On political pugilism

Further to yesterday’s Idlepost, and by way of reply to several correspondents, yes, the news is crazy-making. One could go mad if one were to take it seriously. I can remember myself, from some half-forgotten time when I was playing journalist, in some side-plot of an ill-constructed play, going perilously close to insane in response to the odd news “lede.” I would take my desk copy of Roget’s Thesaurus and hurl it against a wall. Almost always, it was Roget’s. I hated that book. Finally I dropped my battered copy in a public bin, with the Coke tins and candy wrappers. For that is where it belonged. Next, I turned on Fowler’s Modern English Usage.

I shall give an example from today’s newscasts, of the sort of thing that used to get me going. It is the “story” of Trump’s tweet against two low-information broadcasters, whom we shall call Joe and Mika. I think they are lovers, as well as co-hosts. What he said about Joe was rude, but Joe is a boy, and one may say anything one wants against boys. But he made a remark about Mika, too, which I found rather ungallant. Something about still bleeding from a facelift. Of course we must remember that all humour is in bad taste, but Churchill could do these things more elegantly.

Still, it wasn’t the tweet that turned my crank. It was instead the media response to it.

Twitter is anyway full of foul; and I first observed that Trump is exceptionally crass, long before he ran for public office. I have never expected better of him, and as we say, pessimists are never disappointed. Rather I’ve noticed that he uses his indecencies to clever effect. For he is intentionally driving his opponents crazy; counting on them always to take the bait. This works better for him than any other tactic. Take his Twitter account away, and the Democrats would soon have him cornered. Instead they stay too angry to land a telling punch.

Today, I just smile at the antinomian craftsmanship.

I used to like boxing, when I was a kid, including the first-round knockouts in which Trump specializes. Liston versus Patterson, 1962 and ’63. Clay versus Liston, ’64. In the latter case the media had predicted a one-round outcome, but said it would go the other way. Liston, whose manager had been a mob hit-man, learnt boxing in the Missouri State Penitentiary, and never played cat-and-mouse. Imagine his surprise when Cassius Clay connected. The young lad had sparkling reflexes, on very quick feet, and was secretly more ruthless than the evil-eyed thug who’d come the hard way from Arkansas. It was all in the stars Hillary Clinton was seeing the night of the big match. I meant, Sonny Liston, who thought so little of Clay, that he was drinking the night before Clay flattened him. For Clay combined arrogance with a devilish sense of humour — and “we all know” funny people are ineffectual.

What might have driven me crazy in the old days was not Trump’s tweet, but seeing it at the top of the BBC World News, and played for all it isn’t worth by the various other “commie” networks. Their humourless malice against Trump is like Liston’s against Clay: something they don’t bother to hide. But malice is not the same as ruthlessness. The ruthless strategize; the malicious merely lunge.

Why object? The media are playing right into Trump’s fist. I score another knock-out, and guess that in the murky subconscious of the American mind, poor Joe and Mika will be bleeding for the rest of their lives. Be kind to them, they’re finished.