Thursday, May 24, 2018

'No, Trump is writing this one himself. It will be the best letter...'

The letter from Donald Trump to Kim Jong-Un, which cancels the leaders’ proposed summit in Singapore, will certainly go down in the political annals.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that commentators will remember it as a prelude to some catastrophic conflict on the Korean peninsula. If we’re honest, it may signal the end of a brief window, early in 2018, when people naively thought that war might be averted.

I sincerely hope it doesn’t have such grave historic significance.

But as a copywriter, I can weep a thousand tears without a single shot being fired in anger.

What’s extraordinary about the text is that it’s clear Trump actually played a major part in writing it. We can tell because it is so atrociously and bizarrely constructed.

There can be few jurisdictions in the modern world where Presidents and Prime Ministers still draft their own correspondence. And if your President was one Donald J Trump, you’d sure as hell keep him the f*** away from Microsoft Word. I mean Twitter’s bad enough.

The guy can’t even get the left-hand justification right in the address at the top.

If only he could afford a secretary. I’m sure Vladimir Putin would happily supply some candidates.

Anyway, there are two fundamental levels of critique that I would offer in relation to this bizarre letter.

The first would be about the weird oscillation between fawning praise for the tubby Korean dictator and vehement criticism.

The letter starts by generously congratulating Kim for the ‘time, patience and effort’ that he’s put into negotiations.

Within a couple of sentences, Trump is denouncing him for the ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’ of his recent statements.

In the next paragraph, the 45th US President is waxing sentimentally about the ‘wonderful dialogue’ that had been built up with his North Korean counterpart and the ‘beautiful gesture’ of releasing hostages. But this comes after Trump has prayed that he’d never have to use his ‘massive and powerful’ nuclear arsenal on his erstwhile pal in Pyongyang.

The letter from Washington reveals a love-hate relationship. It veers faster than one of Kim’s rockets between the nauseatingly sycophantic and obsequious through to the downright deranged.

My second concern is over just how badly written it is.

That second sentence.

‘We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant.’


What the hell is he talking about?

That sentence is totally irrelevant, Donald.

‘Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent, that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.’

Let’s leave aside the fact that the construction of this sentence is both pathetically grandiose and clumsy as hell. How can something which is to the detriment of the whole world be to the benefit of the US and North Korea?

‘If you do change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.’


I’m going to let the ‘change-your-mind-having-to-do-with’ stuff wash over me, as I don’t want to up my blood pressure meds.

But Trump is cancelling the meeting, not Kim. So what exactly is Kim supposed to be changing his mind about?

The casual tone of this sign-off paragraph gives the impression that an old buddy has cried off on a golfing tournament. Trump is a bit annoyed that his mate now claims to be too busy for 18 holes at Mar-a-Lago. But he’s magnanimous about it.

‘Ok, well if you change your mind, give me a call…’

Perhaps Kim will drop a message in the deranged dictators’ group chat in the next day or two?

I’m certainly eagerly anticipating Kim’s reply. And I’ll bet you 10 bucks it’s in better English.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Nerve agents? No sweat. Get the baby wipes out.

There is something so bizarrely British about the health response to the assassination attempt in Salisbury on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. A week after the event, everyone who was in the vicinity of the deadly nerve agent has been urged to wash their personal possessions.

Now, let’s think this through.

This chemical was so toxic that it left two people fighting for their lives. A police officer involved in the early response was also hospitalised and made severely ill by it. The table in the restaurant visited by Sergei and Julia was reportedly so contaminated that it had to be destroyed.

But if you happened to be nearby – perhaps even dining in the same part of the restaurant sometime after the unfortunate victims departed – no need to worry.

Run a baby wipe over your phone.

A week later.

What about clothes? The Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies recommends washing them. In a washing machine preferably, she says. Err… as opposed to the old-fashioned handwash and mangle still favoured by the backward denizens of this sleepy cathedral town?

Dry clean only? No problem. Just stick a couple of layers of plastic around the clothes and await further instructions.

It’s astonishing to contrast the military personnel in biohazard suits wandering around Salisbury with the barmy and utterly useless advice being given to members of the general public. But it sums up the whole weird relationship of the NHS to pathogens, toxins and other deadly threats.

The British response is always not to worry.

A touch of Ebola? I remember my local surgery advising patients who thought they might have been affected while travelling overseas to inform the staff at reception and get them to call some helpline on their behalf. And try to avoid touching anything.

Remember Pauline Cafferkey, the British nurse who contracted the killer disease? When she had a relapse, she went to an out-of-hours clinic in Glasgow and was told to return home, as she probably just had some regular virus.

It’s hard to imagine that conversation, isn’t it? Someone arrives saying that she’s the nurse who caught Ebola recently and has been all over the news, but she’s told her current condition is probably nothing to worry about. A bit of bed rest and paracetamol and she’ll be fine in a day or two.

To some, this extraordinarily British approach to medical matters is perhaps one of the things that gives the UK its endearing charm. But I suspect it’s small comfort to restaurant-goers in Salisbury.