Monday, August 13, 2018



On my daily long walk, yesterday on 7th Street in the East Village there were these boxes of books for anyone.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


Magazines still come in the mail. Even if more people look at them online during the week or the month. There’s new content being put up on their sites all the time. Hard to keep up. You really can’t keep up, which is one of the causes of our anxious culture. Magazines in the mail can calm that a bit. They have a start and a finish. You can complete one and you can see by the way the pages have wrinkled and softened that you’ve done something. The most recent New York Magazine is good from start to finish. The excellence of the cover story on the lasting effects of the crash of 2008 by Frank Rich is why you read magazines in the first place. Look for it at the newsstand, or the library. Or on their--I have to admit--irresistible, if way too much to absorb it all website.


Saturday, August 11, 2018



Taken from a profile in the Times yesterday of  Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk whose book Flights won the Man Booker International Prize. She grew up under communism in Poland and in East Germany:

In a recent Skype interview Ms. Tokarczuk said that when she began writing Flights, more than a dozen years ago, she set out to describe a world very different from the one we are living in now. “I wrote this book when the world was looking to be open for everybody,” she said. “Now we’re seeing how the European Union will probably become weakened by the policies of countries like Poland and Hungary, which are focused on their borders once again.”

Speaking from her home in Wroclaw in southwestern Poland, Ms. Tokarczuk also referenced President Trump’s plan to build a wall on the United States border with Mexico. “Twelve years ago there was no mention of the idea of walls or borders, which were originally adopted by totalitarian systems,” she said. “Back then I must admit that I was sure that we had put totalitarianism behind us.”

Friday, August 10, 2018



Guy at the Strand bookstore. It’s a real perk of city life to walk to bookstores. The parts of town where the kids don’t do well on reading tests, don’t have bookstores to walk to. Which makes it even more of a disgrace how insufficient the neighborhood library hours are. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018








(from the latest New York Magazine. Too arresting, too severe not to pass along.)

How Did the End of the World Become Old News?

