Let fury own the hour

I don’t know a great deal about Jimmy Breslin, who died today, beyond the column he wrote about the guy who dug JFK’s grave (which was brilliant), but I like this a lot:

Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.

One of the things that annoys me most about elite discourse is the “we are all reasonable people with full control of our emotions discussing things in a calm fashion”. Bullshit. Without fear and anger and obsession and the other stuff we’re supposed to suppress or pretend we don’t have, no one would have the energy to do much of anything.

I wish there were more openly angry columnists around today. K-Thug is about the only one I can think of. Maybe Charles Blow on a good day.

91 replies
  1. 1
    Wag says:

    You know that you can use it.

  2. 2
    raven says:

    In “A Drinking Life” by Pete Hamill the author said he looked down the bar at Breslin and Norman Mailer and said to himself “I have to stop this”. He did, never took another drink. Quite an inspiration to me.

  3. 3
    Wag says:

    And I disagree. Charles Blow on any day along with K Thug.

  4. 4
    Aleta says:

    Another picture of the hideous Gorka, undated,”respecting his father.” Said to be found on facebook. Hope the jig is up.

  5. 5
    PhoenixRising says:

    Breslin on Rudy!911!: “a small man in search of a balcony”

    He was flawed, a racist misogynist from an old school, and a working class dog from an era in which men like him were able to advance as high as their efforts could take them.

    I’d still take him over all the column-inch-fillers at today’s Times, and twice on Sundays, because Kristof never met a cliche he couldn’t milk and Krugman keeps letting facts dictate his narratives.

    Breslin went out and found the facts to suit his narrative, only it was ‘the rich snots who run this city are screwing you, dumbass!’

    ETA Wag is right that Charles Blow is the exception that proves the rule.

  6. 6
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Charles Blow every day at least since the election. His rage is fucking righteous.

  7. 7
    Ajabu says:

    Seconded. Charles Blow anytime. And with surgical precision.

    ETA- Ok, thirded then SD.

  8. 8
    Wag says:


    I hope so as well, but sincerely doubt that it’ll make any difference.

  9. 9
    debbie says:

    But, boy, what a writer!

  10. 10
    AJ says:

    Charlie Pierce is eloquent in anger.

  11. 11
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Anger can be power. Do you know that you can use it?

  12. 12
    ThresherK says:

    Rage may be a necessary corrective to keep.the Brookses of the world from pearl-clutching onto their fainting couches.

    I’m all for it.

    @PhoenixRising: A small man in search of a balcony sounds like a Twilight Zone title just fcking waiting to happen.

  13. 13
    Aleta says:

    (Despite predictions of domino effect)
    Foreign Affairs

    Public support for the EU has increased by double digits in Germany, France, and Belgium following Brexit.

  14. 14
    joel hanes says:

    IMHO, driftglass long ago set the bar for rage-fueled incandescent prose
    Athenae at First Draft is more subdued these days, but during the W unpleasantness she was sometimes truly stellar

    Got I miss Doghouse Riley, and Jon Swift, and The Editors at The Poor Man, and the great days of Sadly, No!

  15. 15
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @joel hanes:

    And Molly.

  16. 16
    Jeffro says:

    @Aleta: For which we – and everyone in those countries – can thank the Trumpistas’ sheer incompetence, un-subtlety, and utter disregard for even the most basic level of care for one’s fellow citizens. They’re so unbelievably OBVIOUS in their mindless racism, sexism, pro-.01%-ism, and anti-science (ism?) that they do half our work for us.

    so…let’s go do the other half and get these clowns out of here!

  17. 17
    PhoenixRising says:

    @ThresherK: Pretty sure it was a not-too-subtle Mussolini ref, but would also work as TZ episode.

  18. 18
    Mary G says:

    It cracks me up how often Chuck Grassley tweets at the Twitler:

    @POTUS If u don't hv time to call tell SecyKelly to call me— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) March 20, 2017

    It’s kind of amazing and gratifying that these guys are so incompetent so far. I’m afraid TrumpCare is going to pass in the House this week and hope to be proven wrong.

  19. 19
    reality-based (the original, not the troll) says:

    For those who never read it – here’s the famous Breslin column on JFK’s gravedigger and Jackie’s “terrible strength”” – I was ( when JFK was shot, and this column still makes me cry –

    She walked with tight steps and her head was high and she followed the body of her murdered husband through the streets of Washington.

