A $2 million book deal, number one on Amazon pre-sales, and column inches that would make Narcissus blush; John Bolton’s apparent exposé of his time in the Trump administration has rocked the media world like none other. We have endured tome after tome of partisan hit pieces posing as gritty journalism this last three years, but will the former national security advisor – not a man known for his artistic spirit – end up as the greatest showman of all?
As P.T. Barnum famously noted:
“Advertising is to a genuine article what manure is to land – it largely increases the product.”
And what better way of spreading the manure than to write a book that infuriates politicians of every stripe? Both Republicans and Democrats have reacted tempestuously to the first, newly released excerpts of The Room Where It Happened, and even President Trump has seen fit to label Bolton as “washed up” and a “liar.” With such a reception, there is little doubt that this book will put to shame the media hype (and sales) of similar volumes.
Teasing the Audience
Vetting of the book by the National Security Council provided more fuel to the pre-release sales by suggesting it contained information that was not only classified but also a threat to U.S. security. In what seems to be a perfectly-timed response, a lawyer for Bolton, Chuck Cooper, had a Wall Street Journal op-ed ready to go in which he claimed the NSC criticism was “a transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton.”
And thus, the pre-sales grew.
This book will doubtless become a rallying point for the multitude of anti-Trumpers desperate for their next fix. Whether the majority will actually read it or just rely on scathing headlines from a pump-and-dump media remains to be seen. Vitriol sells, and a book that denounces the president as a fool and a charlatan in the run-up to an all-important election may just push Bolton’s literary efforts out of the niche market and into the mainstream.
… has Bolton learned a new lesson that could increase sales exponentially?
This is not Bolton’s first rodeo. In 2010 he released a scathing indictment of former President Barack Obama titled How Barack Obama Is Endangering Our National Sovereignty. The reviews were polarizing, and the content aimed at those who were sure that Obama would spell the death knell of the nation. Naturally, it was a reasonable success. But has Bolton learned a new lesson that could increase sales exponentially?
If infuriating one side of the political divide can bring in sales, surely inciting both sides can generate double?
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) expressed resentment over Bolton holding out information that could have bolstered his party’s impeachment efforts, writing:
“When Bolton was asked, he refused, and said he’d sue if subpoenaed. Instead, he saved it for a book … Bolton may be an author, but he’s no patriot.”
And, of course, Republicans are just as mad that he paints their party leader as incompetent and corrupt.
A Fixed Perspective
The pre-release excerpts have done their duty. They have inflamed all and sundry to either agree with or rally against a book that they have not read. John Bolton will make a lot of money; he will be back in the good graces of the media machine, eager to dig deep into each accusation and assertion, and the show, as ever, will go on.
President Trump’s detractors will continue along their path; his supporters will continue along theirs. In these heady times of instant gratification and urgent need to vent one’s feelings through each available source with imminent haste, very few people will be persuaded to change their already fixed opinions. But John Bolton must continue to tease and to inflame, because as the original greatest showman once said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!”
Read more from Mark Angelides.