The United States of Amnesia*

It has been 30 years since Jimmy Breslin, the legendary New York newspaperman, simultaneously attacked Donald J. Trump’s demagoguery and the fawning media’s round-the-clock coverage of whatever outrageous thing he said or did (sound familiar?). 

In a Newsday column titled: “Violent Language, Between You and I”, Breslin savaged Trump for his bullying, racism, egomaniacal ways and, surprise, surprise, butchery, of the English language.

Breslin’s column ran right after Trump had paid for a full-page ad in all four of Gotham’s four major daily newspapers.

The advertisement was headlined: “Between You and I” and, as Breslin noted, “…practically called for the death of the black teenagers arrested for the rape and attack on the woman who later became known as ‘The Central Park Jogger.”

Breslin wrote of Trump’s ad: “As the young woman is not dead (indeed, she would live and miraculously testify in court about the mugging and rape) and those arrested for her attack do not as yet even have a trial date, much less guilt established, his (Trump’s) scream for vengeance could be considered premature by some.”

While excoriating Trump for his rush to judgment, Breslin provides equal time for the New York journalism community.  He asks why Trump “…became so immensely popular with the one group of people who are supposed to be the searchlights and loudspeakers that alert the public to the realities of such a person.”

He continues, “Even the most unhostile of eyes cannot say that his buildings are not ugly. Yet all news stories say ‘imaginative’ when common sense shouts ‘arrogance.’ Always, the television and newspapers talk of his financial brilliance, when anybody in the street knows that most of ‘Between You and I’ Trump’s profits came from crap games and slot machines in Atlantic City, the bulk of that, the slot machines, coming from old people who go down there with their Social Security checks.’”

Breslin presciently balances the chutzpah of Trump with the adulation of the media (a modern-day phenomenon that I believe anyone on either end of the political spectrum would agree is alive and well, if not thriving).

Breslin’s brilliance is on full display when he analyzed Trump’s Between You and I headline: “When the unwashed get to the word ‘between’ while speaking, the first thing their ear tells them is that ‘Between You and I’ is right because it has a tonier sound to it, almost regal they imagine, than (the grammatically correct) ‘between you and me.’ Therefore such people as Trump say, ‘Confidentially, between you and I.’”

I urge you to read more of Breslin’s take on the future president and the subservient media of the late 1980’s. There are many lessons to be learned for The Base and the current representatives of “fake news.”

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* While I love the headline and think it fits this blog like a glove, I must give Gore Vidal credit for having coined it.

2 thoughts on “The United States of Amnesia*

  1. Great insight, Paul. I agree re: Breslin being the lone voice in calling attention to the media’s fawning over Trump as well as his incredibly hurtful comments.

  2. This happened during the prime of money idolization and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Trump’s popularity was based solely on the fact that he was a rich man. It didn’t matter how he was obtaining his wealth or what ridiculous things he would say. For decades, he was admired for that, even across the hip-hop community, which now vilifies him. I’m including a link below to a recent ABCNews.com article about Trump’s “fall from hip-hop grace.” We all saw him as a symbol of success and put him on a pedestal back then, so in effect, we all share some responsibility for putting him where he is today. That includes the news media. There were few like Breslin who called him for what he was in 1989. I can’t even think of another reporter from that time who seriously questioned his character.

    https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trumps-fall-hip-hop-grace-rap-icon/story?id=58411276

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