Don’t Mess With the Press


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When President Trump spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) crowd last week, he ramped up his usual rhetoric using language of a demagogue.  He called the press “enemies of the people,” disparaged the integrity of the FBI, and banned several news outlets from the daily press briefing later that day.

“Fake news, fake news”, he said.  “The fake news doesn’t tell the truth.”  That night, he sent Tweets calling the New York Times and CNN a “joke” and a “danger to our nation.”

In holding with proud tradition, the media outlets quickly poured the outrage about the unprecedented actions.  Regarding the ban, the New York Times said nothing like it had ever happened in the papers long history of covering the White House news.  The Guardian spokesperson said it was a deeply troubling and divisive act.  The Washington Post called it appalling, and CNN called Trump’s actions petulant.

Then, the press seemed to proceed as usual to report the news.

Check, balance.

Still, after that eventful day, reporters now had a heightened curiosity about the motivations of the President.  Watchdogs everywhere were more alert.

CNN had recently broken a story about Trump’s Russian ties, which the FBI is investigating.  Was Trump trying to silence CNN and other media outlets that reported unfavorable things about him?  Was Trump trying to discredit FBI investigations?

Trump’s rabble-rousing also caught the attention of people around the world when he used the phrase “enemy of the people.”  Russians relate the phrase to a former Soviet leader, who labeled his enemies for death with those words.  The New York Times interviewed a British author who said the rhetoric is used to incite, shake things up, and to destabilize people.

CNN’s Jake Tapper summed up his take on Trump’s use of the phrase “enemy of the people.”   Tapper said Trump is taking the next step in avoiding checks and balances.

It appears on all counts that the President was using propaganda to outrage people in order to benefit from the controversy.  He is definitely agitating issues and shaking people up.  He is using cutting and harmful words and deeds to throw people off balance, or off-track depending on the angle.  That is the very definition of demagogue.  The counter to that, the opposite, is unity and peace.