The January 6 Report Is a Lot Less Readable Than the September 11 Report
As a general rule, I don’t tend to read a lot of government reports. They’re long, they’re dull, they’re full of footnotes, I’m too busy playing Uno on my phone … lots of reasons. But I read “The 9/11 Commission Report” cover to cover. The purposefully bland cover and deceptively pedantic subtitle “Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” give you the idea that the report is boring, but it is anything but. It’s organized and full of facts, sure, but it’s also riveting prose, a clear narrative that firmly establishes what led the attacks, what happened during the attacks and what we could do (and, one might say, did do) to help prevent further attacks in the future. I swear, when it came out, I read it in one sitting.
How riveting was “The 9/11 Commission Report?” They made both a movie and an outstanding (and best-selling) graphic novel out of it. You could sit down to read it right now and be drawn back into it, immediately.
I am sad to say that “The January 6 Report,” which was released in paperback this week, has no such thrills. There’s an excellent opening essay by The New Yorker’s David Remnick, and a mournful epilogue by Congressman Jamie Raskin, but the book itself is, alas, duller than dirt. Even if you are fascinated still by what happened on January 6 and what led to it — and I very much am — your eyes will get extremely heavy by Page 20. It’s a tough sit.
I think there’s three primary reasons for this:
- There is no signature authorial voice. The 9/11 Commission had a clear mission: Make people understand what happened. This was a success: The New York Times called the book “uncommonly lucid.” But “The January 6 Report” has no such overarching vision. It is the bureaucratically muddled read we all feared the 9/11 Commission report would be. It is, mostly, just a list of facts. Some of them are interesting — most of them are, even. But that is all they are. They needed to hire a writer, a real one, to tie them all together on a cohesive narrative. They have not done that. That might be because …
- The January 6 commission was in a hurry. Our politics…