By 






The fire this time (in Sweden). Photo: Mats Andersson/AFP/Getty Images
There has been a lot of burning lately. Last week, wildfires broke out in the Arctic Circle, where temperatures reached almost 90 degrees; they are still roiling northern Sweden, 21 of them. And this week, wildfires swept through the Greek seaside, outside Athens, killing at least 80 and hospitalizing almost 200. At one resort, dozens of guests tried to escape the flames by descending a narrow stone staircase into the Aegean, only to be engulfed along the way, dying literally in each other’s arms.
Last July, I wrote a much-talked-over magazine cover storyconsidering the worst-case scenarios for climate change — much talked over, in part, because it was so terrifying, which made some of the scenarios a bit hard to believe. Those worst-case scenarios are still quite unlikely, since they require both that we do nothing to alter our emissions path, which is still arcing upward, and that those unabated emissions bring us to climate outcomes on the far end of what’s possible by 2100.
But, this July, we already seem much farther along on those paths than even the most alarmist climate observers — e.g., me — would have predicted a year ago. In a single week earlier this month, dozens of places around the world were hit with record temperatures in what was, effectively, an unprecedented, planet-encompassing heat wave: from Denver to Burlington to Ottawa; from Glasgow to Shannon to Belfast; from Tbilisi, in Georgia, and Yerevan, in Armenia, to whole swaths of southern Russia. The temperature of one city in Oman, where the daytime highs had reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit, did not drop below 108 all night; in Montreal, Canada, 50 died from the heat. That same week, 30 major wildfires burned in the American West, including one, in California, that grew at the rate of 10,000 football fields each hour, and another, in Colorado, that produced a volcano-like 300-foot eruption of flames, swallowing an entire subdivision and inventing a new term — “fire tsunami” — along the way. On the other side of the planet, biblical rains flooded Japan, where 1.2 million were evacuated from their homes. The following week, the heat struck there, killing dozens. The following week.
In other words, it has been a month of historic, even unprecedented, climate horrors. But you may not have noticed, if you are anything but the most discriminating consumer of news. The major networks aired 127 segments on the unprecedented July heat wave, Media Matters usefully tabulated, and only one so much as mentioned climate change. The New York Times has done admirable work on global warming over the last year, launching a new climate desk and devoting tremendous resources to high-production-value special climate “features.” But even their original story on the wildfires in Greece made no mention of climate change — after some criticism on Twitter, they added a reference.
Over the last few days, there has been a flurry of chatter among climate writers and climate scientists, and the climate-curious who follow them, about this failure. In perhaps the most widely parsed and debated Twitter exchange, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes — whose show, All In, has distinguished itself with the seriousness of its climate coverage — described the dilemma facing every well-intentioned person in his spot: the transformation of the planet and the degradation may be the biggest and most important story of our time, indeed of all time, but on television, at least, it has nevertheless proven, so far, a “palpable ratings killer.” All of which raises a very dispiriting possibility, considering the scale of the climate crisis: Has the end of the world as we know it become, already, old news?
If so, that would be really, really bad. As I’ve written before, and as Wen Stephenson echoed more recently in The Baffler, climate change is not a matter of “yes” or “no,” not a binary process where we end up either “fucked” or “not fucked.” It is a system that gets worse over time as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases. We are just beginning to see the horrors that climate change has in store for us —but that does not mean that the story is settled. Things will get worse, almost certainly much, much worse. Indeed, the news about what more to expect, coming out of new research, only darkens our picture of what to expect: Just over the past few weeks, new studies have suggested heat in many major Indian cities would be literally lethal by century’s end, if current warming trends continue, and that, by that time, global economic output could fall, thanks to climate effects, by 30 percent or more. That is an impact twice as deep as the global Great Depression, and it would not be temporary.
These are not the kinds of findings it is easy to ignore, or dismiss, or compartmentalize, even though we have all become exquisitely skilled lately in compartmentalizing the threat. Neither is it easy to forget the stories of the Greek wildfires, or the Japanese heat wave. Which is why it is perhaps important to remember that the media did not ignore these stories, or the month of global climate horrors that gave rise to them. Television networks covered those heat waves 127 times. That is, actually, a very lot! They just utterly failed to “connect the dots,” as Emily Atkin put it incisively at The New Republic —broadcasters told the story of the historic temperatures, but chose not to touch the question of why we were seeing so many of them, all at once, with the atmosphere more full of carbon, and the planet hotter, than it has ever been at any point in human history.
When you think about it, this would be a very strange choice for a producer or an editor concerned about boring or losing his or her audience — it would mean leaving aside the far more dramatic story of the total transformation of the planet’s climate system, and the immediate and all-encompassing threat posed by climate change to the way we live on Earth, to tell the pretty mundane story of some really hot days in the region.
Which is why this all sounds to me a lot more like self-censorship than ratings-chasing — by which I mean self-censorship of two kinds. The first is the intuitive one — the kind done in anticipation of political blowback, an especially acute problem for would-be neutral, would-be centrist platforms like network news. This self-censorship in fear of right-wing backlash is a familiar story, and most of those concerned about global warming know the villains already: oil companies, climate deniers, indifferent (at best) politicians, and constituents who see science as a culture-war front.
But public apathy, and its cousin climate complacency, is as big a problem — perhaps bigger. And this problem, too, is connected to self-censorship on the part of storytellers who feel intimidated from attributing what we used to know as natural disasters to global warming because scientists are so excruciatingly careful about attributing cause. As NPR’s science editor Geoff Brumfiel told Atkin, “You don’t just want to be throwing around, ‘This is due to climate change, that is due to climate change.’”
Well — why not? The stated reason, when a reason is stated, is that scientists can take years to definitively conclude that a particular disaster was impossible without the effects of warming, and often only speak with certainty about specific events a decade or more in the past— the 2003 European heat wave, for instance, which killed tens of thousands. But wildfires are “not caused by climate change” only in the same way that hurricanes are not caused by climate change — which is to say they are (only) made more likely by it, which is to say the distinction is semantic. The same is true, even more so, for heat waves: We know global warming will cause many more deadly temperatures, and should not be confused, at all, when we suddenly encounter an unprecedented number of them. The fact that most climate scientists would say something like, “These disasters are consistent with what we would expect, given global warming,” rather than “these disasters were caused by global warming” is not a reason to elide discussion of climate change. Doing so is an evasion, even if it is made with a scientific alibi.
It is also a dangerous one. Decades of bad-faith debates about whether climate change is “real” and good-faith questions about whether it is “here” have dramatically foreshortened our collective imagination and provided an unfortunately limited picture of what global warming will yield. Treating every climate disaster as a discrete event only compounds the problem, suggesting that impacts will be discrete. They won’t be, and the longer-view story is much more harrowing: not just more months like July, but an unfolding century when a month like this July has become a happy memory of a placid climate. That it is almost hard to believe only makes it a more important story to tell.
*A version of this article appears in the August 6, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

