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Lies and facts in Wolff’s Fire and Fury

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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Copies of the book “Fire and Fury” by author Michael Wolff are displayed on a shelf at Book Passage on January 5, 2018 in Corte Madera, California. A controversial new book about the inner workings of the Trump administration hit bookstore shelves nearly a week earlier than anticipated after lawyers for Donald Trump issued a cease and desist letter to publisher Henry Holt & Co. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

I am neither a Trumper nor anti-Trumpist, a complete outsider to the Trump’s memoir. Dispassionately, it is easier to join the throng in the anti-Trumpism of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury as a rhapsody of anticipation than to take a painstaking and objective assessment of the book, Fire and Fury, for probable elucidation and justification of claims, which is an interest to a critic devoid of prejudice and scaffolds for ideological populism.

Much as Wolff has scores of points to tell the world about Donald Trump, I think there are extremisms in his journalistic scrimps and he drifts to pathetic fallacies as well as unverified journalistic thrusts based on the fact that Trump is a funny character and his personality complex and enigmatic.

Virtually, there is nothing new about the book that is not already in the public space except some rattling in Trump’s cage, which Wolff reveals.

Agreed, Trump has personality issues as well as crises, but this is a collective odd we all share from our primordial heritage as humans in varying degrees. So, Trump is not exempted. There are lies as well as facts combined by Michael Wolff to sustain his readers in Fire and Fury.

Firstly, to conclude that Trump knows nothing is a fact burned out of lies. I mean, to say he knows no Jack is a fact hard to explain/believe in the book. Much as Wolff tries to explain Trump’s ignorance of almost everything, the more he celebrates the cleverness of Trumpism. If we agree with Wolff that a dummy could make it to the White House then Wolf should be enlisted for a Presidential race. At least from his business, Trump was never sedated with his position in life hence his quest for more at all time.

Trump might have stopped reading but he has started working, practicing what he knows and the more you practice the better you learn. Trump is always upping the challenge to do more and hence has spent more time facing challenges and crises as well. We can regard Trump as the most challenged man and unpredictable of this time but his survival strategy is a school to learn.

Trump watches the best and most times makes the best out of them. Trump is a man always in a hurry— that is just Trump’s style. Wolff ended up supporting all these inert qualities of Trump in an attempt to say, “Trump knows no jack?”

Under the heading “Trump Tower,” Wolff says Trump appears and knows nothing, and that Trump cannot even read a balance sheet: “Trump, the businessman, could not even read a balance sheet….” That all Trump knows seems to be someone who learnt it an hour ago and ready to forget it sooner.

To cushion his argument, Wolff writes that Trump never wrote The Art of the Deal but his co-writer, Tony Schwartz did. Contrastively, Wolff latter argues that Piers Morgan, the British newspaperman said the “virtues” and “attractions” of Trump are all in the book—The Art of the Deal.

Here is one of his contrastive positions: “If you wanted to know Trump, just read the book. But Trump had not written The Art of the Deal.” What an irony! Also, in a similar response, he quotes Sam Numberg’s position about Trump’s intelligence, “Is Trump a good person, an intelligent person, a capable person? asked Nunberg, Trump’s longest political aid. “I don’t even know. But I know he’s a star.” Then the question is: “What is the difference between a star and a genius?” Wolff needs to respond.

Over Trump knowing no jack, Wolff’s Fire and Fury seems an attempt to lampoon and castigate in a bid to pull down but with the wrong attempt: it is a case where the critic contrastively makes the villain the hero and vice visa.

There is no doubt that Wolff scores some points against Trump. One of such points (facts) revealed by Wolff is “The coming about of the Jewish agenda in Trump’s White House”. This is an area Wolff records a plus and deserves ovation. The public had wanted to know as well as understand what informed Trump’s White House in the disputed territory of Jerusalem. Through the book we get to know that this is done through Jared Kushner, the son-in-law to Trump.

Kushner and his wife Ivanka control the White House to some extent and his link to the Jews shows a relentless interest in giving the Israeli State a long disputed territory. It was revealed that: “For Trump, giving Israel to Kushner was not only a test, it was a Jewish test: the president was singling him out for being Jewish, rewarding him for being Jewish, saddling him with an impossible hurdle for being Jewish— and, too, defaulting to… in the negotiating power of the Jews.”

Not only that, we are brought to the know that in the Trump’s White House there is a conflict between the Jews and non-Jews as observed by Henry Kissinger about the White House. After the release of this book, it is believed that Trump should see to this Jewiphobia.

In the book also, one of the facts Wolff reveals is that Trump is antiglobalist. However, is anything new about this fact? Several times, Trump has not only demonstrated it but voiced this as his philosophy: “America First”. His Presidential agenda is “America First”.

For his America First dream, he has broken the Paris Climate Pact that puts over 194 countries on the brink. He has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal. He has accused China of obfuscating the U.S. economy, “that China is a front in the new cold war,” calling Russia the bad guy, viewing North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as an bomb ready to explode.

These are some of the facts Wolff reveals in his book but these are already known and anyone close to the media, even outside the United States, can give more detailed account as well. These are issues already over-whipped and commonplace in the media.

In the same vein, Wolff steals a lot from the public cesspool. Much as taking materials from public septic tank is not wrong, personalising them as an investigative work might be misleading. About 60 per cent of what Wolff dredges up as his investigative effort are already lying in the public domain.

On Trump taking his friends’ wives to bed, which is a tough thing to do is not supported by any investigative examples—they are mare talk going around in the public, which the author merely downloads into the book.

Steve Bannon’s failed marriages, he being cash trapped, an alcoholic, the megalomaniac posture and puzzles of Jared and Ivanka, Trump’s older brother, Fredd dying as a gay and drunk, getting rid of Comey from FBI, Jeff Session’s interrogation in the House, Melania being a model and her nude pictures, Michael Flynn’s conversation with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, the tax returns, moving U.S. embassy to Jerusalem are just much of details that average Yankees know and may not need to read Wolff to assess them from the public cesspool.

Nonetheless, one of the facts to the success of Fire and Fury is that it provides inside details to Trump’s personality. For example, having three screens in his White House bedroom and often picking quarrels with “White House helps,” being a self-styled president who gives official information casually, he posits: “The next day, as though to further emphasise and delight in both the insult and his personal impunity, the president met with Russian bigwigs in the Oval Office, including Russia Ambassador Kislyak…. To the Russian he said: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” The personality of Trump is highly x-rayed from the author’s psychoanalytic lens. However, some of these personality interpretations are presented as facts.

Much as Fire and Fury is a great attempt of a fearless writer. Many of the persons involved may have their relationships redefined based on the expose provided by Wolf. Except if Trump will be human enough to let this book remain a subject of fiction as well as criticism necessitating realignments. But this book shouldn’t have been published now except Wolf is ready to give us part two or three before/after the end of Trump’s White House.

• Taofeek, who lectures at Mountain Top University, was former PRO, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA National).

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