Enemy of the People

Originally posted on June 6, 2020

All wanna-be dictators, especially corrupt ones, need to keep secrets from their subjects. One of their favorite targets is journalists, who are apt to publish information and opinions that are unfavorable. From B Franklin: Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.

Trump has spent a large part of his term attacking the press. One of his more infamous tweets was:

Notice that Trump has two themes in this one tweet. The first is fake news (almost always in all caps, as it is here). Recall that the original meaning of the term was false news items, usually spread on non-monitored social media platforms, that were intentionally formulated to cause dissent. Often their real purpose wasn’t particularly political. Young hustlers, usually overseas, created these fake news items to get lots of clicks from outraged viewers, for which they got paid by advertisers. Given the term’s power to get a rise out of most people, Trump appropriated it to cover news items that he didn’t like, regardless of their truth.

The second is that the press is the “enemy of the people”. He apparently forgot the Washington Post and MSNBC, at least in 2017. The list of dictators who have issued similar statements is quite long and includes some of the most evil folks in the planet’s history — Robespierre, Goebbels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao. And now Trump joins them.

Trump’s drumbeat of blaming the press for “fake news” and “enemy of the people” has regrettably made their jobs more dangerous. There’s been a surge of violent incidents against journalists, most recently by members of the various police forces trying to handle the post-Floyd protests. A running total is kept at pressfreedomtracker.us. Reporters Without Borders has downgraded the United States’ commitment to press freedom.

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