In the United States just now, a spate of what appear to be rather amateurish letter bombs has been turning up in the mailboxes of prominent Trump critics. These have been widely bemoaned, not least by CNN, which blamed the evacuation of its New York office on — yes, you guessed it — the coarsening of public life for which the low-rated cable network blames — yes, you guessed that too — Donald J. Trump.
Even as Lower Manhattan came to a halt yesterday, when another of the bombs arrived at the TriBeCa eatery of actor Robert DeNiro, who famously expressed a desire to punch Trump in the face, the Times handed a slice of its op-ed page to Alexander Soros, son of the infamous George, for another Trump-bashing. In a further op-ed prompted by the pipe bombs, author and abortion advocate Eyal Press writes:
… it is Mr. Trump who has called journalists “scum” and “enemies of the people” … These are just words, some would say…
Accept as a given that anything Trump says or does will be the butt of criticism. Were he to cure cancer, the Times could be expected to lambast him for putting nurses out of work. Thus are the pipe bombs his doing because, as Press suggests, “just words” aren’t just words at all.
When it comes to the Times, however, any words critical of Trump are acceptable; indeed, as in last weekend’s Times Book Review, even words that gloatingly imagine a presidential assassination are not merely acceptable, they are solicited and showcased with pride.
The Times asked five prominent fiction authors — Joseph Finder, Laura Lippman, Jason Matthews, Zoë Sharp and Scott Turow — to imagine “what’s next for Trump”. And, boy, did they! Here’s the twist in the tail of Sharp’s tale, which imagines the Kremlin has decided Trump must be killed before the extent of his subservience to Moscow is revealed. The assassin squeezes the trigger but nothing happens:
The Makarov misfired.
The Secret Service agent at the president’s shoulder heard the click, spun into a crouch. He registered the scene instantly, drawing his own weapon with razor-edge reflexes.
The Russian tasted failure. He closed his eyes and waited to pay the cost.
It did not come.
He opened his eyes. The Secret Service agent stood before him, presenting his Glock, butt first.
“Here,” the agent said politely. “Use mine. …”
In terms of couth, wit, originality and civility, the other four stories aren’t much better, a common theme being Vladimir Putin’s control of the US President, Trump’s idiocy/machiavellian acumen and, always, his odious malfeasance.
Words have consequences, the New York Times opines, but not its own.