Worst Book of the Year 2022

is Maggie Haberman’s: Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America. Because it, this book, is representative of what has broken America. It is the descent of Journalism and Media into a confabulation of confirmation bias and rationalization, “humble bragging”, gaslighting, and all other manner of self-serving distortions and delusion. Or as Consent Factory has accurately described it, a “limited hangout” reveal.

In essence, this book, justifies what Molly Ball described in Time magazine (FEB.15/22, 2021) as a “shadow campaign” to “fortify” the election of 2020. That campaign was really a way to assure victory for Joe Biden. Moreover, to assure Donald Trump was defeated. Using the COVID scare as cover, the rules were changed. That changed the voting electorate. Was it illegal? No. Was it corrupt? Yes. The election was rigged.

Using rule changes and typical politics, i.e. lies and false promises. Biden’s victory was money in the bank (for the elites, which Trump’s reelection was a threat to.) Further evidence is the ongoing release of “The Twitter Files“, which reveal still another side (but not all) of the shadow campaign.

The Book

is poorly written. It appears to be a scholarly work (there are 507 end notes) giving the impression that the content is well sourced. Well, sort of. Most of the notes refer to other opinion articles that are based on speculation, assumptions, and hearsay. Furthermore, all have an anti-Trump slant. Where there ought to be a source regarding a quote there is nothing. [See the conversation (?)/actions of/with Biden’s chief of staff, Marc Short, regarding the events of January 6, 2021 (p. 478-83).]

The book fails if we judge it by the six elements of a story: Title, Plot, Characterization, Voice, Setting, and Themes. What Haberman did was to defend a false narrative that she and her employers (The New York Times and CNN) endorsed. As well as the near whole of the Media and elite class.

Remember, 360 Newspapers endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. Only eleven endorsed Trump. All these “smart”, educated, elite thought leaders couldn’t be wrong. Haberman’s book is the final proof. The 2020 election would be the evidence that they were right.

The Title

is twisted. Donald Trump is not a “confidence man” – he’s a confident man. Moreover, America was broken, or coming apart, for the last 60 years, beginning in the Sixties. What Haberman does get correct in the title is: “the making of Donald Trump”. That’s the best part of the story. She does a good job of piecing together Trump’s formative years.

However, she’s an awful analyst, or psychiatrist, as she humble brags. Trump says, “I love being with her, she’s like my psychiatrist.” (p.507) This is classic humble bragging. Haberman is not in any way qualified to deduce anything about how and why a person becomes who they are. In fact, she’s got it all wrong. But, her’s is the agreed upon narrative.

The Plot

is Donald Trump is an insecure, fragile, incompetent fool who lied and lucked his way into wealth, fame, and eventually the presidency. How do we know this? Because Haberman explains and tells us it’s so. But, she does this by selective reporting – telling just the parts of the story that fit the narrative.  More specifically, she empathizes Trump’s faults, or weaknesses, and minimizes his strengths and achievements. To the point that the reader is overwhelmed by the negative anecdotes. This is classic confirmation bias.

Characterization 

is so bad. Unless you’re writing a bad novel. (Which, btw, Maggie wanted to be – a fiction writer.) Supposedly, this is an accurate story of who Donald Trump is. However, Haberman doesn’t interview those people who know him best, and love him. His children, his wife, his body guard, Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks and Corey Lewandowski. The characterization is that of a stereotypical, self-obsessed, greedy asshole.

Voice

or style, is how the writer tells the story. This is also bad. There is no flow. The story jumps around regarding when, who, what, and why. It’s piecemeal. Again, that’s done in service of the narrative. Consequently, it’s hard to follow. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people introduced and then reintroduced – as if there is no timeline. There is no chronology to the story.

What would have been useful is an organizational chart / diagram of the White House staff, with dates and notations if they were “Never Trumpers” or loyalists. In addition, when writing about Trump’s formative years, a genogram (useful in family and personality assessment) would have added credibility.

Genograms are used in assessing the dynamics of family roles and personality across generations.
Trump family genogram

In the above genogram I’ve highlighted Donald Trump. Beginning with his grandparents, but not including his marriages and children. In the long box above Donald and his siblings, I’ve given a role to each of them. Donald is the middle child, the “tough one”.

[The “middle child” is not necessarily/always the “tough one”. Roles in family dynamics are not fixed with regard to birth order. The point is roles do exist and children do take on a role that “works” for them. See Spare, for the most recent evidence.]

Haberman is clueless regarding the psychological assessment of personality. That is evident in her writing style and voice. And yet … “This is the Book Trump Fears Most.” – Axios. Ha! They know nothing.

