‘Fire and Fury’ mix-up goes viral for U of T's Randall Hansen

Photo of  Randall Hansen
U of T Professor Randall Hansen has been getting a lot of media attention due to confusion over the title of his 2009 book.

Randall Hansen is having a busy week.

The interim director of the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs has been thrust into the media spotlight after discovering and tweeting about how sales of his book Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-45 is getting a boost from people who accidentally bought it instead of Michael Wolff's sold-out, tell-all book about the Trump presidency, also called Fire and Fury.

Momentum from international media interested in interviewing Hansen shows no signs of slowing down.

When U of T News interviewed him on Thursday, he had seven other interviews scheduled for the day, including news outlets in Ottawa, Washington D.C, Ireland, Sweden and the BBC World Service in the U.K.

“Everything else is suffering, above all, email,” says Hansen.

The media attention is great news for the political science professor whose 2008 book is receiving renewed publicity – and, according to his publisher, no returns just yet.

Read more about the Fire and Fury confusion in The Guardian

Read more in Time magazine

Watch a Randall Hansen interview on CBC

So what is it about this epic mix-up that’s resonating with people all over the world? Hansen has a few ideas.

“People might be picking up on the irony to which I referred to in my tweet about a firm opponent of Trump benefiting from him and from Bannon,” he says.

But he owes the bulk of the interest to Twitter.

“The Twittersphere is keeping this alive,” Hansen says. “The tweet is still very active, getting all sorts of likes and comments and forwards.”

For readers who find Hansen’s book in their mailbox, he says it holds lessons that apply to the Trump presidency, particularly to the president’s threats of “fire and fury” against North Korea.

“The book covers the horrors of war and above all the horrors of war for a civilian population and we have a situation in which this president all too easily threatens war and indeed through his erratic behaviour is arguably bringing people closer to the war,” he says.

Read coverage at the South China Morning Post

Read more at the New York Times

Hansen’s book also comes with a warning about engaging in military conflict.

“As we saw most recently and most horribly in the case of Iraq, it can take turns that no one predicted and of which the consequences are really quite awful,” he says.

While Hansen has said he finds the Fire and Fury book mix-up amusing, he admits he’s made a similar mistake before.

“Once I was at a bookstore and I meant to buy a book by the British author Alan Bennett and I bought something by another Bennett – a fiction author right next to it on the shelf. I simply reached for the wrong book,” he says. “I didn't read it but I didn't return it either – it's still on my shelf.”

For accidental fans of Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-45 who want to read more by the author, Hansen’s most recent book, Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Operation Valkyrie,  is also available online.

He’s currently working on his next book, Hitler's Provinces, examining four European cities under German occupation.



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