    Everybody watched her while she walked. She is the mother of two fatherless children and she was walking into the history of this country because she was showing everybody who felt old and helpless and without hope that she had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly.

    Breslin on JFK Gravedigger

    This column, – and Ataturk’s letter to the mothers of Anzac troops killed at Galipoli – make me cry every time.

  20. 20
    PhoenixRising says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I’m mostly grateful Molly Ivins didn’t live to see Trump. This would have killed her.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Doug! says:


    Yeah, that’s why I added him in.

  23. 23
    joel hanes says:


    Yes, thanks.

  24. 24
    reality-based (the original, not the troll) says:

    oh, Molly, Molly, Molly – i somehow feel, if we had still had Molly, we wouldn’t have Trump. She would have punctured that gasbag so hard –

  25. 25
    ThresherK says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I thought she was Saint Molly in these parts.

    The coroner’s inquest might find Breslin was killed by one too many insipid stories trying to understand Trump voters to Dems, while ignoring the growing majority who hate him.

  26. 26
    Jeffro says:

    @Mary G:

    It cracks me up how often Chuck Grassley tweets at the Twitler:

    True, but in a way, it’s smart. There are three surefire ways to get Orangemandias’ attention:
    1) Tweet at him
    2) Take out an ad that will air during “Fox and Friends”
    3) Get something posted on Breitbart.com

    Other than that, you’d have to either be Ivanka’s rear end, a golf course, or Vladdy P to get a response out of that soul-dead creep.

  27. 27
    reality-based (the original, not the troll) says:

    sorry bout that. here’s the fixed link to the breslin column

    column here

  28. 28
    reality-based (the original, not the troll) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: sorry. put working link in earlier post

  29. 29
    Achrachno says:

    @PhoenixRising: No. I think she’d have done some of her best writing. I’d love to have her back.

  30. 30


    Krugman keeps letting facts dictate his narratives.

    This is not a bad thing where I come from! But I’m one of those awful liberals who likes math. We seem to keep losing.

  31. 31
    Sab says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Years ago when I used to idiotically watch Morning Joe, one week I was watching it and John Ridley disappeared because after Twelve Years a Slave was so successful he didn’t need the Morning Joe gig. So they got some other guy on, who sat there for about two weeks and never had his name announced and never got to say a word. That was Charles Blow. Still pisses me off that those tweeps were so disrespectful. So apparently Joe and Mika were more interested in Hollywood than reporting. Quelle surprise.

  32. 32
    smintheus says:

    Breslin cared about the forgotten, abused, underdogs. He didn’t give a r@t’s @zz for the power-brokers and pampered, or the mafia. He wrote like a deft verbal pugilist, and hammered people with sarcasm and an eye for telling details. Breslin had a neon F-U style before it was hip. Wrote some hilarious novels too, one of which my middle school electronics teacher gave me to read.

  33. 33
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @reality-based (the original, not the troll): That was wonderful in a terrible way.

  34. 34
    eyelessgame says:

    TNC keeps a very careful and tight lid on it, but it is not hard to tell he is constantly seething.

  35. 35
    catclub says:

    @AJ: Joke Line is eloquent in anger if you have insulted him. Otherwise, not so much.

  36. 36
    Lyrebird says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Remember this (though it’s little consolation) the next time some one trots out Arendt to justify some argument that technocrats are inherently evil and somehow in control of everything except that they ain’t…

  37. 37
    Lyrebird says:

    Anger can also burn you up and leave you sounding too K. Olbermann one-note-y, or leave you depressed (it’s no kind of antidote, in spite of popular belief) like the homeless advocate dude who killed himself.

  38. 38
    Bill Arnold says:

    I really don’t care much whether columnists express rage, though if it increases their effectiveness, great.
    I want to see more columnists who are both widely read and who relentlessly and effectively drive wedges into ideological fault lines. With particular focus on toxic aspects of (American) “conservative” and/or Republican and/or (American) libertarian ideologies. If they use rage effectively as a tool, great. Humor, great.
    Examples: not seeing any. Perhaps an open niche?

  39. 39
    reality-based (the original, not the troll) says:

    – so following links from Newsday Breslin column – here is a Breslin column from 1990 on Trump -and didn’t HE just have not only the Donald, but our hopelessly vacuous media pegged, though.