(Two young women, not together, both teachers, stopped at my sign today. They asked all about it. They both agreed with the message of it. They rushed to tell me about the dysfunction in the system. They only had a few minutes. There was a conference they were going to. I'm reprinting here an essay from months ago. I gave them the blog address. Maybe they'll read it.)


A SEPARATE PEACE


How books and reading can save your life. I think they saved mine.

I’ve mentioned this before. In college in the late 1960s there was an upperclassman on campus who stood outside the dining hall with a large bright tin can. He wore, in my pretty-certain memory, a loose white T shirt and light khakis with no crease and sandals. There was a California look about him in his easy clothes which seemed romantic to underclassman-me then who most days wanted to be in California or some place progressive rather than there in South Bend, Indiana. I’d only been to California once, a few years before, the summer Trini Lopez hit it big with ‘If I Had a Hammer’. There was something arresting to me about the way this guy stood with his shiny can and the small sign attached to it that asked for money for the poor people of Bangladesh. He had no guitar or love beads. Just the can. It has stayed with me, that picture of him there. He’s dead now I heard. And I’m 71.

There were TV shows then that we all watched. Movies you had to see. There were record albums that you had to have. We all read newspapers from Chicago to see what the progress of the war was in Vietnam. We couldn’t imagine going to war. We put quarters in the juke box and lit another cigarette. And talked about the war, and the songs, and sports.

We read Kurt Vonnegut. Professors and priests couldn’t keep up with him or Dylan or Herman Hesse or Portnoy. It was tough to go to class for a lot of us. There was more that mattered in the newspapers in the student center. There was more in the little Seeburg juke box menus on the wall in each booth. There was more in the paperback books we carried in our pockets.

It was the books that took me into other worlds, into other ways of seeing things. There were also magazines then that were much more radical than all the periodicals our parents got at home. They were companions to us who didn’t want to fight in a war. Racial issues were also often discussed in bold ways in those books and magazines. Women’s issues too. It was really where a lot of us got our education.

I first met Neal not long after my father died…I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about except that it really had something to do with my father’s death and my awful feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Neal there really began for me that part of my life that you could call my life on the road.


Today of course there aren’t the books or readers like there were then. On the subway, you still see Kerouac books. On another train you might see Soul on Ice. I don’t know what new books are radical like those were. Are music and TV shows and Netflix movies the radical‘s companions now like books and magazines were and record albums were back then? I’m not fighting for the way it was. I just wonder.

I got this nudge from somewhere to make a sign a half a dozen years ago that had this sentence on it: WHY NOT TEACH EVERY SCHOOL KID TO READ WELL. I don’t know where that somewhere was. I had been thinking about city schools and poor kids and the failure of that combination. Especially in reading.  I had put out a few copies of acityReader which talked about my frustration over the year-after-year continuation of the reading gap. So maybe the sign was just the natural next step. It was certainly a natural step for a guy who wanted to be like the guy with the can, to have a passion for something like he did.

The message of the sign has indeed become my passion. Six years is it now that I’ve held it for an
hour every weekday that it isn’t raining or too, too cold in front of Dept of Education building in downtown Manhattan? It could be seven. I wouldn’t change a word on the sign, which is unusual for me. I tinker, I over-think things, I cut my own hair. 


If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.
                                      -Herzog by Saul Bellow

You watch the Ken Burns Vietnam episodes on PBS and you remember those times when everything was intense. When you argued with your father over the war. When you rushed to take a couple of basic education courses so you could get a provisional teaching certificate and then get a job to teach in an inner city grade school which would give you a deferment from going in the army which you certainly didn’t want to do then since you had a baby daughter who was born the week before you graduated.

That daughter is 48 now and has kids of her own, and there are two other daughters and three other grandchildren.  And their long-divorced father wanted to text them the other night to tell them to watch the Ken Burns Vietnam series, so that they’d know him and their mother better and maybe excuse him easier. But they have their own shows. Everybody’s got their own shows.


Some mornings when I’m walking with my sign in its big Kinko’s bag from the subway to where I stand with it, I catch myself just ambling along not really thinking about what I’m there for. I run a sequence of images quickly through my mind that seem to focus me. The images are in black and white like an old newsreel. They are pictures I’ve seen of poor neighborhoods were hope doesn’t spring eternal. Places where it seems to me the surest way to give hope is to see to it that everybody in those scenes is taught to read well. That seems like a solution to a lot of things. I’m focused then. And I hold the sign like I believe it. Which I do. I believe it more than anything. I believe that it could change the world.

These are all our children. We will profit by, or pay for, whatever they become.


                                                       -James Baldwin

Tuesday, August 7, 2018



It’s not all about my sign and reading books like I do and wishing the city school kids have that kind of life. It’s really about survival. In the first cityReader newsletter I did years ago now I said that if you lived on an island kids would have to know how to swim or they could drown. You would have to teach every kid to know how to swim. That’s what it’s about. Many kids here are drowning. The elders haven't noticed?

Monday, August 6, 2018


An essay from yesterday’s Times by the writer of the Pulitzer Prize novel The Sympathizer about the war in Vietnam and the life of immigrants from that country now living in California.




Losing My Son to Reading

Books helped me gain independence. So it saddens me just a bit to see my son reading on his own.



By Viet Thanh Nguyen

Do you remember when you learned to read? Like most of us, I don’t. Still, many people can take comfort in knowing that this event, beyond memory, involved our parents. The parents who took us to school, who read books to us at home, who could speak to us in a shared language. But in my case, one of the things I lost as a refugee, without even knowing it at the time, was a childhood where my parents would have read to me.

I came to the United States when I was 4, with my parents and older brother. Our language at home was Vietnamese, but somehow, by 6 or 7, I had learned how to read in English. My parents could speak English, but I have no memory of them reading to me, and if they did, they would not have been reading to me in English. It must have been my teachers who taught me, just as my 5-year old son’s teachers taught him. Earlier this year I went away for a week and when I came back, the little boy who I had been reading to for years was suddenly reading by himself.

Being a father makes me reflective, especially as I look at my son and remember myself at his age. Early in our American years, my father chuckled when I called the kitchen a “chicken” in English. He affectionately recalled for me how, when I was a baby in Vietnam, I saw the cows eating grass and called it “salad.” Like my father, I take pleasure in seeing my son learning a language, and through it, stories. I love the way he loves stories, the raw emotions he brings to them, the way he thrills to, or is terrified by, a powerful narrative. I know when a book is great because he cuddles up to me and asks to have it read to him again and again. The closeness a parent feels with a child, where boundaries are permeable, is mirrored in how a powerful story pulls a reader through a page and through the words and into the story itself.

