Friday 21 July 2017

Radio: We need to talk about Donald...and talk and talk

Marian Finucane
Marian Finucane
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

A lot of people had a lot to say about Donald Trump lately. (Sorry: President Trump. Wow - it still feels surreal to be writing that…)

On Saturday with Claire Byrne (Radio 1, 1pm), Fianna Fáil TD Jim O'Callaghan talked about how Trump "has never been told no, in his personal or professional lives… of course he's going to have to moderate (his views), but there's no reason why we shouldn't continue to have good relations with America".

This newspaper's John Downing described Trump's inauguration speech as "disgraceful (and) boorish", with "nothing Presidential about it whatsoever". Consultant Eddie Molloy reckons the new Prez "insulted the whole political establishment in America".

The Marian Finucane Show (Radio 1, Sat 11am) shifted focus from talking heads over here, to hearing from people actually over there: Americans, or others who live there.

Among the former was one Christopher Nixon Cox - yes, a descendant of Richard - who said it was "a really wonderful day for America", and was surprisingly charming and playful. (Oh come on, charm and playfulness were never Tricky Dicky's strong points.)

Irishwoman Alice Butler-Short, founder of Virginia Women for Trump, eulogised this "historic moment". It was, she said, "incredible to witness and know we are on the right road again… this is a great country but we saw it going down the drain so fast".

Journalist Simon Carswell tempered all this pro-Donald enthusiasm when reporting on the mass protests in Washington DC. There was, he added, "a lot of anger in the city".

In the wake of Trump taking office, Newstalk Breakfast (Mon-Fri 7am) had a lively argument between TD Richard Boyd Barrett and columnist Victoria White. She had argued that the AAA-PBP lot here were essentially the same as Trump: both seem to have a disregard for, and want to bypass, the normal workings of representative democracy.

I think she's right, too (for what that's worth). It's all about easy solutions for both of them, simplistic slogans, "us versus them" antagonisms and "power to the people, man".

White won this head-to-head at her ease, to a large extent because Boyd Barrett - like many of his political class - seems neurologically incapable of speaking like an actual human being. It's all jargon and cliché and robotically intoned phrases, isn't it?

I'm not exaggerating, he began by droning: "I regret to say this article was scurrilous, inaccurate… an absolutely disgraceful slur…" It went on and on like this, all the predictable sloganeering: "campaign… worker's rights…women's rights… more taxes… public representatives… democracy… fight to the death… protests… organised… outrageous…"

You could almost imagine Molotov or some other automaton parroting this stuff at the 1931 Comintern. The sad thing is, the western world really does need a political alternative to the likes of Mr Donald. But a plausible one, made up of regular people, no?

On America Rewritten (BBC Radio 4, Sat 7pm), Robert McCrum spoke to a number of US authors about the transition from Obama to Trump. That fine crime writer Walter Mosley was one, popular-sociology superstar Malcolm Gladwell another.

Best of the lot was the great Lionel Shriver. I have no great interest in reading her novels - but her essays and interviews are brilliant, showing Shriver to be an intelligent, perceptive, mature and unflinching observer.

Here she spoke of a "sensation of the centre not holding… it's as if we have dived between the covers of a novel. (Trump has) broadened what is possible in both plot and character in political fiction - now anything is possible, anything seems plausible."

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