    “There were four stories about Trump in one day’s issue of The New York Times newspaper. He had the joint from front to back. I remember looking at the paper with the four stories in it and saying to myself, “Look at this, all these years later and the Times hires a whole room full of guys who are out on the take.” On television that night, all I saw was announcers genuflecting as they mentioned Trump’s name. They mentioned it in unrelated conversation, as if Trump were a part of the language. I said, “What kind of a payroll must this guy have?”

    But when I started to think about it, I immediately realized I was wrong. Things were even worse. These reporters were doing it for nothing! The scandal in journalism in our time is that ethics have disintegrated to the point where Donald Trump took over news reporters in this city with the art of the return phone call.

    Trump bought reporters, from morning paper to nightly news, with two minutes of purring over the phone.’

    link (working!) here

  40. 40
    Omnes Omnibus says:


    the next time some one trots out Arendt to justify some argument that technocrats are inherently evil

    People do this?

  41. 41
    randy khan says:

    Breslin was a treasure of his time. A lot of his, ah, attitudes, didn’t age well, but at his best he was just stunningly good.

  42. 42
    danielx says:

    @joel hanes:

    The Editors at The Poor Man

    “This kitten is a socialist sack of shit.” Great days, they were….

  43. 43

    @Lyrebird: @Omnes Omnibus: That was my exact reaction, although now that Lyrebird mentions it I can totally see a few people I know doing this.

  44. 44
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @PhoenixRising: Breslin on Rudy!911!: “a small man in search of a balcony”

    For that alone, I’ll be grateful for his writing.

  45. 45
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @joel hanes: and Bartcop!

  46. 46
    Lyrebird says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Sadly, Yes! One very articulate proponent of the argument (and a much more successful academic, tenure ‘n all) was startled at the reaction he got (from me). My family is full of engineers, and no they are not effing butchers or genociders.

  47. 47
  48. 48
    magurakurin says:


    Charles Blow on any day

    indeed. I follow Charles Blow on twitter. He’s, like, really angry all the time. Like Dr. Banner angry as far as I can see it.

  49. 49

    @Lyrebird: To be fair, tenured academics are often startled when they get anything other than groveling at their knees for deigning to offer their opinion to the unwashed masses.

  50. 50
    Lyrebird says:

    @Major Major Major Major: @Omnes Omnibus:

    The more recent add-on that relates to Major^4’s work is this: somehow Claude Shannon’s work is portrayed as dehumanizing because he once said that the meaning of the information that you want to, say, encrypt is irrelevant to how you’re going to encrypt it.

    I was introduced to this theory by a man much younger and stronger than my (Cole-aged and female) self leaning over me and telling me that I was dehumanizing my students by using information theory. I came really really close to pinning him to the wall with my little pathetic upper-body non-strength bc he was creeping me out.

  51. 51
  52. 52
    Aussiesmurf says:

    I would say both Matt Taibbi and Charles P Pierce communicate their anger and frustration quite well.

  53. 53
    Lyrebird says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: YES, the Clash, the Femmes, and so many more. But your music tidbit of the evening is Snowpony!

  54. 54
    Chet Murthy says:

    @eyelessgame: TNC is why I’m woke. -All- my seething rage, I was given as a gift from him, thru his writing.

  55. 55
    Lyrebird says:

    @Major Major Major Major: This ‘un’s a truly devoted teacher and scholar, he just could not see beyond his Standard Bearer For The Humanities Against All Comers lens I think.

  56. 56

    @Omnes Omnibus: You’ve avoided meeting these types of people, I see.

  57. 57
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Aussiesmurf: Taibbi could learn subtlety and restraint from Pierce.

  58. 58
    Omnes Omnibus says:


    The more recent add-on that relates to Major^4’s work is this: somehow Claude Shannon’s work is portrayed as dehumanizing because he once said that the meaning of the information that you want to, say, encrypt is irrelevant to how you’re going to encrypt it.

    This relates to Arendt how? I am a Gov’t major/ JD.

  59. 59

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Pierce could learn some saying-what-the-fuck-he-actually-means-and-going-easy-on-the-references-I-don’t-get from Taibbi.

    They both could learn some humility.

  60. 60
    PJ says:

    @reality-based (the original, not the troll): Reading those articles at the link, you can see that Breslin understood not just that Trump was a vicious con man, but, more importantly, the role of the media in promoting Trump, in not caring enough whether anything he said was true as long as it gave them “good” copy. This willingness to buy the bullshit and sell it to readers, which sprouted under Reagan and became fully fledged in the W. years, was evident 30 years ago. #Sad!

