300+ US newspapers denounce Trump attacks

Over 300 newspapers from across the United States have published editorials in a coordinated response to ongoing attacks by President Donald Trump.

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Boston Globe:

A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press. Journalists are not classified as fellow Americans, but rather “The enemy of the people.” This relentless assault on the free press has dangerous consequences. We asked editorial boards from around the country – liberal and conservative, large and small – to join us today to address this fundamental threat in their own words.

NBC News: Newspapers across U.S. denounce Trump’s media attacks with coordinated editorials

The widespread effort comes as the president’s attacks on the press continue — but some are worried the editorials could backfire.

Newspapers and media outlets across the U.S. launched a widespread effort Thursday aimed at combating the constant attacks from President Donald Trump as well as negative feelings about the media’s role in society.

More than 300 newspapers around the nation joined together to each publish editorials that explained the role of journalists and amplified the positive role journalism plays in society.

So far newspapers big and small have joined the effort, and not just ones from blue states. They include The New York Times, The Arizona Daily Sun and The North Little Rock Times.

The Topeka Capital Journal, a newspaper based in Topeka, Kansas, that supported Trump, joined in the coordinated action.

“No one will be happy all the time with what a journalist or news outlet produces,” The Capital Journal editorial said. “But being called an enemy — and not of a politician or cause, but of the whole people of a nation — that’s something else entirely. It’s sinister. It’s destructive. And it must end now.”

Trump has targeted the media with criticism and accusations since early on in his presidential campaign, with those attacks continuing — and sometimes escalating — since he became president. At a rally in August, Trump described the press covering the event as “fake, fake disgusting news.” Trump has made fun of the media by announcing a “fake news awards.” He’s also threatened to enact new libel laws and frequently attacked news outlets via Twitter.

True to form, Trump responded:

Very ironic, and very Trump. If honesty wins, then he must be one of the biggest losers – as are US democracy and credibility.

Why single out the Boston Globe? This could have something to do with it.

The effort was spearheaded by Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor of the editorial page at The Boston Globe, who asked other editors to combat frequent attacks made on the press by Trump.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pritchard explained her inspiration for the initiative:

“I hope it would educate readers to realize that an attack on the First Amendment is unacceptable. We are a free and independent press; it is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution.”

Not everyone was in favour of the coordinated campaign.

Not every news outlet was on board. The Wall Street Journal, whose editorial board is strongly conservative, published an article that was critical of the initiative, suggesting the president has a right to free speech and that newspapers have been “colluding.” Jack Shafer, senior media writer at Politico, wrote that the coordinated effort “is sure to backfire.”

“It will provide Trump with circumstantial evidence of the existence of a national press cabal that has been convened solely to oppose him,” Shafer wrote. “When the editorials roll off the press on Thursday, all singing from the same script, Trump will reap enough fresh material to whale on the media for at least a month.”

I don’t think it will make much difference – Trump will lurch from attack to attack depending on what unfavourable news unfolds.

The media has many faults and flaws, but it is an essential part of an open democracy, and essential check on power.

One of the biggest potential problems is if Trump escalates his attacks and promotes and encourages division and violence, and there are signs it is coming to this already.

Trump may benefit from his ongoing onslaught – people become numb to shock with each outlandish outburst or attack.

But it is almost certain to backfire on him eventually. His accumulation of ill-will and dysfunctional relationships – with the media, with politicians, with countries, with sports people, with a growing number of disaffected whistle blowers – is sure to work against him.

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Just as people are becoming immune to shock from his behaviour, it will take more for him to achieve the levels of shock he seems to be determined to achieve. This means he could get more shocking, and trample further over the line of decency and responsibility.

The Boston Globe’s editorial JOURNALISTS ARE NOT THE ENEMY

Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current U.S. administration are the “enemy of the people.” This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president much like an old-time charlatan threw out “magic” dust or water on a hopeful crowd.

“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom,” wrote John Adams.

For more than two centuries, this foundational American principle has protected journalists at home and served as a model for free nations abroad. Today it is under serious threat. And it sends an alarming signal to despots, from Ankara to Moscow, Beijing to Baghdad, that journalists can be treated as a domestic enemy.

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Trump escalates ‘enemy of the people’ to ‘war’

Donald Trump’s ongoing attacks on media as ‘fake news’ and ‘enemy of the people’ has been widely criticised, for good reason. See Trump’s “enemy of the people’ attacks teetering on tyranny.


But as is typical of Trump when he is criticised, he has escalated his rhetoric.

So he emphases his tyrant talk of ‘enemy of the people’ and then ups the ante to ‘War’! One could question whether he is becoming unhinged under pressure – which is a dangerous thing for someone who can easily start wars.

Will Trump use a war to try to justify his claims, and then blame it on the media?

