The Trumpian War on the Press

There seems to be some confusion about Donald Trump’s war on the press, so let’s clear up a few things.

First of all, don’t believe anyone who says they think Trump’s hatred of the press is part of any sort of long-term plan. If you have been paying attention over the course of Trump’s career in business, planning is not Donny’s strong suit. His entire adult life has consisted of doing whatever the hell he wanted at a particular time and an inability to even consider the long term. In fact, it is that inability to think beyond his nose is what makes him such a valuable Russian asset.

Think about it; when Trump started working with the Russians, he was in debt for more than $3.5 billion, precisely because his narcissism led him to believe he could build a hugely lavish casino/hotel and, because his name was “Trump,” gamblers would flock to it and drop thousands of dollars each almost immediately and could pay for everything in the first year or so. There was no “Plan B,” which means there was no planning. It’s not a plan if you don’t consider the possibility of failure.

Trump does everything by the seat of his pants. Most of his ventures fail, and they fail precisely because he does no preparation in advance. He plows tens of millions into Trump Steaks, without even considering whether the market needs them. He puts out his own brand of “premium vodka” without even considering there are already several premium vodka brands out there that own the market. This is not a man who plans anything; he didn’t even plan to become president, which is obvious when you consider he’s been there for 19 months, and he still doesn’t understand the job he has.

Therefore, when I think about Trump’s war on the press, I don’t see some grand plan to take over the country and the world and to institute fascism. I see a stone idiot who has a job he doesn’t understand and knows he isn’t qualified for, vamping for the people he thinks put him there. However, the fact that he’s not doing it for a particular reason, with a specific nefarious end in mind, doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. In fact, it could make his efforts more dangerous.

This war on the legitimate press has been going on for a long time, precisely because his lickspittle “Trump Cultists” think every news resource that isn’t Fox News or Breitbart or something similar is “liberal,” and they have an irrational hatred of everything they view as “liberal.” And let’s be clear; he gets every talking point from the CALLERS to right-wing radio talk shows

Because his trashing of “the media” plays so well with his “base” (there’s never been a greater description of a political party’s core constituency, ever), Trump has always been sure to include press attacks at every stage of his campaign. His mocking of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski was a clear homage to the “base” group of assholes who make up his cult. When he took on Megan Kelly for actually asking him questions that mattered during a Republican, he slammed her much the same way he has slammed Rosie O’Donnell for more than a decade, by claiming she has “blood… coming out of her whatever,” it was because she dared not follow the Fox News line of hanging on his every word and proclaiming him as “king.” It ewes still only 2015 when, during a press conference (when he used to do those), he referred to the press as “sleazy” and “unbelievably dishonest.” (He has the best words, you know…)

Trump’s penchant for inciting violence against the press was clear when campaign manager Corey Lewandowski committed physical assault against a CNN reporter who dared to ask Trump a question. During his campaign he basically sexually harassed women journalists, to the point of calling some in the middle of the night to sexually proposition them.

Most politicians realize how important the press is to their fortunes and they try to curry favor with them. Trump obviously doesn’t think that way because he’s spent three years trying to alienate them. Even during his campaign, he took away press credentials of many major news organizations like the Washington Post and he and his campaign kept many news organizations (especially those who failed to kiss his ample buttocks) out of campaign events.

In other words, long before he took on the “Fake News” mantra and started pointing it in the direction of any news organization who tells the truth and doesn’t simply kowtow to him and his image of president as “Boss of America,” he was taking on any news outlet (importantly, not a single article or issue, but institutions themselves) who didn’t give him what he felt was proper tribute, like the king he imagines he is.

By now, his attacks on the press have become incredibly dangerous. The UN Commission on Human rights has noted that his rhetoric on Twitter and in his speeches and rallies has toed the line of incitement to violence and they have noted the similarities of his hostility and that of the Nazis leading up to World War II. It has gotten so bad that a majority of Republicans – the second-largest political party in the country and the one that is running a majority of governmental bodies – now see the press as an “enemy of the people.”

And for the Republicans who will inevitably comment and claim Trump still has a right to free speech and members of the Trump cult have the right to criticize, I will say two things.

First of all, of course the “president” has the right to free speech. However, his oath of office and the Constitution also charge him and the rest of the government with protecting the freedom of the press, which changes the dynamic significantly. Secondly, I would point out that Trump doesn’t criticize the press. He is involved in a campaign to discredit the media. Criticism would involve actually reading an article or series of articles and noting specific problems with them. Trump doesn’t do that. Instead, he shouts “Fake News” about nothing in particular and he he generalizes to the point that no one knows what he’s talking about. He tries to intimidate reporters who do their jobs and he elevates the stature of propagandists who pay what he feels is proper “homage” to him. Not the country, but HIM.

This problem is so bad, yesterday, nearly 350 news organizations published editorials to fight back against Trump’s attacks and defending the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press. There have already been casualties in this war; more than a few news outlets have been forced to increase security in response to increased threats of violence against individual reporters and news outlets, especially in the wake of the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland.

Reporters and news gatherers in general already have a tough job. Telling the truth is hard, and it’s even harder when you have a leader who is calling on his staunchest followers (unwittingly or not) to see the press as an enemy that must be vanquished.

For those of you keeping score, this is another “impeachable offense;” just one of thousands…


Also published on Medium.