This book read like one Bond villain describing the machinations of another Bond villain with relish and glee.
I read the first and last of Michael Wolff’s Trump books coming away unimpressed. Wolff gets the hot gossip, such as it is, by being an unrepentant jock sniffer but that’s all these books are: gossip.
I never thought I’d read him again but as I’ve cast around for books on Rupert Murdoch in light of my love of the tv show Succession, this one kept coming up again and again. I finally grabbed it from the library, assuming that it would be the quick, breezy read that the Trump books were breezy reads.
I was wrong. In ways both good and not good.
Wolff writes admirably, if somewhat critically of Murdoch but he needs access so this is mostly a favorable portrait. Centering around Murdoch’s purchase of Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, the book goes deep into the life circumstances that make Murdoch Murdoch without revealing a lot of the man who keeps himself intentionally mysterious. We learn that he loves newspapers, carries grudges, has no shame, and doesn’t always make genius moves. But the ones he does make are indeed genius.
Wolff uses the sale as the spine to build the story, which he mostly does by offloading behind-the-scenes accounts of meetings, take overs, intrigues, etc. This weakens the book, making it less than the sum of its parts. Wolff is proud of the access he gets, swinging it around like a sword. But it doesn’t allow for much of a peak into Rupert Murdoch or his secret world. Instead, it just reveals the negotiations of old white (mostly) men who keep the world in their collective thrall.
Still, it’s an interesting look at the man who has helped to ruin the world through conservative propaganda packaged as working class male narrative.