One thing that is apparent about Trump – he projects.

Psychological projection is a defense mechanism people subconsciously employ in order to cope with difficult feelings or emotions. Psychological projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings.

It Trump’s case it may not be unwanted feelings, it looks more like a propensity to blame others for one’s own problems or aims.

Purposely cause great division and distrust? That’s exactly what Trump is doing, more and more.

Can also cause war? That’s much more likely to be a president than a newspaper.

Very dangerous and sick? That could be a very worrying projection.

Trump frequently tells lies. Sometimes he may simply make things up to suit his line of attack, but he repeats many of his lies, suggesting in part at least it is a deliberate strategy.

He tries to sound truthful (and blame others for lying when they report and criticise him).

He is also known for his contradictions.

It wouldn’t seem out of character for him to start a war (like starting a war with the media or a trade war), and try to make murder respectable, and at the same time blame others.

The Trump attacks are not limited to crazy tweets. He seems to be increasing the number of campaign style meetings where he stirs up crowd emotions, promoting division with attacks on opponents, critics and the media with lies and manipulation – much like tyrants of the past have done.

For a long time the US has been able to avoid war on it’s own soil, but a Trump provoked or inspired civil war is effectively under way already. If that turns violent it could get very messy.

For how long will Trump be allowed to follow such a high risk path before someone steps in and tries to restore relative sanity?

Or will the Madness of King Trump be allowed to continue unabated? That looks like an increasingly risky option.

Attempts to bring ‘fake news’ and ‘enemy of the people’ here

Donald Trump is following the example of a tirade of tyrants with his ongoing attacks on non compliant US media as ‘fake news’ and ‘enemy of the people’. Attempts are being made to bring these sorts of insidious assaults to new Zealand.

From Facebook:

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Far from the real truth

I think this is quite unfair on New Zealand media. There is plenty to criticise them about – especially things like their growing obsession with trivia and click bait, reducing numbers of journalists, rushing the ‘news’ under online pressure, and their picking of winners and losers in politics.

But I don’t think they can fairly be accused of deliberately assaulting the truth. Most journalists do their best in high pressure jobs to be accurate and balanced.

New Zealand has reasonable complaints systems (too slow, but as good as could probably be expected) that help hold our media to account.

Fortunately there is unlikely to be a popular anti-media movement in New Zealand. When ‘fake news’ is promoted on Whale Oil – like First and second place for fake NZ news go to… – the declining number of people who take any notice of that site will note more irony than reality, given WO’s record of unbalanced activism while claiming to be a brave new version of media.

The fact is that most ‘fake news’ is circulated and promoted by anonymous sources acting in the shadows of the Internet as deliberate attempts to mislead and misinform.

Newsroom (March 2018): Fact or fiction? Behind the rise of fake news

Like it or not – and most of us don’t – we’ve become embroiled in a murky “fake news” propaganda conflict aimed at controlling our opinions and our choices.

It’s most prevalent in our social media feeds, including Facebook and Twitter.

Broadly speaking, fake news is the dissemination of falsehoods disguised as truth.

A producer of CBS’s 60 Minutes programme, Michael Radutzky, defines it more specifically as “stories that are provably false, have enormous traction in culture, and are consumed by millions of people”. In other words, fake news creates a misinformed public, fostering societal pressure on politicians to enact policies against the public interest.

It can also undermine the legitimacy of “real” news stories.

That is often it’s aim – and seems to be a clear aim of Trump.

Adding to this problem is a general 21st Century decline in journalistic standards that has weakened the ability of news outlets to subject their information sources to effective scrutiny.

With this in mind, Snopes founder David Mikkelson warns that fake news is “a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon which encompasses many forms of shoddy, unresearched, error-filled and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone”.

So it adds to growing problems with news coverage.

One of the teenagers in Veles, named Goran, told the BBC how he got involved.

He started by plagiarising stories from right-wing American sites and posting them on Facebook with sensationalist headlines. He paid Facebook to “boost” these posts, sharing them with a large US audience hungry for Trump stories.

When those people shared the stories and clicked on their “like” buttons, Goran began earning revenue from associated advertising. According to Goran, he pocketed 1800 Euros ($3000) in one month.

When questioned about the morality of his actions, Goran said, “Teenagers in our city don’t care how Americans vote – they are only satisfied that they make money and can buy expensive clothes and drinks”.

But the also recruit a lot of willing unpaid helpers who get sucked into their crap and give it credence. That’s perhaps the biggest worry.

It’s far better that an open democracy that values free speech has a diverse, imperfect media and not a compliant bunch of Government mouthpieces afraid to hold power to account.

