Certain of my family members are very into politics (and skepticism), so there is a steady diet of political non-fiction streaming into our house. I usually ignore these in favor of novels or more business-y or memoir-y non-fiction, but I was drawn in by the ‘behind the scenes in the Trump whitehouse’ promise of Stelter’s book.
Stelter is a journalist, formerly with the NYT and now with CNN, and has spent over 2 decades covering DC politics. Hoax traces the tightly interwoven rise of right wing cable tv (largely Fox, but also less maintstream outlets like One America News) and Donald Trump. Stelter’s time covering DC has given him a lot of sources within politics and within Fox, so the picture he paints feels realistic. He discusses a lot of the behind the scenes you would expect/ be looking for: how much sway a lot of the big media personalities have (Sean Hannity has a whole lot, others, especially the news side, has a lot less), the often rudderless direction, especially when the venture is thrown into crisis by the Trump/ Megyn Kelly war and the way that money, not deep belief, drives Fox. Through Stelter’s lens, Trump is framed as impulsive, attention-seeking, and insecure- looking to Fox for positive reinforcement at the same time as Fox is looking to Trump for ways to churn up more viewers/dollars. Very little of what Stelter writes about will come as any surprise to anyone who took even a passing interest in politics since Trump won the nomination in 2016 or who watched the 2019 film Bombshell, which covers some of the same events.
I’m not quite sure how to review a non-fiction politics ‘behind the scenes’ book. The writing was fine- its non-fiction, not a novel, so don’t expect flourishes or poetic language, but it was serviceable. The gossipy tone kept things moving, but often times it was moving in a direction you’d strongly suspected (the benefit and the curse of Twitter is that the world could see exactly what Trump was thinking when, so nailing down the linear thread of Fox show-Trump tweet-Fox news about Trump tweet is not exactly investigative journalism). I suppose I had my suspicions confirmed about both Fox and Trump? (Unless its confirmation bias that led to me to read Hoax in the first place…). All told, even though I wasn’t surprised by much in this book, I sure as heck was depressed.
This book was free (Free!) to me, for a cbr13bingo spot