  61. 61
    AnneWith says:

    I recently re-read Jimmy Breslin’s How the Good Guys Finally Won. Excellent book about that last Watergate summer. For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about Watergate lately. :/

    RIP, Jimmy.

  62. 62
    Lyrebird says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Somewhere she describes one of the war criminals being tried as an exemplary technocrat, bc I guess he was just “following orders” in carrying out others’ genocidal plans. I don’t remember which criminal it was.

    I actually didn’t write up a full response bc I have not read her writings in full. The excerpt I saw sounded like a very understandable horrified reaction that had elements of “but he looks normal, no horns”..etc.

    Standard Bearer of the Humanities said that technocrats dominate academe, after acknowledging that they sure haven’t won too many national elections in the past few years. Was willing to engage with me bc I also teach ethics (to social scientists).

  63. 63
    rikyrah says:

    Reid J. Epstein‏Verified account @reidepstein

    New in WSJ: A look at the $100 million plan to save the House GOP majority in 2018 from an expected anti-Trump wave

  64. 64
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I’m a big Pierce fan, but I acknowledge that he sometimes gets too wrapped up in his stylings. I appreciate his long and detailed memory– i.e., he seems to have the entire Nixon era at his fingertips, while most of the Beltway thinks the Bush administration is as relevant to today’s politics as reign of Queen Anne. And Taibbi certainly has his moments, but he seems to have it turned up to 11 by the fifth word of his first sentence.

  65. 65
    Lyrebird says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: PS: I think the tie-in is that we bad guys are just teaching students to apply techniques without reflecting on them and are thus preparing to make more and more people who would be willing to carry out orders that are so wrong.

  66. 66
    West of the Rockies (been a while) says:

    @reality-based (the original, not the troll):

    What might Molly say? “Poor Donald Trump, he can’t help it… he was born with a silver foot up his ass.”

  67. 67
    Lillian Barron says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Molly Ivins was and still is a singularly spectacular writer. Succinct, biting, witty and brilliant. I have missed her and her dear Friend, Ann Richards, every day since they left us; but never more than now. I wish I could write her words about the current catastrophe that has befallen this country she loved so much.

  68. 68

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: True about Pierce’s memory. I just get grumpy how I don’t understand so much of what he says, and there isn’t actually much value added once you figure out the reference.

    Taibbi I think it turns out I only ever liked when he was writing about the 2008 financial crisis, but that’s when I first read him, and I confused agreeing with him on a topic with liking him as a writer for a while.

  69. 69
    Tom Q says:

    Breslin is probably many people’s idea of the quintessential 50-years-ago New Yorker — brash and opinionated, a fun guy to drink with. It’s true that he was pretty slow catching up on the socially liberal issues (I remember some homophobic quotes from back in the 80s), but that was true of most guys his age/demographic, and he seemed to come around eventually. And on the key Democratic things, he stayed pretty stalwart; he was like an Archie Bunker who didn’t go to the dark side in the Nixon/Reagan era.

    I guess his work’s been out of circulation of late, but several of his titles — Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight — are part of the language. And his letters from David Berkowitz that made Son of Sam one of the most notorious of all serial killers are a true media milestone.

    Plus his campaign slogan when he and Norman Mailer ran for Mayor — “No More Bullshit”, at a time when polite society pretended they’d never heard the word. And that quote about Giuliani, which many of us cited just last summer when Rudy gave his overwrought convention speech. Breslin truly made his mark.

  70. 70
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Lyrebird: Eichmann. The rest still does not make sense.

  71. 71
    Lyrebird says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The rest still does not make sense.

    That is a relief!

    No doubt I have introduced error in my retelling, but I was worried at one point that my loyalty to my engineers and sense from childhood that Dukakis wuz robbed!!! was blinding me to the point.

    Good night one and all!

  72. 72
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I knew there was a movie-related Jimmy Breslin anecdote I had heard recently– probably with Friedkin on Marc Maron’s podcast. From the Wiki entry on The French Connection:

    Though the cast ultimately proved to be one of the film’s greatest strengths, Friedkin had problems with casting choices from the start. He was strongly opposed to the choice of Hackman for the lead, and actually first considered Paul Newman (out of the budget range), then Jackie Gleason, Peter Boyle and a New York columnist, Jimmy Breslin, who had never acted before.[Note 2] However, Gleason, at that time, was considered box-office poison by the studio after his film Gigot had flopped several years before, Boyle declined the role after disapproving of the violent theme of the film, and Breslin refused to get behind the wheel of a car, which was required of Popeye’s character for an integral car chase scene. Steve McQueen was also considered, but he did not want to do another police film after Bullitt and, as with Newman, his fee would have exceeded the movie’s budget.

