Indexes in the News

Ah, the power of thorough indexing. The story continues.

Last week I shared how Mike Allen of Axios published part of the lengthy index entry for Steve Bannon from Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

This week, Philip Bump, in Determining the power centers of Trump’s White House — by appearances in ‘Fire and Fury’ used the book’s index to measure apparent power in the current U.S. presidential administration:

Wolff’s book does provide us with an interesting bit of data, allowing us to get a sense of where the balance of power lies within the administration. How? Thanks to the book’s index, which lists every appearance by every person, organization and subject within its 300-plus pages. (Mark/Mike Berman is on page 78.)

There are, in fact, more than 500 terms outlined in the index of the book, several of which have a number of subtopics broken out separately. “Donald Trump,” for example, is mentioned in a number of contexts on most of the book’s pages — and the subtopic of “staff doubts about” the president is mentioned on seven pages alone.

Tallying up all of those page-mentions (as we’ve dubbed them), Trump himself is the most commonly mentioned subject in the book. About half of the things and people mentioned only appear once.

He goes on, delightfully so for us book nerds, to provide graphic analysis and measures of mentions in the index.

Nonetheless, Wolff’s index does provide an approximate overview of the importance of people and issues within the Trump administration (as filtered through Bannon and the author). So “Russia” is the fourth-most-prominent subject; “Middle East” is in 29th. Stephen Miller is tied for 58th; Anthony Scaramucci is 36th. (Sebastian Gorka, who took to the Hill to huffily explain why you should ignore Wolff’s book, is mentioned only once.)

If you are a denizen of the White House, you may be curious where you stand in relation to your colleagues. Well, good news. We took the index and tallied up the number of pages on which each listed subject is mentioned, allowing us to rank the importance of each within the “Fire and Fury” universe.

Do you work on the Hill? Plug your name into his hand-dandy search box and find out how important you are, at least according to Wolff, and as reflected in his latest book’s index.

For those skeptical that this tabulation actually reflects importance within the White House, I present in defense of that thesis the number of mentions of each Trump child.

  • Ivanka, 122 page-mentions
  • Donald Jr., 18
  • Eric, 4
  • Barron, 1
  • Tiffany, 0

Argue against that as indicative at your peril.

Still doubt the importance of a quality book index?

Argue against that at your own peril.

Whatever you may think about the quality or style of the index in Fire and Fury (a few too many commas for my taste, for example), the index in Fire and Fury reflects its book so well that national journalists are relying on it as they cover current U.S. politics.

The Washington Post and Axios show us that quality journalism is not dead, indeed. Nor is quality indexing dead, I’m proud to say. May it keep on truckin’.

(No, I did not write the index to Fire and Fury. Nor do I know who did. I have my suspicions, though.)

Happy indexing,