Friday, June 30, 2017

Trump's tweets consitute an attack on the free press

As the fallout continues to settle around President Trump's latest batch of ill-advised tweets, concerns about his mental health and fitness to continue as President also continue to swirl.
Trump's tweets against MSNBC journalists "Morning Joe" Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were among his most offensive, labelling Mr. Scarborough "poorly rated" and "psycho", and Ms. Brzezinsky "low I.Q." and "crazy" and "bleeding badly from a face-lift". The journalists wisely declined to sink to Trump's level in their immediate response, although Ms. Brzezinski did allow herself a tweet of a Cheerios "Made for little hands" ad. Democrat and Republican politicians publicly expressed their outrage that perhaps Trump had "jumped the shark", and even the normally suppportive House Speaker Paul Ryan remarked, with a long-suffering sigh, "Obviously, I don't see that ad an appropriate comment".
The next day, though, the two journalists did also indulge in a little fact-checking of the Trump tweets, which appear to be incorrect in a number of different ways, in an op-ed for the Washington Post entitled "Donald Trump is not well", as well as floating the idea that Trump is "unmoored", an idea that politicos and psychologists have been tangling with since the Republican primaries.
But Mr. Trump loosed what was perhaps an even more egregious barrage of tweets just two days earlier. CNN's had voluntarily retracted an earlier story allegedly linking a Russian investment firm with a former Trump advisor, a report that, although not necessarily incorrect, CNN saw as insufficiently sourced. The network publicly apologized for the retracted report, and three journalists who worked on the story, which never actually made it onto any CNN television networks, resigned.
Of course, Trump couldn't help but crow "FAKE NEWS!", and "What about all the other phony stories they do?", culminating in the positively unhinged rant, "So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”
So, just so we are clear, this is the sitting President of the United States publicly stating that three major television networks, one major cable news channel and two of America's most respected newspapers are not legitimate sources of news. This is new ground, and a new low even by Mr. Trump's low standards. It is nothing less than an attack on the free press, and it should send shivers up all of us.
Furthermore, putting words into action, the administration is reducing the frequency of news briefings, and even banning television cameras from many of those briefings, actions that may reasonably be described as hobbling the mainstream media, otherwise known as censorship.
Pro-Trump "news" sources like Fox News, Breitbart and National Review, organs which really do engage in fake news, will presumably benefit from this, and have been quick to collude with the Trump administration in accusing CNN and others of "endemic absence of journalistic ethics and chronic malpractice". This is rich indeed coming fron the National Review.
Where, then, does this leave the free less in modern America? In a very perilous place indeed, is the only conclusion we can reach.

If there was any doubt at all about Mr. Trump's psychotic attitude towards the press and his borderline mentally unbalanced lack of perspective and appropriateness in his use of social media, then it came just a few days later, when he posted a tasteless mock video of himself as a wrestler bludegeoning a CNN character to within an inch of its life.
Once again, both Democrats and Republicans have joined together in protesting Trump's latest enormity, which comes over as an incitement to violence against the journalists. White House lackeys, predictably, continue to back Trump by characterizing it as a harmless barb against what he sees as a hostile and antagonistic press corp. Trump himself says he sees his social media usage as "MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL". He followed this up with yet more diatribes against "fake news" and "garbage journalism", culminating in the devastatingly poignant rhetoric, "I'm President, they're not", which drew a standing ovation at a "Celebrate Freedom" event in New York recently.
It gets more Orwellian by the day.

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