“Fire and Fury”: the political reporter in the corridors of power

Photo: Carolyn Kaster Associated Press
In his book on Donald Trump, the journalist Michael Wolff tells all kinds of anecdotes about the president.

The american journalist Michael Wolff, who has just published the firebrand Fire and Fury on behind the scenes of the White House, describes his work as that of a fly on the wall : it observes, sees and notes everything, without being noticed. It is this same metaphor of the fly that it would be used, with Donald Trump asking for his permission to document the daily life of the first year of his mandate.


The journalist Alec Castonguay, a specialist in acclaimed portraits of the inner world of politics in québec, offers another in describing himself instead as a chair in the meeting. In fact, it shows an expression that has been assigned to his first major report of its kind for the magazine The news about the birth of the Coalition avenir Québec (In the belly of the QCA, April 2012).


“It is the counsellor Patrick Lebel, who is no longer the QSL, that I had that nickname because I was always sitting in a corner of the meeting rooms, where I observed the leadership of the party, taking notes for hours,” said the colleague Castonguay, a former of Duty, now head of the political bureau of The news where he has published many other works of anthropologist of the tribe policy.


“I have sometimes spent weeks, even months in the entourage of a head, for some articles, for example, to follow the campaign to the leadership of Philippe Couillard, to tell the story of how he has prevailed, says Mr. Castonguay. It is a québec-wide scale, this is not the White House, but it is the work behind the scenes. This work, like the book by Wolff, to me, would seem to lead to something important in giving a grid of analysis on how does the entourage of a chief or the chief himself, how everyone makes decisions, what values drive it, what strategies he chooses. “


Know thyself


Michael Wolff claims to have interviewed 200 people for his book. Is it political journalism so far ? “Yes” replies Alec Castonguay. It is a political journalism which is practiced fairly commonly in the United States and in some european countries. Almost inevitably, when there is a change of government, after an election campaign, a book that follows is based on a bunch of information. “


The documentary of the television or the cinema, which is necessarily less discreet as a fly, is more rare, but it exists. The film At the height of a man, Jean-Claude Labrecque, on the campaign of Bernard Landry is a notable exception and remarkable. The recent campaign of Emmanuel Macron has spawned no less than four documentaries of the genre in the past year.


“The books and stories about the scenes seem to feed a thirst for authenticity that one feels in the journalists and for members of the public,” says Hugo Lavallée, a correspondent for Radio-Canada at the national Assembly. Today, everything is so formatted, planned. As soon as one believes to have access to what is happening on the other side of the curtain, we think we can measure what the men and women in politics are really in the belly, their values, their passions, their reflexes policies. “


Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House reveals that Donald Trump swallows burgers at Mcdonald’s in his bed in the evening while watching political broadcasts on several television screens. Is it essential to judge the most powerful man in the world ?


“It would be wrong to reduce this kind of journalism to a curiosity misplaced,” says Mr. Lavallée, without comment on this specific detail. Holder of a phd in political science called The reporter as a theorist (2014) on the political theories say profane actuated in their work by the journalists of the industry, it is incumbent on the importance of information in democracy.


“The voters do not vote according to the promises of the candidates. The personality of the candidates is one of these important factors, their ability to respond under pressure, for example. The voters take into account these characteristics in making their choices. “


“Tabloïdisation “


In any case, the public asks for more. The test of Wolff dominates the lists of best-sellers. It would take libraries to collect everything that has been said and written about it.


Is this not rather a symptom of the evil which gangrene democracy in America ? This passion for the feelings and the anecdotes, this outburst in the speech on the game rather than the political issues…


“This is what I regret the most as a political scientist, comments on the professor of political science Karine Prémont, from the University of Sherbrooke. It’s not this book : it opens up to CNN, we go to just about any media and speaks of the president, his behavior, his aptitudes and characteristics, but during this time, we do not look at what is happening in Congress and we do not go to the heart of the draft law. While we’re talking about all this circus, we do not examine the real issues. “


The neologism “tabloïdisation” describes the process far by which the political journalism adopts more or less the practices sensationalist tabloids. Frédérick Bastien, université de Sherbrooke, prefers to talk of customization and observes this trend is massively at work in the comments redundant in the media.


“The journalism of the customization insists on the people who make the policy, rather than on ideas, and institutions,” he said. There is an interest, obviously, to the public for this approach, which can be done very rigorously, but which can also be done at the gap of journalistic standards. “


When The Duty was contacted for an interview on journalism policy behind the scenes, the professor Frédérick Bastien believed instead that the application concerned the speech of the megastar Oprah Winfrey at the gala of the Golden Globes on Sunday. A rumor persistently wants that the facilitator and actress billionaire launches in the presidential race, the u.s. in 2020, a bit like Donald Trump, genius balanced self-proclaimed, has taken advantage of the reputation gained in the media and reality tv, in particular, to engage in the race to the White House now full of fire and fury, according to a certain fly.


“On the bottom, it is the same phenomenon of nesting of the politics and media, said the professor, specialist in political communication. Of the people who have accumulated a significant amount of symbolic capital in the field of entertainment can transfer to politics, and seem to be qualified to take the power. And the thesis that some spheres of journalism, entertainment coloniseraient the political journalism is fairly widespread… “