The Fire and Fury We Forget

Niels Turley

The Fire and Fury We Forget

On August 8, 2017, President Donald Trump warned North Korea that they “best not
make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world
has never seen” (Wagner). This came as a response to the U.S. intelligence report that
Pyongyang had successfully created a miniaturized nuclear weapon that can be attached to
missiles, a big step in North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. President Trump’s
comments garnered both support and rejection; many applauded President Trump’s bold and
assertive response while others criticized President Trump’s lack of diplomacy. Ted Gup of The
Washington Post wrote an editorial responding to President Trump’s comments—but, rather than
slipping into partisan ranting, Gup poignantly confronts the devastation that can be caused by
“fire and fury” if one is not extremely cautious. Using powerful emotional appeals, effective
comparisons, and a politically controlled approach, Gup creates a rhetorical masterpiece to
remind his audience that nuclear powers must never be used as threats.
Gup’s uses beautifully tragic pathos throughout his article to show the devastation that
can be caused by nuclear weapons.

Gup begins his article with the deeply emotional story of
Shima Sonoda, a survivor of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Sonoda, who had just told her
daughter that she couldn’t have a can of tangerines set aside as an emergency ration, witnessed
the detonation of the most powerful bomb in history, incinerating almost everything and
everyone Sonoda knew. Shima Sonoda survived, buried beneath the rubble, but she never saw
her daughter again. Gup writes, “it was a day that she had almost never spoken of, though it was
a constant part of her…Each morning, even decades later, she would begin her day beside her
small Buddhist alter and consecrate a can of tangerines.” Sonoda’s story is pure tragedy—it is
impossible not to feel heartbroken for Sonoda’s loss. Gup’s audience, regardless of how they originally viewed President Trump’s comments, are forced to confront the harsh and destructive power of the “fire and fury” that President Trump callously threatened North Korea with.

Gup further builds this emotional argument by referencing the miserable orphanage “where
children…after the blast…[grew] up, spent their entire adulthoods within its narrow confines and
died, their bomb-induced keloids plainly visible, their deeper scars hidden away.” Gup’s
emotionally stirring descriptions leave their own scars upon readers, who themselves are shocked
and horrified that anyone would be willing to use something that destructive as a threat.
Although never explicitly partisan, Gup’s disapproval of President Trump can be seen in
the effective comparisons he sprinkles throughout his article. For example, Gup mentions that
President Trump speaking of “fire and fury” is “like some cartoon god of war.” This comparison
draws two important ideas together: first, President Trump is silly or childish in his actions, and
second, President Trump holds immense destructive power—a very dangerous combination.

Later in his article, Gup somberly notes that “some things are not to be used for rhetorical ends,
that they must, in the name of humanity, be placed beyond the gamesmanship of bullies.”
President Trump, Gup implies, is treating nuclear powers like a childish “game” between
bickering “bullies”—a horrifying and disturbing thought. Gup’s audience already knows the
devastation that can be caused by atomic bombs from Sonoda’s tragic story; placing that power
in the hands of a potentially volatile and ignorant leader is positively frightening. Gup even
compares physical distance to emotional detachment, mentioning that President Trump “said [his
threats] from the clubhouse of a Bedminster, N.J., golf course, a universe away from
Hiroshima’s skeletal dome.” Gup’s comparisons paint Donald Trump as an insensitive and
inexperienced man with his finger on the trigger of the most dangerous weapon “this world has
ever seen.”

However, it is essential to note that although Gup’s political stance is evident in his
article, it never devolves into political rambling or finger-pointing. There is not a single mention
of President Trump’s other controversial policies, actions, or tweets; Gup simply presents his
opinion on President Trump’s statement and nothing more. This is a great strength to Gup’s
argument: by only focusing on this single statement from President Trump, Gup shifts his
argument away from solely attacking President Trump to a broader criticism of using nuclear
weapons as threats. Many Trump-supporters, who originally would’ve been offended by Gup’s
confrontation, are instead asked to remember that “fire and fury” is destructive for all—
regardless of party affiliation. Both Gup’s purpose and ethos are strengthened by his controlled,
deliberate approach.

Gup’s article, The World Has Already Seen ‘Fire and Fury,’ is much more than a harsh
rebuke. Indeed, this paper does not do the article justice—the emotional poignancy, politically
meticulous approach, and thoughtful comparisons create an inexpressible work of rhetorical art.
However, Gup’s claim is clear: President Trump’s threat to show North Korea “fire and fury the
world has never before seen” was incredibly callous and disparagingly ignorant of the past. We
have seen that “fire and fury” before, and we know the devastation that it causes. Words may not
hold the same physical force that a bomb does, but they can still “[send] shock waves out across
the thinking world.”


Works Cited

Gup, Ted. “The World Has Already Seen ‘Fire and Fury’.” The Washington Post, 11 Aug. 2017,

Wagner, John, and Jenna Johnson. “Trump Vows North Korea Will Be Met with ‘Fire and Fury’
If Threats Continue.” The Washington Post, 8 Aug. 2017,

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