Wednesday 18 September 2019

An absorbing insight from Trump's 'rude and terrible' enemy


Donald Trump clashes with Jim Acosta (Evan Vucci/AP)
Donald Trump clashes with Jim Acosta (Evan Vucci/AP)
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Ordinarily I would run screaming from most things about Donald Trump, US politics in general and the whole media circus surrounding him, but I found myself listening to Ryan Tubridy's (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 9am) interview with Jim Acosta and, for whatever reason, didn't switch off.

It helps that Acosta, CNN's chief White House correspondent, is a genial and articulate chap - despite Trump notoriously labelling him "rude and terrible". (Ryan reminded us; Acosta took it in good humour.)

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More than this, the journalist - and new book, The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America - has important things to say about the way things have gone in the US, specifically on press freedom.

Tubridy mentioned that sales of George Orwell's 1984 went "through the roof in recent years". Personally I wouldn't agree that Trump, annoying and capricious as he undoubtedly is, stands quite up there with Big Brother in terms of dictatorship.

But he's certainly made very worrying noises about, and assaults on, the press. Most surreal, as recounted by Acosta, is Trump's replacing of the standard in-office press briefing with a farce held next to a helicopter, blades whirring, where you can't hear the questions and so can't tell if he's answering or not.

Press freedom is one of the key bulwarks against tyranny. Acosta did the States some service with his doughty defence of it.

Still, things will probably be okay in the long run - at least according to futurologist Dr Ian Pearson on (The Pat Kenny Show, Newstalk Mon-Fri 9am). Electric self-driving cars, for instance, may not be as "green" as we think they are - neither, interestingly, are wind turbines - but he reckons that within the next half-century, human ingenuity will have solved some of our most pressing problems.

These are probably energy consumption, food production and climate change. On the last, Pearson contended that we're about to enter a period of "solar cooling", which will counteract temperature rises caused by the greenhouse effect.

Future speculation, by definition, is an inexact science, so who knows how much of this will play out as Pearson envisions. But it was provocative and interesting all the same.

William Blake, visionary poet and artist, may not be the most famous writer - though we all know the opening lines of "Tyger, tyger, burning bright" - but he's one of the most influential. Everything from comics to recent albums by Suede and U2 have, in some way, referenced Blake.

Schama on Blake (BBC Radio 4, Mon 9.30pm) paid homage to the painter, as opposed to the poet. As a broadcaster Simon Schama can be a mite self-satisfied, but as a cultural historian he's excellent, and this was a fascinating insight into a once-in-a-generation genius.

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