The campaign to discredit the media has been a prominent part of Donald Trump’s mission for several months. He is an avowed foe of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press. He said that the media is “the enemy of the American people,” and has called for revoking the licenses of press organizations he doesn’t like. Setting aside the fact that he has no power to do that, just the desire exposes his dangerously tyrannical aspirations.
By attacking the press so relentlessly, and without foundation, Trump has demonstrated that his words have an impact on the glassy-eyed disciples who worship him. Forty-six percent of Republicans now agree with Trump that he should be allowed to shut down any media that isn’t unquestioningly adoring. That’s the effect a loudmouthed wannabe dictator can have on the gullible masses.
However, this presages an even a bigger and more ominous problem. Politico has aggregated some of the evidence that Trump’s suppressive rhetoric is capable of damaging freedom of speech and the press around the world. The article quotes numerous foreign leaders with authoritarian tendencies adopting Trump’s anti-media philosophy. They are joining in the chant of “fake news” to demean any criticism they receive from the press. For instance:
- Syrian President Bashar Assad: You can forge anything these days, we are living in a fake news era.
- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte: has complained of being “demonized” by “fake news.”
- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro: This is what we call ‘fake news’ today, isn’t it?
- A state official in Myanmar: There is no such thing as Rohingya. It is fake news.
- The Chinese government-run People’s Daily: Trump is right, fake news is the enemy.
- Polish President Andrzej Duda: Let’s FIGHT FAKE NEWS.
All of these adopters of Trump’s “fake news” language are notoriously oppressive leaders known for their mistreatment of the media. Their tactics include threats, imprisonment, and even assassination. The article also highlights Libya’s reference to Trump to dismiss reports about their slave trade. And of course Russian media has taken to labeling stories they dispute with a big red “Fake News” stamp.
Trump may not be having much of an impact on Americans, who continue to oppose him and his policies by large majorities. But internationally, the world’s worst tyrants are finding comfort in the words of America’s anti-media president. And they are following his example in order to embark on a reign of terror against journalists and journalism.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.