The story of my parents involved crossing a different boundary, the border of this country.
We lost many things at the border, beginning with our shared language. Growing up and seeing my parents struggle with building a life for themselves and my brother and me, I could feel our closeness dissipating along with my Vietnamese. The better my parents were at taking care of their children by working endless hours, the less time they had to spend with us. It was the classic immigrant and refugee dilemma — sacrifice yourself for your children and in the process sacrifice your intimacy with them.

Books saved me from feeling alone. I love books so much that I gave my son, for a first name, a writer’s surname — Ellison. Ralph Ellison was not a writer of children’s books, but a writer of the big truths, of the frightening world, of the unknown interiors of ourselves. Children’s books, of course, deal with those things, too. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t like Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are when I was 6 or 7. The story of a little boy lost in the wild, having journeyed there by boat and separated from his parents, seemed too much, in retrospect, like my life as a refugee. But my son loves Sendak’s book, and I love that book now, too. It was only as an adult that I could confront the childhood fears in it.

I first found the book in a public library. Books were not a priority for my parents, so we never had them in the house. I would go to the public library every week and stuff my backpack full of books, which were barely enough for a week. I never owned my own until high school. My son has a bigger library than I ever had. While my parents showed me they loved me by making sure that I always had enough to eat, I show my love for my son by making sure that he always has enough to read (as well as to eat). For me, the library was a second home, and I want my son to have his own home in my home.

By 11 or 12, I knew how to get to my second home by myself, on foot or on the bus. But in remembering that childhood library, what I also know is that libraries are potentially dangerous places because there are no borders. There are countries called children’s literature and young adult literature and adult fiction, but no border guards, or in my case, parents to police the borders and protect me. A reader could go wherever he or she wanted. So, at 12 or 13, I read Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and Larry Heinemann’s Close Quarters.

All that stayed with me for decades from Roth’s novel was the infamous scene where a young Alex Portnoy masturbates with a slab of liver that will be his family’s dinner. As for Heinemann’s Vietnam War novel, the graphic depiction of how American soldiers brutalized Vietnamese people, including raping them, enraged me. I wanted revenge on Heinemann’s novel, until I reread it as an adult in preparing for my own novel, and realized he was right. Like Sendak, he wanted to show where the wild things are — inside of us. As did Roth. When I became a writer, I paid homage to both of them in my novel The Sympathizer, where the shocked child has finally become the writer willing to shock.

Crossing the border into confronting those wild things that I did not understand and that my parents could not protect me from was part of how I began the journey to adulthood and writing. Seeing my son reading, I realize he is taking one step further on his own road to independence, to being a border-crosser, someone who makes his own decisions, including what he reads and what he believes. Perhaps that’s why seeing him read on his own is tinged with melancholy. I remember my own loss and I sense the loss that is yet to come, when he is no longer all mine, as he is when he wakes in the morning and says some of the sweetest words I will ever hear: “Daddy, read me a book.”

Viet Thanh Nguyen, a contributing opinion writer, is the author, most recently, of The Refugees, and the editor of The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives.


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Saturday, August 4, 2018


a postcard

'Built in 1884, the railroad ran from New Orleans up to Memphis, and new towns like Cleveland, Mississippi were created along the route. President Grover Cleveland, after whom the town was named, William Jennings Byan, and President Theodore Roosevelt made whistles stops here. The train stopped running in the 1960s. The abandoned depot was converted to a special Library for Adult Literacy.'

Photo by Diane Asseo Griliches

Friday, August 3, 2018


Yesterday from one of the cars in the street next to where I stand, an African American man raised his arm out the window in a fist salute and said loudly in a great voice as he moved by, Make that sign bigger.

Thursday, August 2, 2018



You need companions. In the 60s there was all that never-before-never since music. It was what we lived by.  It was in the background everywhere when we, students then, talked incessantly about maybe having to go to Vietnam. There were good political magazines and books too.  Michael Harrington’s book on poverty in the U.S. was a major one. It was given to JFK and it caused him to begin a war on poverty. I can still see it in my hands. I was standing staring at it, the day I bought it, in my dorm room sophomore year in college. 1966 0r 67.

