Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Michael Wolff and Hunter S. Thompson

I just finished reading Michael Tomasky's review of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury in the New York Review of Books. This paragraph struck me:

However, there is one sense in which he doesn’t play by the usual rules. Wolff doesn’t do “fairness.” He comes to his conclusions, and he lets you know them. He doesn’t tell the other side. No New York Times or Washington Post reporter could have written this book. They follow rules that demand more “balance,” rules under which they might have been more likely to get all the small things absolutely right but would have diluted the larger truth. And so, free from that stricture of straight news reporting, Fire and Fury has performed a great public service: it has forced mainstream Washington to confront and discuss the core issue of this presidency, which is the president’s fitness for office.

Compare this to Hunter S. Thompson's remarks when Richard Nixon died in 1994:

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism--which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place ... You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

In Thompson's case, this wasn't clear hindsight; his book on the 1972 campaign matches Tomasky's description quite well. And seven years before that, he told Angus Cameron, "Facts are lies when they're added up." Compare that to Tomasky on getting "all the small things absolutely right" and diluting the larger truth.

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