    I think Friedkin also said they were worried about Breslin being too drunk to memorize lines.

  73. 73
    SFAW says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    That vid almost makes it look like Simonon knows what he’s doing.

  74. 74
    SFAW says:

    @joel hanes:

    The Editors at The Poor Man, and the great days of Sadly, No!

    Senility prevents me from recalling why they’re no longer around — did they just say “Fuck it” and split?

    (Yes, I know Google can be my friend and all that.)

  75. 75
    hilts says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I’d heard Peter Boyle was Friedkin’s choice, (never heard about Newman or McQueen being considered for the role) but that he turned it down because he was concerned about being typecast following his performance in the film Joe.

    I liked Breslin as a columnist but I don’t think he could have pulled off a good acting performance.

    Also, Fernando Rey was not Friedkin’s original choice for the role of Alain Charnier. So, Friedkin created a brilliant film in spite of himself.

  76. 76
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @SFAW: He did what he needed to do. The Clash wasn’t Parliament/Funkadelic.

  77. 77
    SFAW says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    He did what he needed to do.

    Good thing he had Joe/John and Mick to show him how.

    The Clash wasn’t Parliament/Fuckadelic.

    I gotta admit, the idea of George and Bootsy (et al.) doing “Guns of Brixton” has a certain appeal.

  78. 78
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

    Breslin was a key in the Son of Sam murders (link)

  79. 79
    DougJ says:

    @reality-based (the original, not the troll):

    God those are great. Thanks a lot!

  80. 80
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:




    someone better send an ambulance to Burnsy’s house

  81. 81
    divF says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Leo Bloom: Actors Academics are not animals! They’re human beings!
    Max Bialystock: They are? Have you ever eaten with one?

  82. 82
    eemom says:

    @David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch:

    Yay. Love it when that place loses.
    /duke law alum

  83. 83
    TriassicSands says:

    Maybe Charles Blow on a good day.

    I think Blow is much angrier than Krugman. With good reason.

  84. 84
    Adrian A Lesher says:

    Charles Pierce rages well, as does Matt Taibbi. One of Breslin’s best lines was his description of Giuliani as a “small man in search of a balcony.” It would be a good description of Trump as well.

  85. 85
    Ithink says:

    Charles Pierce, as he so eloquently refers to Bob Dylan in first person as, is The Master of (properly) Channeled Rage writing, over elaborate references and opaque vocabulary be damned. Matt Taibbi is an inconsistent one because he often lets scoring political points by cheap insults and excessive expletives cloud his analysis though he clearly comes off a supremely intelligent cat. Lee Papa (aka “The Rude Pundit”) is the absolutely most perfect blend of the two aforementioned and better known producers, and it works so well because he has no inhibitions regarding discourse and decorum being a first rate but relatively obscure political blogger.

    The only other person I can think of off the top of my head that does it so well, consistently but in the most journalistic style integrity apllied to the craft is Digby @ Hullabaloo. She’d be the best damn author of political science & history textbooks alive if she ever seriously pursued the field, only equaled Kevin Kruse, Robert Caro, and Rick Perlstein!

  86. 86
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    I have friends from Long Island who understood Jimmy Breslin as he was: flawed and blinkered in many ways, but a skeleton key to a particular sensibility and a way of writing about New York from an outsider’s perspective.

    I think a lot of that gets worked out of journalists these days, in part because of how the career has evolved — you’re either all faux outrage and hot takes for clicks, or you’re ironed into respectability.

  87. 87
    laura says:

    @Ithink: if you like Digby, you should check out Driftglass.

  88. 88
    NeenerNeener says:

    I know this thread is pretty much over, but to add to the list of angry bloggers we miss: Steve Gilliard.

  89. 89
    Andre Goulet says:

    How about Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone), Sam Kriss (The Guardian) and Jeb Lund (Esquire)?

  90. 90
    Ramalama says:

    @Aussiesmurf: Yes! I seek them out all the time. On twitter, too.

  91. 91
    SWMBO says:

    Was it Poor Man that had the tag line: STANDING ATHWART HISTORY SHOUTING I THWARTED!

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