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Michael Wolff and the truth: a conflictive relationship

B with glasses, bald and wearing a gray suit, Fred Armisen was a convincing Michael Wolff in the last week Saturday Night Live . Appearing as a guest in a drill Morning Joe to discuss his book about the first days of the White House Trump, Fire and Fury Wolff of Armisen was pressured by the hosts about his veracity answer? "You read it, did not you? And you liked it? Have you had fun? Then, what's the problem? You have the essence, so shut up! Even the things that are not true, it's true."

It's a good sum not only the spirit with which it was written Fire and Fury but the spirit that has governed the career of Michael Wolff. As a gossip columnist, for six years, in the late 1990s, he wrote the weekly column "This Media Life" for New York – Wolf presented himself as an authoritative conduit among acquaintances. Who is who of the New York media moguls and their readers. Behind the scenes, however, his teammates knew he was reckless, willing to do anything to get the story and an indifference to proper journalism practices. He lacks an eye for the little things that can drastically change a story, as New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said, often "makes mistakes in basic details" and "creates a narrative that does is". . . conceptually true. "Too often, it allows the reader to decide for himself what to believe: do not write the truth, write for the reader's enjoyment.

Then, in 2004, Wolff exploded on the political journalism scene with a columnist position on Vanity Fair . In a profile of The New Republic Michelle Cottle labeled her new post as an unfortunate misplacement: her columns were "decidedly cold" and "disappointing", and her perspective policy "not exactly nuanced." While it is tolerated in the world of gossip, its penchant for the unethical – "has a reputation for ending embargoes and burning sources by posting unofficial comments in the record" – had no place In a position that required investigation and complied with the rules, maybe Cottle wondered, could Wolff grow in that?

It does not seem like he did it, right in the author's note of Fire and Fury Wolff says that although knows that some of the people he spoke to gave him accounts that were not true, he will let the reader decide what to believe. (According to his version, he does not seem to have learned what "unregistered" information is.) He thinks it means granting the anonymity of a source and citing them, for the rest of the world of journalism, it means the information is impossible to publish.) Ultimately , its central theme, that Donald Trump and his team were not prepared for his presidency, is the only part of the book that Wolff has enough confidence to defend himself. But what news is broken?

As expected, the book is also read as one of Wolff's gossip columns. Every few paragraphs, I instinctively lowered my head, as if I heard something whisper in my ear: "Trump and Melania do not sleep in the same bed". "Corey Lewandowski is having an affair." "The president is not mentally fit to serve, his advisors say." Reading the book on a Kindle showed me that other readers found this gossip the most remarkable. Amazon allows other Kindle users to see the most underlined segments, and every few pages, I found a juicy morsel of information that 3,000 readers had heard whispered in their ears as well.

Counting gossip as political reports might have seemed out of bounds in 2004, but today fits perfectly with our desperation for the filth of the "other side", without worrying too much about the annoying obstacles of "control of the facts" and "the true". Take the current debate about whether Trump will suffer a heart attack (it was Wolff's book that fueled questions about the president's physical and mental fitness). The White House doctor – not a remnant of Trump Tower, but the doctor of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama – endorsed the president's health, asked a mountain of questions during a press event this week, and still many in the media they decided to trust their personal observations. (My favorite is the conspiracy theory that Trump's doctor, by orders of the president, is lying about Trump's height). The assumption seems to be that because the doctor is not checking our beliefs, he is probably lying.

Because Wolff's book depends on the reader's addiction to information that supports his pre-existing beliefs about the president, it is difficult to know which parts of him can be to believe. What is real and what do we want to be real? If Wolff could not, or did not bother to solve, what hope do readers have? Reading Fire and Fury is groping in the dark, taking over familiar forms: Steve Bannon, is that you? Kellyanne Conway? Fox News? – in a desperate attempt to find the enlightenment that I was supposed to bring. Some things are obviously false, as has been pointed out: Donald Trump did not know who the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was? (They played golf together.) Chief of Staff John Kelly learned of his appointment through Twitter. (The Times reported that Trump and Kelly discussed it days before). But the other truths and lies are somewhere in between.

Wolff loves every minute.

Wolff loves every minute of that Trump calls Wolff a liar, Wolff calls Trump unfit to serve. Trump threatens a defamation lawsuit, Wolff's editor takes the book to a previous printing date. Trump says that Wolff did not speak with him, Wolff reveals that they spoke for three hours (which must be a record for the shortest time that the author of a story spoke on the subject). While most of He-said-she-said's arguments are resolved by determining who is telling the truth, the question is: "Who is lying the least?"

All this has not stopped the information from the book that is cited in the news articles. And now, Endeavor Content bought movie and television rights, and Wolff served as executive producer on a television show that will be announced soon.

But the media are not the only culprits here. As consumers, we do not seem particularly anxious to change our standards of where we get our information. While we are anxious to hear only what we want to believe, journalists like Wolff will continue to sell us.

– Philip H. DeVoe is a member of the Collegiate Network with National Review.

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