The hottest topic among my news feeds of late has been the White House’s exclusion of a number of prominent news outlets; media that have been labeled ad nauseum by Trump as “Fake News,” and more recently in his rather inflammatory rhetoric the “Enemy of the American People.” The most significant networks that were excluded included such names as CNN, The LA Times, BBC and the New York Times. Is the media biased? Do I find myself at odds with some news networks at times because of bias? The answer to both of those questions is an undeniable yes. We are after all but humans, and even the most balanced of news’ sources is managed by a human with their own viewpoints and opinions. It is unavoidable. Yet, despite my own misgivings about bias in the media, I find this latest action (paired with Trump’s own demagoguery) to be a terrible indication of where our country is headed as far as civil liberties and freedom of the press are concerned.
Note: The best way to mitigate media bias is to ensure you are reading, watching and listening to a wide range of news sources and use your own grey matter to critically assess the information presented and come to your own well-informed conclusion.
Before continuing onward, in the interest of fairness, I should note that the issue of the legitimacy of the news networks is not a new one. In 2009, conservatives were in an uproar over President Obama’s supposed War on Fox News. Now, I’m trying very hard to be fair, but even in my days as a ardent conservative, I could not abide Fox News and it’s ways of presenting the facts (or shall I say, their presentation of the facts that are convenient to supporting their conservative platform); so I shall try my best to be fair in my meditations on this particular topic. While the Obama administration was never so crass as to call Fox “Fake News,” Obama’s Communication Director, Anita Dunn questioned Fox News’ legitimacy as a news organization and characterized it as an “opponent” in an interview with the New York Times.
As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.
I think it is important, however, that we distinguish the difference in language being used. She labels Fox News as the opponent to the White House. Trump has made sweeping generalizations characterizing the media as a whole to be an enemy. The words we choose have meaning and power. An opponent is someone we find ourselves at odds with in a competition of some kind (Note: I am not an English Language scholar…merely a fairly literate and well-read individual). “Hillary Clinton was the opponent of Trump in the election”. Yes. “The New York Yankees are the historical opponent of the Boston Red Socks”. Yes. An Enemy is many degrees further down the spectrum and could be characterized as something in need of destruction or an object of hatred. Let’s try it on for size: “The New York Yankees are the historical enemy of the Boston Red Socks.” Sounds a bit more ridiculous within that context, at least it does for me (I’m neither a Yankees or Red Socks fan…so if you ask a native Bostonian or New Yorker this same question, I may find myself at odds on my position). It’s also notable that such “fake” news outlets as the “failing” New York Times made no effort to cover up the facts. CNN’s (another “fake” news outlet) Anderson Cooper was even bold enough to compare Obama to Nixon in his treatment of Fox News, and then ABC’s Jake Tapper (now with CNN) went to the mat to defend Fox News and question the Obama Administration’s decision to treat Fox News with hostility. One could go on and on debating the history of this relationship which culminated in Fox’s alleged slights for not receiving the invitation from the Treasury Department to interview Kenneth Feinberg, but I need to press onward!
The key point in addressing recent history is that conservatives have seemingly forgotten that the five major news networks stepped up to the plate to defend their conservative sibling almost eight years ago. One reason that Fox News came under such scrutiny back in 2009 was their tendency to pick and choose the facts they reported and how their conservative opinion programming was treated as news . The liberal press demonstrated that they had no qualms about reporting on the negative elements of the Obama administration, yet they still found themselves a place within the White House Press Corps.
The White House has been more than explicit in its intent to continue to be the aggressor in a war against the media that chooses to report the facts; facts that coincidentally paint President Trump and his cronies in a not-so flattering light. Speaking of coincidences, it certainly not a coincidence that the news organizations barred from Spicer’s press gaggle were among the “fake” news outlets that Trump has declared to be enemies and has continued to lambaste without any sense of remorse or consequence .
There are so many words one can assign to the Trump White House: petulant, immature, tyrannical, etc. Jake Tapper, again, not shy from drawing fire by asking hard-hitting questions of the Obama Administration, characterized the Trump Administration‘s latest act of being “un-American.”
This is starting to concern me even more. Previously, I maintained a default setting of being outraged. Yet, for the first time since Trump assumed office, I’m actually fearful of the future of my country. While we have seen a loud outcry from the media and liberals across the nation, the conservatives have remained disturbingly quiet over the numerous infractions of the Trump Presidency. John McCain has made a bold step in speaking out against Trump (in some part due to his recent electoral victory, a luxurious position to be in when one doe not need to consider re-election for another six years; regardless…kudos to Senator McCain). Yet, the silence from the Republicans is deafening and rather frightening.
I am coming to believe that Trump’s Press Office, is less of a PR and Marketing Firm for the Trump Brand but more of a Ministry of Propaganda; a government office that will only grant access to those that report in the way in which they direct. This offense to the fourth estate is seemingly just one more measure to not only condition the media, but the American public to accept the White House’s version of “Alternative Facts.” (Chilling! The more one hears this phrase, the more it starts to sound like some Orwellian term that Big Brother would use in 1984). The Washington Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, refutes the epithet of “fake news” in a single sentence:
Calling press reports fake doesn’t make them so.
Indeed, that is the vain hope of the Trump Administration; that by shear bluster, willpower and commitment to lies and outright fabrications, they can alter the very fabric of the universe and bend the laws of physics and somehow transform falsehood into truth! This is unrealistic and ridiculous. This is something a five-year-old does when they are caught red-handed stealing from the cookie jar. An infant’s logic is that if they commit to their story, no matter how outrageous or patently untrue, their sincerity will somehow convince their parents’ to doubt their sanity and own sense of perception and believe the child. I’ll just step right out and say it: Donald J. Trump is a man-baby and is unbelievably still the President of these United States!
But I digress…back on topic.
It’s terrifying enough to see one’s freedoms suddenly evaporate overnight, it’s far more insidious to have them slowly erode over time. How are our liberties being threatened? Is a tyranny being established by inches; done subtly over time where we don’t even notice our civil liberties degrading? Do we come to ignore the danger because of the shear bluster and buffoonery that issues forth from the highest seats of power?…causing many to dismiss the danger outright (“the guy’s a clown, he couldn’t possibly be a threat!”) Do we find ourselves, the opposition, slowly exhausted over time by our outrage and simply give up?
I feel the latter option is the most dangerous to our movement. Some may note I didn’t produce any content throughout the week. I can claim work and family kept me busy, but I’ll be honest, I was simply tired and worn out. My twitter feed provides very little uplifting information as far as domestic politics are concerned and my outrage and fear impose a high emotional cost on my psyche. I needed a break. America needs a break. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to take a break. Despite this fatigue, balancing our lives and pacing ourselves accordingly will help us continue to resist and advocate for our rights as citizens.
When the next news outlet slights Trump’s fragile ego, what will be next. Litigation against CNN for slander? Targeting individual journalists form the New York Times? Bloggers? YouTubers? Podcasters? These are likely visions of the worst case scenario that will (hopefully) only haunt my nightmares and not my reality. Yet, can any one of us say with any certainty that the next “enemy” Trump designates will not be the people continuing to spread the “lies” of the “fake” news? Such a postulation would have seemed ridiculous a month ago…today one might pause and consider it. The most troubling notion is that the “Enemy of the American People” could just as easily transition to becoming “Enemy of the State.”