In the beginning of his 2004 book on the psychology of world leaders, political psychologist Jerrold M. Post explains his guiding question: When does the personality of the leader affect political behavior? According to Matthew Kalman and Matt Rees, the self-anointed (and self-published) maverick authors of the e-book Psychobibi (DeltaFourth, 2013) the answer is simple: always.
Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street (photo: flickr/10Downing Street)
Ever wonder why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to contradict himself, take steps that sabotage his own success, or behaves in a way guaranteed to earn the wrath of critical allies, mirth of the press, contempt of the public? For those unsolved enigmas that keep the people of Israel up at night – why is he married to a woman everyone loves to hate, what kind of cigars does he smoke and why was he happy to lose the Premiership in 1999 – Psychobibi has an answer. It’s Freud, stupid. Those cigars are not just cigars.
Enough about you, let’s talk about me(dia).
Before looking at what’s in the cigars, it’s worth considering the book itself as a sort of commentary-in-motion on the state of print media today. The authors attempt to strike out a new form of long form journalism – a bold endeavor in an age of the 140-character blippersphere. The e-book is essentially an extended lengthy magazine profile, sold on Amazon for $5.00. For those who don’t have time to read a biography, it’s an abridged answer. For those who want more than a magazine story, it’s richer. The same concept informed their previous endeavor, The Murder of Yasser Arafat.
The writing crosses a harlequin-novella with a stylized spy-novel idiom. The tale is narrated by the bizarre “DeltaFourth” personality, a seamless blend of both authors’ voices after covering Netanyahu over a span of roughly 15 years as journalists in the region. The storyteller that emerges is sufficiently seamless such that being personally acquainted with one of them, I assumed most of the “voice” was actually Matthew Kalman’s – who was Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Report briefly while I was a columnist there – but he assured me that the material and reporting is truly a fifty-fifty product. (The fact that neither of us are at the Report today and both of us invest our energies in new media inventions is further indication of the afflictions of traditional journalism; one big difference is that their invention is intended to make money.)
The book reads as if Kalman and co-author Matt Rees share the same alter-ego: a parody of an investigative-detective-spy team, who think in wry, self- or other-deprecating cracks. On being assaulted by Bibi’s desire to share a cigar-smoking session (at the risk of belaboring the cigar theme), they write: “Good God, he intends for us to smoke the thing. DeltaFourth’s lungs constrict at the mere thought. We must grit our teeth and think of journalism (which only makes us grit our teeth still more).”