There’s no music now like there was then. You’d think there would be given the state were in.

There are books by people like Naomi Klein and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I grabbed this reprint of the Harrington book the other night.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018



On Chambers Street holding the sign in the morning I get a few peace signs held up to me in car windows or in the warm weather like this morning out the car windows. I smile inside myself thinking that the sign has its good message which brings those impulses out in people.

Over 50 years ago I first saw the peace sign. I flashed it myself sometimes in college and after. My daughters used to flash it back to me when they were young.

I went out to eat in Brooklyn last night with the two oldest of those three daughters. It was the younger ones 48th birthday. Thats her on the right. 



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

from The New Yorker:

Trump vs. the Times: Inside an Off-the-Record Meeting


The new Times publisher, A. G. Sulzberger, said that he attended the Oval Office meeting expressly to push back on President Trump’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”
Photograph by Todd Heisler / NYT / Redux

On July 20th, the new publisher of the Times, A. G. Sulzberger, visited the Oval Office at the invitation of President Trump. The meeting was meant to be off the record. As a matter of policy, Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, will not attend such meetings without being able to report on them. Instead, Sulzberger went to the session accompanied by James Bennet, the editorial-page editor. The meeting, which Trump clearly intended as a way both to introduce himself to Sulzberger and to complain about coverage, became, in the course of more than an hour, something a great deal more revealing.

The President broke the off-record agreement nine days later by tweeting that he and Sulzberger had talked about “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!” Sulzberger fired back with a statement saying that he went to the meeting expressly to push back on the President’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric,” which has proved “not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.”

The once-secret session provides a fascinating look at Trump’s capacity to feign charm and receptiveness to criticism in private and then return to a war footing not long after.

The two Times leaders had not known why they had been asked to the White House, but it was soon evident that Trump did not intend to berate them, as he might in a tweet or from a podium. Not surprisingly, Trump took up much of the seventy-five-minute session extolling his accomplishments, real and imagined. He also wanted to sell Sulzberger and Bennet, to explain to them just why he was so critical of the press and routinely brands the “failing” Times and so many other outlets as “fake news.”

Trump, as he often does, claimed that he invented the phrase “fake news.” (Indeed, he has said elsewhere that “fake news” is “one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with.”) In fact, “fake news” first entered the language in the late nineteenth century; it came to the fore most recently as a way of describing fabricated stories, not a few of them engineered for profit in Russia and other foreign countries. Trump adopted the phrase for his own purposes during the 2016 campaign and has deployed it as a weapon in his broader attempt to delegitimize the news outlets—the Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and many more—that he views as political adversaries, and to create a kind of parallel universe of “alternative facts” and realities.

During the Oval Office discussion, Sulzberger pointed out to Trump that foreign leaders, particularly authoritarians and despots, have taken up Trump’s language and angle of attack. And the reason is not hard to discern: autocrats from Manila to Yangon, Ankara to Caracas, Beijing to Moscow, have found it advantageous to point out that even the President of a country that gave primacy to freedom of speech and the press in its Constitution disdains the news media as “fake.”

Last year, the Chinese state news agency denied a report that police had tortured Xie Yang, a human-rights activist, as “essentially fake news.” The Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, denied an Amnesty International report on the thousands of people who died in a military prison between 2011 and 2015 by telling Yahoo News, “You can forge anything these days. We are living in a fake-news era.” U Kyaw San Hla, a top security official in Rakhine State, in Myanmar, denied ethnic cleansing in the country, insisting, “There is no such thing as Rohingya. It is fake news.” (Two Reuters journalists who exposed the killings of ten Rohingya are currently on trial in Myanmar and face up to fourteen years in prison.) In Venezuela, President Nicol├ís Maduro went on the Russian state channel RT and declared that “Venezuela is being exposed to bullying by the world media besieging us. . . . This is what we call ‘fake news’ today, isn’t it?” After the Cambodian government put journalists in prison, expelled Radio Free Asia, and closed dozens of radio stations and the Cambodia Daily, Prime Minister Hun Sen went on the offensive against critical coverage in the West, saying, “I would like to send a message to the President that your attack on CNN is right. American media is very bad.”
Trump seemed to relish telling the Times executives that not only had he invented the phrase “fake news” but that some countries had banned “fake news.”