What this is, is the descent of Journalism and Media into propaganda for self-serving purpose, power, and institutional profit.

The Setting 

shows again the flaws of Haberman’s writing. Mostly she reports from the east coast. Specifically, Trump Tower, the White House, and Mar-a-Lago. She asserts the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas is “on the Las Vegas Strip.” (p. 191) It’s not. I went there and rented a room. (See Election 2016p. 214-17.)

The setting for the “making of Donald Trump” was certainly New York city: Queens, Brooklyn and then Manhattan. However, the campaign of 2016 was across all America. Haberman was born in Manhattan and went to work as a journalist for the New York Post, the Daily News, and then Politico (HQ in northern Virginia) before landing at the Times. It’s safe to say her whole life has been spent living in a bubble. Furthermore, her father got her her start in the business. He working for the Post. The book’s setting then shifts to the White House and Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

This is another instance of Haberman reporting on things (America and American voters) she doesn’t have any knowledge or experience of.

The Theme

of this book is Donald Trump was, and is, unfit to be president of the United States. If not explicitly tasked with that by her employers, it was certainly implicit. If Haberman had written anything other than that – she’d lose her job. Also, no doubt, all her friends and colleagues, her respect and reputation. An additional theme is that Trump is responsible for “breaking America.” That’s this book in a nutshell. The proof is in the 500 pages of text.

[It’s hardly a coincidence that this book was published and released just ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.]

Taken as a whole, however, it’s apparent that what emerges is evidence of the descent of Journalism and Media into a self-centered, destructive force that is now, and will continue, to break America into pieces..

In Conclusion-

I read this book three times, and took notes as I did.

I began reading this book shortly after its release. I read it three times over two months times. I crossed referenced it with my own observations and the book I wrote. The perspectives are quite different.
My notes as I read and reread

I cross referenced what I read of events with my own observations and notes. Moreover, what I wrote in my book! You can see some of the differences in the above shot.

My perspective is quite different from Haberman’s. It’s a much wider one, guided by my formal education, and practical experience in psychology, anthropology, and social work. As well as my travels across America during the campaign. I saw Trump and the events described remarkably different. In addition, I see Haberman as exhibiting many of the traits and tendencies she attributes to Trump. They are her’s also. That said, it’s not uncommon for people to do such. In fact, it’s typical.

However, professional journalists aren’t supposed to do that. They’re supposed to be objective and simply report. As is the news media. Neither of those institutions fulfilled their duty to the American public. They both failed. This book is proof.

At the end in Haberman’s own words:

“But at last, no matter how hard he tried, there was nothing to catch him–no father, no banks, no politicians or judges or customers or voters or his own salesmanship or his power of positive thinking. He had fallen to the ground, at least for a time.”

Wow! The tell is the words “at last”. They got him (they think) this time for sure.

[Two stars. No wait … make that minus two stars (-2); and designation of Worst Book of 2022.]

3 thoughts on “Worst Book of the Year 2022

  1. Journalism was once a noble, if somewhat despised (“ink-stained wretches” being a common descriptive), profession. I majored in journalism at Colorado State and received a Masters in Journalism from UCLA. Above all else, we were trained to hone in on facts (5 W’s) and leave our personal views (never use the pronoun ‘I’) and subjectivity on the editorial page. Sadly, nearly every current article I read violates those standards. Maybe the blame lies with Hunter Thompson, whose “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail,” serialized in Rolling Stone Magazine, was such a shocking divergence from the “AP Stylebook” that it influenced a whole new genre of political writing. What was once unique and flamboyant has now become ugly and commonplace, endeavoring to serve a cause rather than present truth to the reader. The Fourth Estate is tragically in shambles.

    1. I agree. HST created “Gonzo journalism” and ever since writers have been trying to be “the next Hunter Thompson”. He had a big influence on me, for sure. However, the corruption of journalism and media is more than that. It’s about money and power. And CONTROL. And access to power. ~

      I don’t know how to fix it, or if it CAN be fixed. Everyone is desperate – desperate for validation and significance – to matter. To be somebody. And for sure – money matters. And also status. and BEING RIGHT, is huge. And who’s to say? The Paper of Record – the New York Times. ~

      Recall our accounts of the Trump rally in Grand Junction. (Recorded in my book.) And the “official” account by the esteemed journalist in THE NEW YORKER magazine? What a farce. And it’s destroying the country. I think it starts in school with the teaching of children. But before that there’s the parents. And at the end the media and the politicians. Professional liars. … and the money, sex, and power. What a mess.

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