‘You really drank the Kool-Aid’

What price political journalism?
by
November 2020, no. 426
Buy this book
Gideon Haigh reviews 'Rage' by Bob Woodward

Rage

by Bob Woodward

Simon & Schuster, $39.95 hb, 452 pp

Buy this book

‘You really drank the Kool-Aid’

What price political journalism?
by
November 2020, no. 426

Tom Lehrer famously believed that Henry Kissinger’s Nobel Prize for Peace rendered satire impossible. Has Donald Trump’s presidency made the same true of political journalism?

This may sound counterintuitive. After all, Trump has been a boon for news outlets and book publishing, as well as for social media. Bob Woodward’s Rage sold 600,000 copies in its first week. And that the dean of White House scribes herein abandons his trademark disinterest and pronounces authoritatively that ‘Trump is the wrong man for the job’ has been treated as news in itself. Yet so what? In the four years that Trump has acted as America’s id, journalists have repeatedly demonstrated that he is cruel, mendacious, vain, venal, and colossally ignorant – confirming more or less what anyone could tell after listening to Trump for five minutes. Yet for all that stupendous effort, they have hardly shifted the dial by a degree, any more than seven million cases of Covid-19 and 200,000 deaths have. Rage, sadly, hints why.

Gideon Haigh reviews 'Rage' by Bob Woodward

Rage

by Bob Woodward

Simon & Schuster, $39.95 hb, 452 pp

From the New Issue

Comments (2)

  • Gideon Haigh's review of Bob Woodward's book gestures at the complex basis of the tribalism in the United States but overreaches when it claims that the Trump phenomenon has made 'political journalism impossible' (whatever that might look like?). It makes for an interesting talking point from which to suspend the review, but if anything Trumpism encourages a more thoroughly analytical approach to understanding our political allegiances and their relationship (or lack thereof) to our values and the conduct of our leaders. Indeed, Haigh appears to be making the case for this view himself, as his most substantive criticism is that Woodward has failed to analyse the moment in context.
    Posted by Patrick Hockey
    11 November 2020
  • I have been searching for some incisive analysis of the contemporary moment in the age of Donald Trump and I have finally happened upon it here. Gideon Haigh nails phenomena I've been unable to parse. Bob Woodward "keeps straining to interpret Trump by the light of previous presidents'. That's what it is, and not limited to commentary on the Trump "Administration". The same could be said about the UK Tories and Brexit. This is why so much analysis seems to function as obfuscation.

    "But finding that facts here have no purchase...", says Haigh, "Woodward is reduced to pointless imprecations." This practice is what I have repeatedly witnessed in political commentary and it is very helpful to have it named and explained so well. We haven't been here before, certainly not in my lifetime. We need to name and explain things in order to begin to develop a response. Thank you, ABR and Gideon Haigh.
    Posted by Kate Hegarty
    05 October 2020

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