Enemy of the People

 “If I had my choice, I’d kill every reporter in the world, but I’m sure we’d be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.”   William Tecumseh Sherman

It’s apparent Donald Trump shares General Sherman’s low opinion of the press.  During his campaign, he viciously attacked reporters, and at one point seemed to be contemplating violence against some of them.

“I hate some of these people, I hate ’em, but I would never kill them.”  Then, after a dramatic pause, as if reconsidering, he continued. “Uh, let’s see, uh?  No, I would never do that.”

All presidents have a hate-love relationship with the press, but this president is exceptionally hateful.  And now he’s called the press the enemy of the people.  That charge is especially alarming, since it was commonly used during Stalin’s bloody purges in the Soviet Union.  Since the president is clearly no student of history, it’s reasonable to suspect he borrowed that phrase from his chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Infatuated with this borrowed intellect, the president repeated his “enemy of the people” charge, and added that he was going to do something about it.  Soon after, several news organizations that reported on meetings between people in Trump’s inner circle and Russian operatives were banned from a meeting with press secretary Sean Spicer.  Ironic that a president incensed about reports of a Russian connection would behave like Putin.

There’s that pesky Russian connection again.

This sudden and extreme hatred of the press seems odd, given that he’s spent most of his life courting the press.  This inveterate publicity hound was willing to do almost anything to get a little free press – including on several occasions pretending to be his own press agent.

Trump didn’t seem to care what was written about him, as long as something was.  He even welcomed articles that exposed his pathological philandering, perhaps because he thought that would improve his chances with the ladies.

There were limits, of course; reporters who questioned his business acumen became persona non grata.  And those who questioned his manhood or sexual prowess became mortal enemies.

Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen were high on that list.  They coined the phrase “short-fingered vulgarian” to describe this short-fingered vulgarian.  The phrase stuck – especially in the craw of you know who.  There’s even a group calling itself Americans Against Insecure Billionaires With Tiny Hands.

The tenacity of that phrase makes it more than just a cheap laugh; it’s also proof that words are powerful; and thus, journalists are powerful.  That’s one small compensation for the myriad indignities that come with the job.

This undignified president is heaping indignities on the press and taking full advantage of the fact the news media is generally disliked and distrusted.  But that’s not surprising, since it’s a business that depends on sticking your nose in other people’s business.  But politics is, or at least ought to be, everybody’s business.

Sad to say, too many politicians tend to be far more interested in the business of the rich and well-connected, rather than the business of the people.  The only way we have of knowing what’s really going on behind the scenes is a free and nosy press.  In fact, these days, it’s not Congress, but the press that minds the people’s business.

Not so long ago, a vigilant press exposed a nattering-nabob and a prevaricating nutjob as crooks who deserved to be removed from the two highest offices in the land. There’s a joke making the rounds – George Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Richard Nixon couldn’t tell the truth, and Donald Trump can’t tell the difference.

Trump would do well to heed the wise words of another Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, a true conservative:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”

As for the charge of liberal bias in the media, even if that were true of journalists, it is absurd to allege that the giant corporations that own and control mainstream media are liberal.  Journalists are all too aware of the consequences if they displease their corporate masters – just ask former CBS news anchor Dan Rather.

The plain truth is journalists in the mainstream media are held to a high standard of proof, both to uphold journalistic ethics and to protect the corporations that employ them from costly lawsuits.  Furthermore, when they make mistakes, mainstream journalists generally own up to them and apologize very publicly.

The same can’t be said for the denizens of this White House, where the President and his surrogates freely admit to peddling alternative facts – more commonly called lies.  That isn’t surprising in an administration fronted by a former shady real estate developer.

The real media bias is at Fox News and other outlets that behave like the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.  Even more dangerous are fringe outlets like Breitbart, Info Wars, Newswire and National Enquirer that peddle deliberate falsehoods and crackpot conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, these outlets are where Trump and his cronies seem to get most of their “alternative facts”.

Bottom line?  It is not the press, but those who bash the press and try to muzzle the press who are the real enemy of the people.

©2017 Tom Cordle

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2 Responses to Enemy of the People

  1. John Wyatt says:

    Finally got around to reading this post. Well said (as always). 45 is just a bully.


    • Tom Cordle says:

      Bully, indeed, and this bully has gotten a well-deserved punch in the nose from the press, the courts and the intelligence community. And now we see the reaction from a bully when he gets punched in the nose – he sulks, he whines and he blames anyone but himself for his troubles.


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