President Donald Trump had another one of his Twitter temper tantrums Friday, taking to the social network platform to once again attack journalists and the media, calling out specific outlets by name and declaring them to be “the enemy of the American people.”
Trump made two attempts to send out the tweet. The first version, which was quickly deleted, said “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!”
The second tweet removed the word “SICK” and added CBS and ABC to the list.
While the president has been hypercritical of the news media, until now he has not gone on record as saying that the media is an enemy of the country. He seems to take issue with the media not being his public relations machine but, rather, doing its job as the watchdog of society, providing important information to the public on an administration that has had a rocky first four weeks.
The media has been credited with breaking stories about Trump’s administration that have prompted action this week, including the resignation of his national security adviser Monday and his nominee for labor secretary withdrawing from consideration Wednesday. Meanwhile, the president has accused the press of distorting facts and berated it for not painting a rosy portrait of the country under his leadership. At a news conference at the White House on Thursday, Trump uttered the words “fake news” seven times.
“Much of the media in Washington, D.C.—along with New York, Los Angeles, in particular—speaks not for the people but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system,” Trump said early in the news conference, which lasted over an hour and 15 minutes. “The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what’s going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”
A 25-question “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” was published Thursday night by the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign websites. The survey asks biased and slanted questions meant to lend credence to the idea that the media is working against the American people and, by relation, Trump and Republicans.
The very first question on the survey asks, “Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?”
Participants in the survey are required to provide their name, email address and zip code. It is unclear what the data collected in the survey will be used for. People who fill out the survey are then taken to a donation page where they are asked to give between $35 and $2,500.
“President Trump is asking you to go the extra mile and make a contribution to help defend our movement from the outrageous attacks from the media coming our way,” the page states. “Contribute now to help us fight back against the media’s attacks and deceptions.”
Uh, what? “Movement”? You mean you aren’t in your position to serve at the will of the American people? What movement is this of which you speak?
Trump’s attacks on the media clearly stem from reporting that highlights the problems and leaks in his administration, as well as his own distortion of the facts, and the spinning and distortion performed by his press secretary, Sean Spicer.
In Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984—suddenly a new best-seller in the Trump era—the masses engage in a daily mandatory ritual, the “Two Minutes of Hate,” during which their anger is feverishly stoked against the foe of the moment. Dictators, strongmen and autocrats have practiced the art of drumming up loathing toward others to great effect.
Trump is no dictator, but he does have strong authoritarian tendencies and, like other demagogues, he knows that perceived enemies can help him fire up the base, rally the crowds and shift responsibility. Don’t look at me, this script cries out; look over there, there is a threat, a danger, a foe.
When it comes to enemies, a demonized media is even more useful than the average antagonist.
If anyone is the enemy of the American people, it is an administration that hides behind lies, falsehoods and #AlternativeFacts—in other words, propaganda meant to mislead and misinform the populace.
Maybe we need to create a survey highlighting that.
In the meantime, I highly recommend that everyone go take Trump’s little media survey so that his results stand a chance of accurately depicting what Americans think.