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.

Image result for cartoon enemy of the people

@BriaanKlaas:

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.

Michelle Wolf versus US media

A speech by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has caused a stir.

It’s same old for the White House to complain about being the target of criticism and a lampooning, but what was different about Wolf’s speech was her targeting of the media being too cosy with the White House – media that criticised her for poor taste humour and being too personal.

CNN: Michelle Wolf was the big winner of the WHCD, not Trump

Despite what Donald Trump and some others on the right may think, the big winner from Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner was comedian Michelle Wolf. Her performance was not just funny — it’s still grabbing headlines and will make this comedian, who is on the verge of stardom, even better known.

True, not every joke she told got big laughs in the room. I was there and some of her material did make people uncomfortable. But political comedy, at its best, shouldn’t always be comfortable. It should make you laugh while also challenging your views. And Wolf did just that in strong moments like this quip: “I’m 32, which is a weird age — 10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore.”

She did it again with this joke: “[Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend.’ Or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man.'”

Did you cringe a bit when you read those jokes? Good. That’s what political comedy needs to do, especially in the time of Trump.

…what’s most telling is what Trump left out of his tweet about the WHCD. Since Saturday night, there’s been a backlash against Wolf for her jokes about Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, who was sitting on the same dais where Wolf was performing. Here’s an example of one of Wolf’s barbs about Sanders: “I actually really like Sarah.

I think she’s very resourceful.” Wolf then joked: “She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.” (Keep in mind, Sanders was sent by Trump to represent his administration, which has been plagued by serving up lie after lie to the American people.)

That’s not a joke I would tell, nor do I think any male comedian could get away with it. But Wolf did.

Team Trump was outraged that Wolf dared to mock the person sent to represent the most powerful man in our nation. On Sunday morning, Mercedes Schlapp, a White House senior communications adviser who had stormed out of the WHCD with her husband in protest, commented on “Fox & Friends” that Wolf’s jokes were “so incredibly disrespectful.”

The way I see it, a person in the Trump administration saying something was “disrespectful” while defending a man who bragged on the “Access Hollywood” tape about grabbing women by the pu**y, has demonized Muslims and Mexicans and mocked a disabled reporter is truly hilarious.

Claiming that Wolf’s jokes were disrespectful is more than a little hypocritical when trump has made a political career out of being disrespectful.

Targeting Trump and his lying cronies shouldn’t be a big deal in the current climate.

So why the fuss from the White House media?

@Mikel_Jollett tweeted: Let’s be honest, this is what they’re REALLY mad about. Michelle Wolf called out THE PRESS.

No wonder the media squirmed.

Molly Roberts: Michelle Wolf got it just right

Wolf managed Saturday night to scandalize the majority of Washington’s tuxedo-clad intelligentsia with a barrage of bon mots that, in the eyes of much of the press and political establishment, weren’t really so bon at all. The speech, these pundits have argued, wasn’t amusing; it was lewd, and worse than that, it was mean.

That Wolf’s performance was not “normal” for the correspondents’ dinner is a testament to its timeliness and necessity — nothing is “normal” right now, and pretending otherwise out of a false sense of the fourth estate’s friendship with the executive would have been the real disgrace. Wolf called the Trump administration out for tearing down democracy. Then, the people who are supposed to care most about holding autocrats to account called her out in turn for, essentially, not being chummy enough.

That persistent chumminess is why Wolf’s performance, in the end, wasn’t really for the press. It was about us. “You guys love breaking news, and you did it,” Wolf said to CNN. “You broke it.” To everyone else, she said: “You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.” Instead of listening — to that or to Wolf’s final line, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” — we got grumpy on Twitter. Which means Wolf did a better job of defending the First Amendment than those who say that’s our business.

We have a real issue in New Zealand with how close our political media is with our politicians, not as disgraceful as in the US but still a threat to a properly functioning democracy.

