Journalist Michael Wolff unveils the character behind the caricature in his book Fire and Fury, revealing deception far beyond president Trump’s hacked hairdo. Fire and Fury has since reached inevitable success, selling over 60,000 printed copies in the UK in January 2017 and reaching number one in New York Times bestseller list. With Wolff’s likening of the notorious Russian cover-up and the duplicity of Watergate, his expose promises an account of political chaos. Unfortunately, the book often ventures into comedic realm, opting to tackle issues of personality over policy.
Fire and Fury not only paints the picture of a spiteful ‘two-year-old’ toddler wielding the media with tweets of ‘fake news’, but also simultaneously hones in on harm behind viewing him as just that – a babbling idiot, unaware of his actions. Yet despite this, Wollf’s most popular lines surround the topic around his idiocy and sensational personality, once again seeing trump as a figure to laugh at rather than challenge. Wolff notes, “everybody around him was an idiot.” This kind of rhetoric, albeit an amusing satire, loses sight of the man behind the supercilious mask.With this best seller, accounts exposing the uses and abuses of power have never been more prevalent.
Other political fictions, such as Masha Gessen’s courageous bibliography of Vladimir Putin The Man Without a Face, pictures the emotionless Russian super-villain. As a journalist living in Moscow, Gassen has experienced his reign of terror first hand, from his beginnings as a low-profile KGB spy to one of the most influential presidential figures of our time.Books like Fire and Fury and The Man Without a Face, recognise the trend in mainstream media of our ‘love to hate’ attitude towards political villains. In opposition to this, Gassen takes the more hazardous style. She makes a strong case for not only Putin’s blind eye to embezzlement, but also sees him as an integral part of this process. The brave journalist details early stages of personal corruption, mysterious missing food imports as well as disappearing money from the Germans, an estimated $92 million. From this early on, Gessen credits the embezzlement of state funds directly to the millionaire Putin. Fire and Fury and The man Without a Face reveal and consolidate what we think we already know. However, Wolff’s account massively trumps Gessen in the sales department. It seems whatever side of the spectrum you are on – personality really does sell.
On the opposite side to the stoic ‘faceless’ Putin, critic Thomas Mallon takes us through the life one of the most sensationalized figures in presidential history in his Finale: A Novel of The Reagan Years. Mallon takes the book in all sorts of directions, from the success of the Reykjavik summit with Gorbachev, effectively dissolving the cold war, to the disastrous involvement in the Iran-Contra affair.
Despite all these books’ attempts to expose elements of economic and political corruption, they seem to heavily rely on the satirical caricatures that make these figures infamous. Satirical depictions of a mechanical Melania Trump on Election Day alongside the explosive personality of ‘The Gipper’, Ronald Reagan, seem too on the nose and hardly trans-formative to pass as political critique. Catering to modern society, the loud-mouthed, unfiltered white noise that is Trump’s daily speech wreaks havoc on what is really important. The popularity of wolff’s populist biography attempts to delve deeper into the policies behind the personality, yet instead only reverberates what we already know.
Featured Image: Refuge Fascism, Flickr