The Dossier is a 1984 novel where secrets about a major political figure are contained in a hidden dossier. Today there are reports that Trump’s secrets are tucked away in a dossier held by the Russians. The Dossier was written by Pierre Salinger and Leonard Gross. Pierre Salinger was well-versed in political intrigue, having been President Kennedy’s press secretary. The main character of The Dossier is Andre Kohl, the news chief of a U.S. T.V. network. Of course, Andre is a thinly disguised version of Salinger himself.
The Dossier explores the ethical dilemma faced by any American reporter who discovers information that might be damaging to Unites States interests. How do you weigh the responsibility to show the truth against the potential damage that revealing the truth might cause?
In The Dossier, the French are about to finally elect a President who is very pro-U.S. It seems like he will win by a landslide. He is handsome, well spoken and a war hero. During World War II he was the leader of a French Resistance group.
However, through his contacts in the intelligence community, Andre begins to hear rumors that there may be a dossier about the French political candidate. Supposedly the dossier contains proof that the candidate was no war hero. In fact, he was actually a Nazi collaborator.
There is a secret war going on to find this dossier. The Soviets want to find and publish it so as to keep a pro-American Frenchman from being elected. The CIA wants to find and destroy all evidence of the dossier. Andre wants the dossier for news purposes, but is not sure what he will do if he actually finds it. Throughout all this, no one is really sure if this mythical dossier really exists.
The parallels to the current situation in the United States are amazing. It is rumored that Russia has a dossier containing devastating information about President-elect Trump and are going to use it to blackmail Trump into favoring Russia in foreign policy. Trump and Russia deny the dossier’s existence. Reporters throughout the world are desperately trying to find the dossier.
The plot of The Dossier is interesting, although the writing is not particularly good. It has way too many detective novel cliches, and the love story wedged into it is not very romantic or believable.
From a modern perspective, there is also one major flaw in the plot. It is assumed that the dossier has to actually be found to destroy the career of the political candidate. If recent elections have shown us anything, it is that you do not actually need to have proof of anything to destroy someone’s reputation. You simply have to fuel a negative rumor.
The Soviets could have destroyed the candidate by simply going public with the allegations that the French candidate had been a Nazi collaborator. They then could have truthfully demonstrated that intelligence agencies and news organizations throughout Europe were looking for the dossier. Even if there was no dossier, the fact that everyone was looking for it would have wrecked the French politician’s career forever.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Dossier is that it demonstrates how much the press and politics have changed since 1984. Everyone in the book just assumes that the dossier had to be found and verified as real before anything could be revealed to the general public.
In today’s world, no one would wait to find actual proof before releasing a “story”. The days of proof and verification are long dead. Today the battles are fought with rumors, half-truths, and false news stories. If a real story happens to exist underneath, that is merely coincidence.
The Dossier is still worth reading for the story and more so for the historical perspective it brings to current events.