Washington Post Recommends Scoop

In a feature length op-ed article in the Washington Post (“Dystopian Fiction is Big Now”), Christopher Scalia makes Waugh’s Scoop recommended reading. He begins by describing the unexpected (and probably unintended) result of Donald Trump’s election as having made reading great again, citing the best seller status bestowed on such classic dystopian novels as Orwell’s 1984, Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale.

Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, believes that Scoop has equal relevance for today’s readers. He cites fake news (Wenlock Jakes) and the herd instincts habits of the press corps (they all leave town on a false trail leaving the inexperienced Boot to scoop them when a story breaks).  These themes have been mentioned in several other recent articles arguing Scoop’s relevance to today’s news. Scalia also cites another facet of Scoop which others have overlooked:

…the novel’s depiction of an insular, gullible and sometime dishonest press will strike a chord with many readers in the Age of Trump — or in the Age of the Anti-Trump Media. For one thing, the novel’s London press is detached from life outside of the city. The view Boot’s editor has of rural life reads like a parody of the American press corps’ unfamiliarity with rural America: “His knowledge of rural life was meagre. … there was something unEnglish and not quite right about ‘the country’, with its solitude and self-sufficiency, its bloody recreations, its darkness and silence and sudden, inexplicable noises; the kind of place where you never knew from one minute to the next that you might not be tossed by a bull or pitch-forked by a yokel or rolled over and broken up by a pack of hounds.”

He compares Salter’s detachment from rural reality as well as the Fleet Street papers’ uniformity of content with that of the current US press corps who knew so little of the country beyond its urban coastlines that they failed to see Trump coming. The article concludes:

To be sure, were he still alive, Waugh would not be wearing a red MAGA cap with his tweed coat. Always skeptical of America and modernity, Waugh may have seen Trump as the greatest emblem of what’s wrong with both…Nevertheless, “Scoop” accurately captures why so many Americans distrust the press and its power. As Hitchens put it, “Scoop endures because it is a novel of pitiless realism; the mirror of satire held up to catch the Caliban of the press corps.” The reflection is familiar today.

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