Ruminations On “Fire And Fury”

I’m reading Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff — the tell-all from the journalist allowed way too much access to the White House in its first year — and it’s terrific. James Comey’s testimony to Congress last year was a desert of information by comparison. This gives me the rush I had when Wikileaks — for better or for worse — released the Afghanistan papers, and — regardless of what was there — regular citizens didn’t have to feel they could never look behind the curtain. That they could only ever guess, in X-Files fashion, how government really operated, unlike the way it portrayed itself. (Edward Snowden produced that effect with even greater intensity.)

I quoted a good passage for my FB friends early into my read, and then realized eventually that that had been a side-effect of almost every page being quotable. And while it may have the tone of black comedy, a bit of Hollywood Babylon, Fire and Fury is a story of end times. Of an apocalyptically-broken superpower, which you’re either sitting inside, literally, like me, or feeling the effect of somewhere else — possibly with much less ability to be stoic about it.

Corruption really has become so bad in US politics that you can have people in the highest positions of power, with no experience serving in politics, wandering through an almost-empty White House plotting against each other. Bannon, for instance, seeing our reversal on the Paris Agreement a personal victory against Ivanka and Jared, rather than the historically bad news it was to the future.

Jon Stewart, I think, was right when he once said to Rachel Maddow that we should judge politicians according to how corrupt they are, not what side they represent.

And while the book doesn’t cover events up to the present day, it’s having present-day effects. Steve Bannon has lost everything as a result of having been so chatty with the author. The President and White House are pretending Wolff was never there, that the book isn’t partially-incorrect, but actually a complete fabrication. Using the power of the Big Lie to reach a base not willing to read the book anyway.

But of course Michael Wolff was there, and undoubtedly he and his publisher made damn sure not to include any untruths — accidentally or otherwise. While there may be an easier road to publication for fringe books, Fire and Fury didn’t go around the editorial/publishing process. In the way that I distinguish between writers who self-publish and writers who “get published”, this book got published the old-fashioned way.