It might seem difficult to judge the accuracy of this book – not personally having had a job at the White House. Most of what I read, however, I was already aware of from watching the news. The book just gave background information to what we already know. I watched an interview this evening where a White House advisor claimed the book should be seen as a fantasy story. This statement is patently absurd, because most of it is simply common knowledge.
So, the picture portrayed rings true. The account is also generally well written give or take the odd typo or rough sentence – I too have been guilty of sending off a submission with public misspelt as pubic. Dialogue is well used at crucial moments to draw the reader in. Much as I loath his divisive politics, at least Steve Bannon is good for dialogue.
Beyond these details, the book touches on wider issues of human leadership. After all, it seems that the Trump government represents a throwback to a style of leadership based on faith rather than facts. As anthropologist Olga Soffer has said of the rise of religious leadership:
“Sacred information is the easiest to control, because it can’t be checked.”
Trump hates facts and has no respect for expertise. He says “trust me” and a certain percentage of people seem to do that, no matter what the facts might say. A quasi religious approach is well documented in Fire and Fury – in images of Trump sitting happily on thrones in Saudi Arabia for example. Trump, in the words of White House official Katie Walsh is “inspirational not operational”. Inspirational in this context is not a compliment, but an accusation of practical incompetence and reversion to decision making based on primal instincts, such as irrational fear of outsiders.
The book might be a little short on analysis as it careers through page after page of mind-boggling chaos – but there is an old rule that showing is better than telling. Fire and Fury shows that while the old style of leadership relying on blind faith might have charming echoes in, for example, a well-behaved constitutional monarchy, it becomes terrifying when applied to the government of a complex, technological society like the United States. Fire and Fury shows a government not fit for purpose both in its leader and in the anachronistic manner of its leadership.