We don’t auto-publish every Trump tweet each morning. One cannot give a platform to the dribbles of an unhealthy mind. It can spread diseased thinking throughout the body politic. But, we don’t ignore tweets that function as proclamations from the President of the United States, especially ones that chip away at the basic agreement we’ve made with each other as citizens, agreements fundamental to how we come together to govern ourselves. We jump all over tweets that undermine the legitimacy of the conditions precedent to self-government. Perhaps the single biggest “assumed condition,” upon which we “function” as the United States, is that there exists a knowable set of facts that our “free press” writ large: investigates, produces, publishes, thus establishing a general consensus as to reality.
Well, today we get this:
Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018
Phrases don’t naturally morph into anything without the active manipulation by someone with an agenda, the motivation to create a cultural meme, especially one as dangerous as the enemy of the people.
Examine the genesis of any fascist or autocratic government and by definition, there will be a period of disparagement of “the free press.” Many will ultimately involve the indoctrination of an official “State TV” or “State Media” as the only media to be believed. It will be legitimate because it is not “the enemy.” The soon to be fascist pronounces it to be “good media” whose purpose is to bring the nation together, and not create discord.
Last night, on my way home from the little grocery story nearest my home, a nationally syndicated radio show – I don’t recall which, it is a weekend one, focused on the 2nd Amendment – it had “Judge Jeanine Pirro” on as a guest. The host’s first “question” (it wasn’t a question, they knew well what the other believed) involved how “dangerous” and “disruptive” the national media has become.The two quickly came to agree and reinforce each other that the primary problem of our time is not Trump, the Russians, possible election meddling, or even gun control. No, the primary problem is the national media, it is killing this nation. Without the national media, we wouldn’t have the problems that dominate each news cycle.
This kind of talk ought to send shivers down your spine every bit as much as the thought of rogue nuclear weapons, because one cannot take over a free people without controlling the access to facts. Indeed, Barack Obama once said:
We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech – because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth.
Words from a man who knew that the press often hurt him severely by over-reporting inconvenient, sensationalist facts (remember Ebola?). Obama would have loved to suppress the national media’s focus upon Ebola when he knew that the scientists advising him had the right answers. He could have made a good argument that it was in the nation’s best interest, so as not to spark an “ebola panic” that he takeover and control the message at that point in his presidency, when it seemed obvious that a blockade in and out of Africa was the best plan to keep people safe. Of course, he never broached the thought, never declared the press “dangerous,” never mind “an enemy.” Obama never put himself before the nation, and never feared any fact seeing the light of day.
Trump is the embodiment of fear. He has been involved with the Russian mob for decades, and with La Casa Nostra before them. Of course he fears objective truth reaching Americans’ ears. Greg Olear, award winning novelist and author of the non-fiction, “Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia.” sums up what Trump has at risk with respect to “the truth” taking hold:
Money laundering” sounds cute, like something Danny Ocean and his merry men do, but it’s a euphemism for something unspeakable. The Russian mob has become so vast and successful because it eagerly participates in the worst of the worst: human trafficking, child pornography, sex slavery, opioids, illegal arms deals, blood diamonds — all the grisly, awful stuff that Trump accuses MS-13 of doing. By taking those dirty rubles and making them legitimate, Trump is a party to all of that.
The media also likes to forget that Trump is a serial rapist and sexual predator. We can use the “allegedly” qualifier if you like, but he has bragged about this on many occasions. There are more than 20 accusers now, and I believe them.
The kompromat, by the way, does not involve tinkling Moscow prostitutes, but far more heinous activities. This is a person who sexually assaulted a reporter from People magazine at his house — while his wife was home. You don’t think he’s capable of greater depravity halfway around the world, when he thinks no one is watching?
For that precise reason, Trump makes daily attempts to destroy both the press and Robert Mueller, the two avenues by which the underlying facts would reach our ears.
It is why we must push back when we hear that the press is the enemy of the people. I don’t write that as a “member of the press” – we can quibble whether a blogger like me qualifies or not. This blog’s purpose is to question the mainstream media every bit as much as Trump questions it – but we do not vilify the fact-finding function, and we leap to defend the independence to publish the facts these organizations find.
If the President believes news is fake, he needs to come right out and state why it is fake. He should feel free to prove the news wrong, Obama attempted to do it all the time. Trump should go meet with Robert Mueller. Release his tax returns. Have more press conferences – there’s an idea. Mr. President, if you don’t like what’s being reported, call the press together and let them ask you questions, then you control the entire answer.
But, Trump won’t do that, because the problem is not the media, the problem is the fact that the media knows too much, just like Robert Mueller knows too much, and thus both the media and Robert Mueller must be rendered powerless, somehow.
Trump will succeed unless fought at every turn. We cannot allow the President of the United States to declare the press “the enemy,” any more than we can allow him to declare Democrats as the enemy of “the people.” We must fight this manipulation as if were war, because it is a form of warfare, information warfare. No successful overthrow of government ever came about without successfully suppressing, or rendering meaningless, the facts as produced by a free press.
Don’t believe me? Join in at minute 28:00 and watch the last 5 minutes of Obama’s last talk to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It is near haunting in its prescience, understanding what was to come:
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