well and truly earned. And what about the victims? Are they supposed to pretend like they have no scars?

    “L’enfer, c’est les autres” for sure. I can imagine someone might spend a lifetime trying to “keep it together” and then feel conflicted when the person dies and suddenly they’re confronted with the reality of the situation once they can no longer do anything about it. I can’t imagine how stressful that sort of thing could be. Ugh.

    kestrel@#14:
    Oh, and sorry to hear you hit a deer, and glad you didn’t die. Hope the vehicle is OK…

    The deer actually managed to rip the bumper of a Toyota Tundra with its little empty head. There’s a young guy in auto school up the street I gave what was left of the truck to. He put a lot of sweat into it, and all new front end body panels and most of the suspension, and now he has a pretty nice truck.
    It was a pretty sobering experience: I hadn’t realized how much damage 70# of meat and bone can do at that speed. I’m glad there aren’t moose out here.

  13. cvoinescu says

    That gives me an idea. Maybe it’s time to write obituaries for people before they die, so they have a chance of seeing how thier legacy was interpreted by others.

    That worked wonderfully on Alfred Nobel.

  14. Brian English says

    No, they’re mostly written at the moment, with some research…

    Mmmm…..

    It’s no secret that the BBC has several hundred obituaries for TV, radio and its website ready and waiting to be broadcast on the person’s death.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-obituaries-writer-a-matter-of-life-and-death-8895052.html

    Like some character in a Kafka story, he tried to live life backward.
    So he started out a crotchety old curmudgeon. And stayed there.
    Unlike a fine wine, he started vinegary and never aged to mellowness.

    Something like that?

    Yeah, but I’m not worthy of such prose!

  15. Pierce R. Butler says

    … if I could really have a wish it’d be to leave a legacy like some of the great Japanese sword-makers…

    Soap-makers’ legacies rarely endure for long (and you probably don’t want to challenge Himmler’s stooges’ record, even if you get a chance to melt down Ailes et alia).

  16. springa73 says

    The way I’ve always heard “don’t speak ill of the dead” explained is is that it is wrong to verbally attack someone when they can no longer defend themselves. Of course, that would imply that you should never speak ill of a person except to their face, or in a forum where they are sure to learn about it.

  17. Brian English says

    It’s interesting that’s there another saying ‘all we owe the dead is the truth’ which counters ‘don’t speak ill of the dead’. Sort of like the bible, always a bit you can pick to suit what you were going to do anyway.

    A sad thing about Ailes’ death is it’s overshadowed Chris Cornell’s death.

  18. says

    springa73@#19:
    The way I’ve always heard “don’t speak ill of the dead” explained is is that it is wrong to verbally attack someone when they can no longer defend themselves.

    Maybe we can have an escape clause: if they would have had you hounded or tortured for speaking ill of them when they could defend yourself, then it’s OK to dance on their grave.
    Ailes wasn’t very fond of having speak ill of him while he was alive, and he made his unhappiness known.

  19. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#18:
    Soap-makers’ legacies rarely endure for long

    I said “sword”
    I agree with Lao Tze that weapons are unfortunate instruments, but some of the finer ones are major works of art and have been respected and cherished for centuries. As a software engineer (and soap-maker) I know that everything I do is gone pretty fast. I won’t even leave a lingering smell.

  20. komarov says

    Re: Marcus Ranum (#22):

    As a software engineer (and soap-maker) I know that everything I do is gone pretty fast. I won’t even leave a lingering smell.

    Well, you never know. You might, if you haven’t already, produce a few lines of code at some point that find their way into the core of future true AI – whatever that is – and stick. Decades from now people might still be working with “Ranum’s Algorithm for AI” because they can’t replace it. Or, maybe, “Ranum’s Folly” because you didn’t get it quiiite right. You might, however indirectly, have a hand in the downfall of civilisation, which some people would be strangely proud of. Long odds, admittedly.

    The valkyries will not come to take him to valhalla, though.

    This leaves me hopeful that valkyries have better harrassment policies at work than most. All hail Odin, God of Human Resources and Professional Conduct. Also wisdom, but oh well.

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