Sulzberger replied calmly that such countries were dictatorships and only dictatorships could ban independent inquiry.

The Times publisher told the President that he was even more concerned about Trump branding the press as “enemies of the people”—a phrase used by the Jacobins in eighteenth-century France and by Stalin at the height of the Great Purge, in the late nineteen-thirties. (When Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin, in the fifties, he said that “the formula ‘enemy of the people’ was specifically introduced for the purpose of physically annihilating such individuals.”) Sulzberger argued that the use of such a phrase was inflammatory, dangerous to journalists both in the United States and abroad. Journalists were getting threats, he told the President. Some news outlets were posting armed guards at their offices. Journalists abroad were being imprisoned, murdered. To inflame that situation with such rhetoric was a true danger, a match lowered to a tinderbox. Sulzberger pressed this point twice, both in the middle of the session and toward the end.
Strikingly, Trump did not argue and at least pretended to take it onboard. 

He did not apologize, by any stretch, but he tried to get across the possibility that he would think about it. At one point, near the end of the conversation with Sulzberger and Bennet, he even pointed to his temple, a gesture that seemed intended to indicate that he would give the idea some consideration.

The Times executives left the meeting struck by how relatively mild Trump had seemed compared to his public performances, but they were under no illusion that he would change his rhetoric.

The problem is that Trump’s assault on the press has been remarkably effective. He is by no means the first President to resent or attack the press. Richard Nixon raged in the Oval Office about the sins of the Washington Post, telling aides that no Post reporter could ever again enter the building; his Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, referred to the press as “nattering nabobs of negativism.” But none has ever waged battle with the press so obsessively. Trump’s ferocious attacks at rallies and on social media give a direction and a language to his amplifying outlets: Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, Breitbart, and countless trolls online.

Trump’s capacity to create alternative and polarizing realities, to divert attention from his failures and scandals, to inflame his opponents, and to foment a general atmosphere of culture war and mutual recrimination is perhaps his greatest political talent. He can be affable enough to a couple of visiting Timesexecutives in the Oval Office but then has no compunction about going back to war from the stump. This is at the heart of his appeal.
Steve Bannon, once Trump’s chief ideologist, put the matter well earlier this year when he told Michael Lewis, “We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall,” he said. “This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.” Bannon added, “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

It didn’t take long for Trump to make it plain that he will not mellow or relent. Attacking the media will undoubtedly be part of his campaign strategy for the midterm elections. In Kansas City, four days after his meeting with Sulzberger and Bennet, Trump told followers at a rally, “Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” And then, as the crowd booed the reporters, Trump added the Orwellian finisher: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

On Sunday, after violating the off-the-record agreement with the Times and then learning of Sulzberger’s response, Trump dispensed with any notion that he was rethinking the phrase “enemies of the people.” In a flurry of tweets, he made it all quite clear; the true danger was an “insane” media and its outrageous insistence on describing the “internal deliberations of government”:

When the media - driven insane by their Trump Derangement Syndrome - reveals internal deliberations of our government, it truly puts the lives of many, not just journalists, at risk! Very unpatriotic! Freedom of the press also comes with a responsibility to report the news . . .

. . . accurately. 90% of media coverage of my Administration is negative, despite the tremendously positive results we are achieving, it’s no surprise that confidence in the media is at an all time low! I will not allow our great country to be sold out by anti-Trump haters in the...

. . . dying newspaper industry. No matter how much they try to distract and cover it up, our country is making great progress under my leadership and I will never stop fighting for the American people! As an example, the failing New York Times . . .

. . . and the Amazon Washington Post do nothing but write bad stories even on very positive achievements - and they will never change!

And now another week begins.


David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992.