Monday, February 6, 2017

Seeds of authoritarianism – Pres. Trump tries to incite anger against the media

His latest jab: that the media is suppressing news of terrorist attacks

President Donald Trump is trying to sow doubt in the public’s trust in the news media.

In his latest off-the-script moment, the president asserted that terrorist attacks were frequent all around the world, so much so that the media had simply stopped reporting on them.

From the Washington Post (emphasis in bold added):
“You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening,” he said to the assembled military leaders. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”
Trump, of course, provided no evidence that the media were purposely suppressing terrorist attacks from their news coverage. Stating that “they have their reasons” also implies that he believes that the press is purposely refusing to report on these events. But the president provided no basis to back his reasoning.

Trump’s rhetoric is getting more and more dangerous. The more he criticizes the press, the more clear it is he is hoping to control them, or at least control where their coverage is directed towards.

This is the sort of behavior that is often seen within authoritarian regimes. Indeed, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. lists “Controlled Mass Media” as one of the warning signs of fascism.

via Washington Monthly

Whether fascist or not, Trump is showing his preference to become an authoritarian leader. I recently wrote in the Capital Times that,
I am still hesitant to call Trump an authoritarian. But the signs are there, and the seeds have been planted for a further defiance of the rule of law.
I wrote that op-ed in response to Trump’s refusal to follow a court order that ruled against his implementation of his contentious executive order aimed at preventing immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. In his latest unscripted outburst, the “seeds” that are being planted are his attempts to control the direction that the media takes in the years ahead.

The news media need to hold their own against these attacks. They mustn’t succumb to Trump’s wishes, to acceding to his frames and lies on what the world around him looks like (or rather, what he'd like us to think it looks like).

There is certainly room to debate the merits of what is printed, and Trump is well within his rights to defend himself against what he may perceive as unfair press coverage. He is wrong, however, to assert that the media is maliciously preventing the American public from knowing about terrorist attacks occurring around the globe.

Trump is clearly trying to manipulate the public into distrusting the media. And that should trouble every American.

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