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What is the matter with Hugo Rifkind? Three competitions.

Sunday, February 19, 2017 4:00
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Another précis challenge, this time of Hugo Rifkind’s latest in the Spectator magazine:

The original is 905 words long. Condense into 200 words or fewer (I think it can be done in half that). You may or may not wish to retain this excerpt, on Rifkind’s seeing Trump’s beach resort and apartment complex:

“If I said it was like seeing a swastika banner on the Arc de Triomphe, I would of course be exaggerating ridiculously; but I find on reflection that I am totally going to say it anyway.”

[Experienced précis-ers will know that "of course" and "totally" are expendable, but once one starts down that road it is hard to know where to stop, with this writer. The function of such phrases is, of course, emotional, an attempt to gain complicity with the befuddled but self-consciously right-thinking reader. "Totally" is a usage a little too old for current cool, though. Should he have tried for a winsomely humorous "totes"?]


Alternatively, you may wish to write an essay on the state of America, as it exists in Hugo’s mind, and how you think it is in reality. The Spectator article is dated 18 February, 28 days after Trump’s Presidential inauguration, but the magazine is available in shops 2 days earlier and Rifkind’s experience dates back to the previous week. Here is his conclusion, after 3 weeks of Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office:

“This is the stench of death. This is broken. This is America running out of road.”

Extra marks will be rewarded for some consideration of events years or decades earlier than February 20, 2017 that may have influenced the society and economy of the USA.


Finally, you may instead prefer to consider Rifkind’s performance against generally accepted standards of journalism – see here for Wiki’s briefing:

In your discussion, you may wish to make reference to a rumour that Rifkind failed to fact-check before sending it “viral” on Twitter, that implied incestual impulses in Trump. The original is now unavailable, but a version of it can be found listed on a Google search:


“Guido” guys it here - - ending:


You may also like to consider an earlier Rifkind article in the Spectator, also with salacious undertones:

- the concluding paragraph of which reads:

“Plenty of people seem to believe that Trump does this, too. That whenever he says his latest arresting, infuriating, insane thing, he’s also playing a trick, trying to wind people up. Personally, I don’t buy it. More to the point, though, I’m not sure it makes any difference. Likewise those sieg heils in those Washington restaurants. For show? For real? In the end, the question is meaningless. This is what they give us, so this is who they are. The trick is all there is. The carapace is sealed. Everything beneath has rotted away.”

The “sieg heil” (you will detect here a long-running theme in the mind of the writer) is a glance at a function which had nothing to do with Trump personally but serves this journalist’s purpose in the form of guilt by association. The incident in question is covered here:

You may be tempted to draw an ironic analogy with the dangerously inflammatory, lying, misleading and calumniating propaganda of Julius Streicher; you must resist doing so.


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