Manil Suri
Novelist, math professor

Manil Suri

Author of "The Death of Vishnu" and "The Age of Shiva," and mathematics professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Active in mathematics outreach efforts geared towards children and adults.


Culture and Personality

Question: Not everyone at Fox News is celebrating the success of the cable channel's fastest rising and most controversial star. Is internal sniping inevitable when someone in an organization suddenly attracts attention or wins acclaim? How much criticism or jealousy from colleagues typically accompanies success?

Answer: Whether people snipe or don't snipe depends primarily on two factors: institutional culture and individual personalities.

First, institutional culture. An organization like Fox News, whose reputation depends on the pugnacity of its newscasters, might find it most useful to create an internal atmosphere that keeps everyone hungry and competitive. In such a case, sniping should be seen not only as inevitable, but also, perhaps, a sign of success of institutional goals - after all, won't the snipers be called upon to display even greater aggressiveness when dealing with news targets?

Of course, not every organization tries to foster pugnacity. The question then becomes whether it operates as a zero-sum game. Are there only a limited number of opportunities available for advancement? (For instance if such chances arise only when a position opens up higher in the hierarchy?) In this case, one employee's win translates to another's loss. Any success that comes at the expense of someone else increases the possibility that someone will gripe.

Not all organizations are zero-sum. As an example, most U.S. universities do not a priori fix the number of tenure or promotion cases to be approved per year. Candidates (generally) rise or fall based on their own efforts, and the culture (at least in my personal twenty-five year experience) is quite genteel and supportive, and congratulatory towards success. In contrast, as a novelist, I'm definitely playing a zero-sum game with other writers (since only so many readers will buy books, and only so many books will be awarded prizes). I've certainly seen much more sniping activity in this field (especially in the UK) - the potshots writers take against each other (often in print) are quite legendary, not to mention entertaining.

Finally, individual personalities play a big role as well - it depends on how well the successful person treats his (or her) colleagues. Is he humble about success, or has he stepped over toes to attain it? Naturally, it also depends on the colleagues - someone with a strong sense of professionalism might simply refuse to give in to the temptation to snipe even when genuinely wronged. Conversely, we all probably have at least one co-worker who regularly finds reasons to feel slighted even from the most harmless interactions and is unfailingly vociferous about it.

By Manil Suri  |  March 20, 2010; 9:42 AM ET  | Category:  sniping Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Roger Ailies(sp) said it is all about ratings.

All about Style
FOX the Substance

Posted by: Issa1 | March 21, 2010 11:31 PM
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No matter what you people say, I still believe Jeff Beck is one of the finest guitar players ever.


You say you were talking about Glenn Beck? Who's he? Never heard of him...

Posted by: roblimo | March 21, 2010 3:23 PM
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How was the poll conducted? Was it a crappy internet poll? Do you realize according to AOL internet polls... John McCain should have won 49 of 50 states?

Polls in general are unreliable, and internet polls are even worse. The exact same internet poll at will have completely different results than it would at, as different people log on to each of these networks.

Although the far right most definitely love Glenn Beck more than they do O'Reilly or Hannity, Fox News is quite honestly the most trust name in news. I hate to admit that, but it is clearly true.

That means that Fox has to appeal not just to the far right that go to the website you're speaking of, but to the people in the middle. That means the Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Mormons that he just offended with his campaign against social justice.

So making Glenn Beck the face of Fox News solidifies backing from a a group of people who were already tuning into Fox News and have no where else to turn anyways, it also endangers their ability to appeal to a larger audience, and to continue to be the news network that waiting rooms around the country are tuned into.

How do you think O'Reilly feels about all the advertisers he has lost because the advertisers don't want to be associated even indirectly with Glenn Beck? That's advertising money Fox News is losing, which in turn results in less money that Fox news is willing to pay Bill.

The whole premise of a free market is about supply and demand. The "supply" of advertising spots on Fox News has not changed, but the "demand" for those spots has been seriously hurt by Glenn Beck, as fewer companies are willing to pay for them despite Fox's increased viewership. The result is less revenue, which is bad for everyone at the company including Glenn Beck.

Posted by: apissedant | March 21, 2010 1:54 PM
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The mush given here for Beck's enemies inside FOX is typical namby-pamby analyzing. The real reasons that apply to Fox or to any other large organization is inter-mural jealousy..

Beck's success is exactly what provokes the retaliation from those that see their positions in danger by a newcomer.

The site at
just recently finish a POLL (results can still be viewed) in which a selection needed to be made among all 4 Fox stars - O'Reilly, Hannity, Greta, and Beck - for only 3 prime time slots, and the winner be surprised!

Posted by: JohnGalt9 | March 21, 2010 11:15 AM
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