From the outset of Donald Trump’s campaign he has made the media a target of his attacks, insults and retribution. He has called them liars and sleazy and horrible people. Keeping them penned up at his rallies was common, as was expelling those he especially disliked.
Organizations that advocate for the welfare of journalists have expressed their concerns with justifiable anxiety. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a warning that “A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States.” The National Press Club released a similar statement condemning Trump’s anti-press tactics as “unacceptable and dangerous to our democracy.”
Now Trump has taken his abuse a step further into an ominous future. He posted on Twitter a message that reeks of an authoritarian stranglehold on one of America’s most cherished principles. The Free Press. He tweeted:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
Trump’s characterization of the press as “the enemy of the American People!” has roots in some of the most oppressive historical dictatorships. It goes back to ancient Roman times. However, it has been used as recently as the 1950’s by China’s Chairman Mao Tse-tung to suppress freedom. Trump’s usage is particularly repulsive because of the overtly violent overtones that infect so much of his rhetoric. Is he deliberately fomenting violence against the press now? As an aside, it’s curious that he thinks the media is the enemy of the American people, but that it isn’t his enemy.
In the United States, disgraced former President Richard Nixon made an almost identical statement in private. He said that “The press is the enemy, the establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy.” Sound familiar? But Trump is saying it very publicly. It’s also notable that Nixon’s Watergate scandal and Trump’s current transgressions have similar beginnings. The Republican operatives who broke into Democratic offices at the Watergate were called the “Plumbers” because their purpose was to plug up leaks. And that’s exactly the focus of Trump’s complaints.
The “enemy of the people” theme is likely the handiwork of Trump’s alt-right, white supremacist aide, Stephen Bannon. In 2012 his Breitbart News website featured a commentary by Trump supporter Pat Caddell. In it Caddell said that “The press’s job is to stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us from a government and from organized governmental power,” So far, so good. However, he continued to say that they have “desert[ed] those ramparts” and “made themselves the enemy of the American people.”
Mao, Nixon, Breitbart. Is there a pattern forming? Trump would be thrilled to discredit the media that he regards as the “opposition party.” Then he could rant relentlessly with his “alternative facts” and outright lies without restraint or objective scrutiny. He could rely on disreputable “news” manglers like Breitbart, Infowars, the National Enquirer, and Fox News to lead his campaign of disinformation.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.
This needs to be taken seriously. Trump is not kidding when he says the free press is the enemy. Last October he complained that “Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and get away with it.” Trump is actually appalled that the press can say whatever they want. It’s a freedom that he would eagerly undo given the opportunity. That would leave us with his factless accounts of a delusional world that exalts him and maligns his critics. He must be stopped by any (legal) means necessary.