The Press/Stuff Leaders Debate

The Press/stuff leaders debate Between Bill English and Jacinda Ardern is at 6 pm tonight:

How to watch the Stuff Leaders Debate

It’s the third of four to be held around the country before the election and will be streamed live on Stuff and Facebook from 6pm, Thursday.

You can watch the stream directly from the home page on the Stuff website, or through Facebook Live on Stuff’s Facebook page, or at the Stuff YouTube channel.


A strong opening speech from English.

Ok but more subdued and routine from Ardern.

Ardern has warmed up well, but doesn’t get a crowd response when she says her whole front bench is ‘exceptional’.

English names his front bench and a groan follows ‘Steven Joyce’.

Too much bull from both sides.

A late half time.

English has been dogged but has had some difficult issues to deal with. Ardern has been strong in attacking and digging away at 9 years of not enough.

To turn things around English has to have ripper and he needs Ardern to stuff up, neither are happening.

I have half listened to the rest. Must be getting campaign fatigue.

I don’t think this debate will have changed much. English has to find something else to lift himself, National has to sort out it’s appalling campaign, or we’re likely to cruise to a change of government.

 

Trump, Streep, the press and the people

After Meryl Streep criticised Donald Trump (without naming him) in her Golden Globe speech there has been a big response in media and online, including from Trump on Twitter.

Streep’s speech refers to debunked claims made by Trump during the presidential campaign:

I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.

He followed that up on on This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.

Trump tried to substantiate his claim by citing an article by Washington Post reporter Serge Kovaleski which said:

In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.

Kovaleski pointed out that there were never any reports (substantiated or unsubstantiated) of “thousands” or even “hundreds” of people celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New York or New Jersey.

Trump responded in a campaign meeting by mocking Kovaleski, who is physically disabled.

This created controversy, and Trump responded to that with more blatant bull:

I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski [sic], is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence.

Despite having one of the all-time great memories, I certainly do not remember him.

I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago.

If Mr. Kovaleski is handicapped, I would not know because I do not know what he looks like. If I did know, I would definitely not say anything about his appearance.

Trump obviously mimicked Kovaleski and admits “I merely mimicked”, so contradicts himself.

Kovalski says he talked to and interviewed Trump numerous times in the past.

Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years. I’ve interviewed him in his office. I’ve talked to him at press conferences. All in all, I would say around a dozen times, I’ve interacted with him as a reporter while I was at The Daily News.

So “one of the all-time great memories” cannot be trusted.

Streep in her speech at the Golden Globes this week:

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modelled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

Trump has responded to this in typical fashion via Twitter:

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big.

For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

Also typical is Trump’s tactic of blaming others for what he does, being very dishonest.

Trump has even flip flopped on his opinion of Streep. In an interview with The Hollywood reporter in 2015, asked if there were any actresses in particular he loved, he said:

“Julia Roberts is terrific, and many others. Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too.”

The difference now is that Streep criticised trump, something he seems intolerant of, and as Streep said he uses his power to attack those who criticise him. This doesn’t bode well for the presidency.

In a New York Times editorial: Streep vs. Trump for America

Trump’s psyche is no great riddle. He’s a study in neediness. Adulation is what he craves; admonishment he cannot abide. Trafficking in untruths and conspiracies, he calls the press that he secretly venerates dishonest for pointing this out. That’s called transference.

Soon he will have at his disposal far more potent weapons than Twitter to assuage his irascibility and channel his cruelty. It is doubtful that he will resist them over time. There is rational cause for serious alarm. If the world was anchored by America, it is about to be unmoored.

Yes, there is rational cause for alarm at how Trump behaves. But Trump is still strongly supported and lauded.

Meghan McCain, a conservative commentator and daughter of Senator John McCain, tweeted that, “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won. And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how — you will get him re-elected.”

Trump is not an unclothed emperor – he openly flaunts his clothes and his fans adore his facade. They don’t want truth or honesty, they want to hear what he says.

And Trump delivers what they want to hear. How much is deliberate dis-ingenuity and dishonesty, and how much is ego driven ignorance, it is difficult to know.

What is easy to know is that Trump can’t be trusted. Despite his ongoing dishonesty and abuse of power that seems to be exactly what many people like about him.

It’s hard to see how this will end well.

This brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage.That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution.

The state of the press may be as big a problem as Trump, who would not be president-elect without the extensive free publicity and promotion given to him by the press.

Both politics and the media are badly broken in the US, and it will be very difficult for them to extricate themselves from the mess. Blaming Russia ignores their own serious shortcomings.

And ‘the people’ are the ones who have enabled all of this. They voted for Trump (or at least enough of them to get him elected).

They seek news that suits their views.

They avoid paying for news.

They are willingly baited and click to reinforce the dumbing down of the news.

And they don’t care about dishonest and bullshit as long as it reinforces their prejudices.

Trump versus media, continued

It hasn’t taken long for tensions to surface between president-elect Donald Trump and the media. Trump has just visited the White House to have a chat with Obama and a look around.

Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!

His relationship with the White House Correspondents’ Association hasn’t started well.

White House Correspondents Association: Trump decision to leave DC without informing press could leave Americans “blind” during crisis

whca

Trump may not know how things are expected to work yet. Or this could be the beginning of an uneasy and possibly contentious relationship between Trump and the media.

Trump owes his success to the attention given him by the media, but he indicated during the campaign a large amount of friction as well, when the media didn’t perform how he liked.

Trump’s apparently conciliatory conversion regarding Obama and Clinton does not seem to apply to media.

UPDATE: An NBC News reporter got a response from Trump on registration of Muslims and got a chilling response: Donald Trump Says He’d ‘Absolutely’ Require Muslims to Register

Donald J. Trump, who earlier in the week said he was open to requiring Muslims in the United States to register in a database, said on Thursday night that he “would certainly implement that — absolutely.”

Mr. Trump was asked about the issue by an NBC News reporter and pressed on whether all Muslims in the country would be forced to register. “They have to be,” he said. “They have to be.’’

When asked how a system of registering Muslims would be carried out — whether, for instance, mosques would be where people could register — Mr. Trump said: “Different places. You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management. Our country has no management.’’

Asked later, as he signed autographs, how such a database would be different from Jews having to register in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump repeatedly said, “You tell me,” until he stopped responding to the question.

 More than a bit ominous.

Dame lame claim on GCSB Bill

There have been a number of fanciful, ignorant or deceitiful claims about the level of public opposition to the GCSB Bill.

NZ doesn’t want GCSB bill, says Dame

Dame Anne told the audience of around 400 that the public’s opinion is clear.

“You see in submissions, editorials, opinion pieces across the country this bill has been almost universally condemned.

That’s actually bullshit, as were a number of claims made at the meeting.

Most people don’t understand, don’t know or don’t care about it.

Yesterday’s Press editorial didn’t condemn it. See Strong Press support for GCSB Bill changes.

And today’s Herald editorial:

Changes to GCSB bill not yet enough

Having achieved some significant changes to the GCSB bill, Peter Dunne has agreed to provide the single-vote majority required to pass the spying legislation.

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill will be an improved piece of legislation when it is amended by Parliament. The changes go much further than the “cosmetic” tag attached by the Greens.

Broader concerns about the agency’s access to ‘metadata’ and what precisely defines a ‘private communication’ are not yet addressed.

According to the Prime Minister, the bill represents “a balancing act between national security and doing our best to keep New Zealanders safe, and the privacy of New Zealanders”.

The changes in the bill as reported back yesterday and those achieved by Mr Dunne improve that situation somewhat. It is a real shame, however, that they do not go further. The public deserves stronger reassurance.

Yes, we need stronger reassurance from Key and National, but this is far from condemnation.