Trump’s “enemy of the people’ attacks teetering on tyranny

Donald Trump has frequently attacked ‘the media’, interchanging ‘fake news’ and ‘enemy of the people’. The latter puts him in quite bad company. Lenin Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, and Hitler, and more recently in Venezuela, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.

Trump has been doing it since the start of his presidency.

NY Times (17 February 2017): Trump Calls the News Media the ‘Enemy of the American People’

President Trump, in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s press organizations, wrote on Twitter on Friday that the nation’s news media “is the enemy of the American people.”

Even by the standards of a president who routinely castigates journalists — and who on Thursday devoted much of a 77-minute news conference to criticizing his press coverage — Mr. Trump’s tweet was a striking escalation in his attacks.

USA Today (24 February 2017): Trump again calls media ‘enemy of the people’

President Trump turned his speech before a conservative convention into a full-throated attack on journalism Friday, saying some reporters make up unnamed sources for “fake news” and again describing them as “the enemy” of the American people.

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are — they are the enemy of the people,” Trump told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

While praising some reporters as honest, and pledging fealty to the First Amendment, Trump claimed that “the fake news media doesn’t tell the truth.” He said reporters should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, and “we’re going to do something about it.”

And on Friday (2 August 2018):

So Trump has hept portraying ‘a large percentage of the media’ (media that doesn’t say what he wants) as “the enemy of the people”.  This is an insidious assault on an imperfect and essential part of a free and open democracy.

And it is a tactic that has been done by tyrants and dictators in the past.

Brookings: Enemy of the People

In Enemy of the People, Marvin Kalb, an award-winning American journalist with more than six decades of experience both as a journalist and media observer, writes with passion about why we should fear for the future of American democracy because of the unrelenting attacks by the Trump administration on the press.

Shortly after assuming office in January 2017, President Donald Trump accused the press of being an “enemy of the American people.” Attacks on the media had been a hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign, but this charge marked a dramatic turning point: language like this ventured into dangerous territory.

Twentieth-century dictators—notably, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao—had all denounced their critics, especially the press, as “enemies of the people.” Their goal was to delegitimize the work of the press as “fake news” and create confusion in the public mind about what’s real and what isn’t; what can be trusted and what can’t be.

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Trump continues to call the press “the enemy of the people,” which is both disgusting and dangerous. To understand why, let’s look at the history of that sinister phrase, who has used it in the past, why, and how it fosters a higher likelihood of violence against journalists.

The modern origins of the phrase are from the French Revolution’s “reign of terror,” when people were beheaded en masse. But it resurged during the Nazi era, when Hitler referred to the “lying press” and called Jews “the enemy of the people.” But, it keeps getting worse.

It’s a Soviet phrase too, something Lenin started and Stalin continued. For Stalin, labeling someone an “enemy of the people,” meant internment at a forced labor camp and sometimes death. The term was *too extreme* for Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced it *in the 1950s.*

Mao used the phrase regularly too to label anyone who opposed his rule as an “enemy of the people.” The consequences of that label were also dire and often led to death. Mao was a murderous dictator who killed nearly 40 million people.

In modern times, other dictators have used the phrase too. Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez labeled critical media outlets as “enemies of the homeland,” in the same vein. Are you beginning to see a pattern in what type of regime calls its critics the “enemy of the people?”

The phrase has also been deployed against the press in places as diverse as Myanmar (when it was ruled purely by a military junta) and Zimbabwe (when it was ruled by longtime dictator Robert Mugabe)

There is a reason that the phrase “enemy of the people” has been almost exclusively deployed by murderous dictators. To use it to describe the free press, which is a pillar of every democracy, is particularly sinister. Trump is borrowing a phrase from the worst of the worst.

In my field research, I’ve interviewed several authoritarian leaders who admit that they do *what they can get away with* when it comes to destroying the press. The White House used to be the deterrent, threatening consequences to regimes that harassed or attacked journalists.

Calling the press “the enemy of the people” encourages violence against journalists in the US. Keep in mind that he has also called the free press “a stain on America,” and “scum.” People listen to him. And a lot of crazy people with guns listen to him too.

Trump’s anti-press rhetoric puts him in a category with Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, Hitler & Chavez. This isn’t partisan. Democracy can’t survive without a free press. Authoritarianism requires the press to be crushed or cowed. Trump’s rhetoric is disgusting, dangerous, and must end.

I doubt it will end. Trump plays by his own rules as much as he can.

And it isn’t just Trump. He has his lackeys supporting his attacks on media – see Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuses to dispute claim that media is ‘enemy’ of the people.

And Trump has recruited an army of supporters who make excuses and defend his assaults on the media, and attack ‘the media’, and denigrate and try to discredit those who condemn his insidious attacks.

So does he see media that holds him to account is an enemy of his ambitions? Or an enemy of his ego?

I think it’s both. His presidency is teetering on tyranny.