In the event you missed the news on Saturday, and I saw only snippets on the local evening news, Trump delivered a speech at the CIA in which he said “journalists are the most dishonest human beings on the face of the Earth,” to the cheers of the spooks assembled, for reporting he is “feuding” with the intelligence community.
In other words, we fabricated Trump’s comments at his press conference in which he lambasted the intelligence community for allegedly leaking the reports that the Russians had compromising information about him as “something Nazi Germany would do and did do.”
He didn’t really say that? We made it up? Now he’s praising the men and women of the intelligence community and making us the bad guys for saying he doesn’t like them!
It gets worse. He insisted that the inaugural crowd stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, which photographs failed to corroborate. He says the media engaged in “false reporting” and that we would “pay a price” for it.
It gets worse. The Joseph Goebbels of the new administration, Sean Spicer, had this to say, according to the L.A. Times:
The announcements from Spicer in his first advised statement from the James Brady Press Briefing Room came after a nearly 4.5-minute denunciation of what he called “deliberately false reporting” of the administration’s first 29 hours.
There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways,” Spicer said. “We’re going to hold the press accountable as well.”
Accountable for what? For reporting verbatim the POTUS’ own tweets?
Speaking of tweets, the AP has this observation:
President Donald Trump has had some trouble with his spelling.
Trump tweeted Saturday that “I am honered to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States!” He misspelled “honored” by swapping in an “e” for an “o.”
The president posted the incorrectly spelled tweet at 11:57 a.m. Twelve minutes later, it was deleted and the message was re-posted, this time with the correct spelling.
Trump posted the incorrect tweet from his original realdonaldtrump account, not his new POTUS handle. He then posted the same message, with a photo, from the new account.
The deletion raises questions about whether a deleted Trump tweet would run afoul of the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of presidential communications.”
It gets worse. There are millions of people out there who will believe him, not us, when he tells a “Big Lie,” which we’ve discussed before. It apparently will be Spicer’s job to make sure the lies gain traction and the truth is dismissed as “deliberately false reporting.” A friend of mine told me she has a co-worker who absolutely adores Trump, and who said that “all journalists are evil.” To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, these people “can’t handle the truth!”
A personal note: I’ve seen this phenomenon before— in Venezuela.
Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998 on a populist campaign against the “corrupt establishment.” He was inaugurated by taking an oath on a constitution he declared “moribund” and vowed to scrap it. He did. He called a constitutional convention, dominated by his party of course, and wrote a new constitution that concentrated far more power in the president.
It was overwhelmingly ratified in a referendum in which opponents were denied equal time in the media. Then he called a new election in July 2000, which he was sure to win. I covered it as a freelancer. I attended a Chávez rally, in which his supporters wore his trademark red paratrooper’s beret (sound familiar?) and he railed away against the corrupt people he was going to send to jail. He won, and I stood under his balcony at the Miraflores Palace on election night as he declared victory. I’ll never forget the looks of adulation on the faces of the people around me. This man was their champion. He could do no wrong.
He, too, railed against the media, controlled by the “oligarchs,” meaning they opposed his increasing concentration of power in his hands. His minions filed libel suits against opposition media—such as Pablo López of La Razón, whom I wrote about in Quill—that reported on conflicts of interest by high government officials.
Truth is not a defense under the Spanish system of desacato; a public official only has to show he/she was offended. López fled into exile. Little by little,Chávez denied renewal of the broadcast licenses of the TV channels not supportive of him. He took them over and converted them into socialist propaganda organs. Running for re-election for expanded six-year terms, he not only threatened to jail his opponents, he did so after the elections, using trumped-up tax charges.
And so it went for 12 years. The night I heard on NPR he had succumbed to cancer, I shouted, “Yes!” Footnote: By the time Chávez died, Venezuela had sunk from the sixth most corrupt country in Latin America according to Transparency International to the most corrupt!
The first thing we’d better scrutinize is Trump’s first nominee to the FCC. Beware! Will his Supreme Court appointee be amenable to overturning Times vs. Sullivan, as Trump has tacitly proposed?
When I saw that SPJ had taken a confrontational stance to “fight” Trump before he had even taken office, I cringed. That played right into his hands, the “aha!” proof that we are his enemy. I would have preferred to wait for him to commit the first overt act. Well, the CIA speech has done that.
I didn’t mean to write this much. I’ve been grading papers and I’m tired. But I suggest, Colleagues, we’re in for the fight of our lives, and we’d better be united. We can’t count on the public to support us—as we try to continue to support the public. What a conundrum.