Escondido, CA
Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy

No, newspapers aren’t the “enemy of the people”

Donald Trump’s infantile (but often effective) methods for responding to the bear-baiting media attacks against anything he does and their increasingly pathetic attempts to link him to the Russian hacking attacks on our elections have led him to occasionally call the media “The enemy of the people.”
This toxic term has a truly awful historical pedigree that includes its usage by the Nazis, and Stalin’s Soviet Union, to name a couple. Not that I would expect Trump to know that history. Or the historical origins of another of his favorite terms, “America First” which are linked to Charles Lindbergh’s attempts to keep the U.S. from being drawn into World War II to fight Nazi Germany.
Trump is an ignorant man who doesn’t read books. I doubt he read his “own” books after the ghostwriters finished writing them. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and flaunts his ignorance like a medal of honor.
Unfortunately a poll by Ipsos shows that nearly half of Republicans believe the president should be able to shut down his press critics. The survey showed 44% believe Trump should be able to close news outlets for “bad behavior.” I don’t doubt these figures. I’ve talked to plenty of people who don’t want us to run columns by people who criticize Trump. Members of the GOP who believe such nonsense are . . . dangerous to the Republic, but they are not unique.
On many college campuses a solid bloc of students would make “hate speech” illegal. What is hate speech? Whatever talk they hate.
Just like Republicans, Democrats dream of silencing their critics. In 2011, stung by the drubbing his party took in the midterms, President Obama contemplated restricting political advocacy by businesses competing for federal contracts. The Wall Street Journal called that notion “gangster politics.” We all remember when Obama’s IRS went after right wing political non-profits like a pig hunting for truffles. The same year Democrats made moves to reimpose “the Fairness Doctrine,” whose repeal by Reagan had weaponized talk radio and birthed Rush Limbaugh.
The legacy press did little against such excesses when its darling Obama wore the crown. Once Trump was elected, it rediscovered its responsibility to hold the powerful accountable. Better late than never.
This week the Boston Globe called on newspapers big, medium and small to denounce the president for a ‘‘dirty war against the free press.’’ I’m happy to do that, but in not quite the way the Globe intends, because I’m not going to let the press off the hook either.
Yes, Trump wants to delegitimize the press that attacks him, just as the press that attacks him has tried for two years to delegitimize his election as president.
But the fact is, Mr. President, not all media and not all newspapers are dedicated to destroying you. So in your typical ham-handed manner you lash out at a profession that, while imperfect, is the only proven way of engaging in civic discourse, informing the public and keeping our people free.
No, the press is not “The enemy of the people.” Pressured by his daughter Ivanka, President Trump clarified that even he does not believe all members of the media, including newspapers, TV, etc. are “enemies of the people,” just the purveyors of “fake news.”
Does a significantly large percentage of the media publish fake news about the president? You bet your bippy, as they used to say on “Laugh-In” (children, talk to your grandparents about that reference.)
However, the president invites “fake news” when he says things that are obviously untrue and stupid and then refuses to walk them back. Unless you shine his shoes with your tongue whatever you write about him won’t make him happy.
The press rightly points out his errors and peccadillos. But it doesn’t employ such standards objectively or universally. It ignores when frogs jump from the mouths of liberal darlings like Bernie Sanders or their latest 15-minute wonder Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The airhead running for Congress in New York was described as “the Future of the Democratic Party.” Maybe. If Bill & Ted are the future of the intellectual enlightenment. This gaffe machine is at least as dumb as the left painted Sarah Palin. But you won’t read about that in the New York Times.
The Founders of our republic knew that the “press” was an idol with feet of clay. In those days, as today, the press was incredibly partisan. “Republican” newspapers loyal to Jefferson made despicable claims about Washington and Adams while Federalist publications penned scurrilous calumnies about Jefferson and his allies. That is what they meant by “the press.” A morass of uncivil, unclean, lowly, infantile, despicable reprobates, AND one of the glories of our republic! I’m proud to be descended from them! The Founders knew exactly what they were doing when they wrote the First Amendment to protect such people.
To characterize Trump’s attacks on the press as unprecedented reveals a lack of historical perspective, and hightlights national newspaper editors who know as much about history as the man they seek to marshal the press against.
Washington declined to seek a third term because, he was “disinclined to be longer buffeted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers.”
Jefferson declared, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” Sounds to me like he was crying “fake news.” He also wrote: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
Woodrow Wilson wanted “authority to exercise censorship over the Press to the extent that that censorship…is absolutely necessary to the public safety.” Fortunately Congress didn’t give it to him.
Harry Truman observed, “Presidents and the members of their Cabinets and their staff members have been slandered and misrepresented since George Washington…when the press is friendly to an administration the opposition has been lied about and treated to the excrescence [sic] of paid prostitutes of the mind.” That sounds like a fancy way of saying, “fake news!”
To his credit, the current president says vile things about the press, but that’s as far as it goes. He has never DONE anything, such as jailing journalists for doing their jobs. Barack Obama and George W. Bush routinely put reporters in the clink in the name of national security. Trump has also called for revoking TV licenses of stations that run unflattering stories. But he never actually acted on that. Yes, the president runs his mouth but does nothing.
So, fellow members of the press, let’s not get too snow flakey about a president who may be crass and classless, but poses no more threat to Freedom of the Press than any of his predecessors. And if he ever does try it, some of his excellent choices for the federal bench and Supreme Court will surely swat him down.
Long live the republic. Long live the free press!

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *