Last issue, Karlene Lukovitz wrote that the core questions for the fate of the US now are how far the current occupant of the White House will go in trying to bully the press, and how stalwart the press proves in fulfilling its fourth estate role while under siege by the president…
Now that he’s been in office for six weeks (which felt like six decades), we have some partial answers. Reality #1: Attempts by “Our Fearless Leader” (OFL, for short) to muzzle the press have – to apply his own reckless jargon – already “gone nuclear”.
In other words, our worst immediate-post-election fears were understated. Of course, at that point, we were still stunned from witnessing the plot of a nightmarish political thriller, complete with interference by Russia (according to our own intelligence agencies) become reality. Still, like other patriots, I was praying that this man who’s been likened to The Manchurian Candidate would prove us wrong and at least try to act like a plausible leader of the US once inaugurated.
Instead, as the world knows, things have gotten more surreal each day. This petulant man-child who now has our nuclear weapons and military in his power – the same one who inspired respected mental health experts to issue a public warning that he exhibits signs of “grave emotional instability” – continues to give new meaning to the “big lie” concept. This shouldn’t be surprising, given his history. One of many facts about OFL that almost defy belief: in the 1980s, he sometimes called reporters and used fake names and accents to try to pose as his own PR rep and “leak” self-promoting stories, according to The New York Times. On an infinitely more dangerous level, during his campaign, he publicly urged Russia to commit espionage against his opponent, and proclaimed, “I love Wikileaks!”
Now, he’s excoriating leaks and threatening media and anonymous sources who have served to reveal his cronies’ meetings with Russian officials during the campaign months. As I write, The Washington Post – which drove Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security advisor by uncovering such meetings with Russians – has now reported that new attorney general Jeff Sessions, an admirer of Trump and Machiavellian White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, also met with Russians in 2016 — despite denials during his confirmation hearings that Democrats now assert were misleading at best and perjury at worst. Sessions grudgingly recused himself from all investigations of the Russian situation, but Democrats want his resignation.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to deny reality and spout easily disprovable falsehoods, as Bannon, according to many reports, pulls the strings. Why am I reminded of Professor Quirrell’s acting as a human host for Voldemort, the brilliant but diabolical parasite / mastermind? You know Bannon: he’s the guy who used to run the notorious Breitbart site; has stated that “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too”; has referenced scary-as-hell historical figures in his speeches (like Julius Evola, an anti-Semitic, “deeply taboo, Nazi-affiliated thinker” who inspired Mussolini and other Fascists, per The NY Times)… and is now participating in our National Security Council.
Seriously, who could make this stuff up?
OFL and crew have ceased bothering to offer manufactured “evidence”; instead, they’re just spewing the lies more loudly and frequently. In addition to the ranting tweets, he and his mouthpieces are now free to abuse what are laughably called “press conferences” or “press briefings”. You know – those mostly one-way tirades from the likes of “press secretary” Sean Spicer (note the initials!), which are now open to Breitbart and other OFL / Bannon media shills, but off-limits to legitimate media that have dared to uncover and report facts (as opposed to “alternate facts”) that the dangerous duo doesn’t want us to know.
It’s of course no coincidence that Orwell’s 1984 recently hit the bestseller lists. An oligarchy using “doublethink” – indoctrinating their subjects to stop questioning and learn to accept, simultaneously, two contradictory beliefs – doesn’t sound far-fetched these days.
Even more resonant is Orwell’s Newspeak: propagandistic language used to make repulsive concepts sound desirable, and to undermine the opposition by tagging them with derogatory labels.
Trump, enamoured of calling all opposition “BAD!”, has now labelled the legitimate press “fake news”, “dishonest”, “the opposition party” and (OMG) “the enemy of the people” – and threatened to “do something” about the media, as well as root out those who leak to them to protect our democracy. In Newspeak, Big Brother and all things totalitarian were declared “doubleplusgood,” while any who expressed facts or opposition were labelled “doubleplusungood”.
Just days after some felt reassured by Trump’s slightly less crazed than usual speech on February 28, he perpetrated his most reckless, divisive and deranged act so far by falsely accusing former President Obama of wiretapping him during the campaign.
The Good News
I want to stress that none of what I’ve written above – or in InPublishing’s last issue – means that I believe that my country will succumb to those who want to undermine the principles and core, decent values embodied in our Constitution, including freedom of the press and freedom of religion.
Yes, the US, like other countries, has made many mistakes over the years. But as the popular election vote and real reporting / surveys since have shown, most of us aspire to be a great nation in the true sense of being a constructive and respected force in the world, not a bully heedless of global interconnectedness or any interests but our own. Most of us continue to be proud and protective of being a nation literally created by and for immigrants seeking the freedom to live decent lives in the ways that they see fit. And while I (so) wish that President Obama had at least raised the possibility of delaying the election until a full, independent investigation of Russia’s attempts to undermine our electoral process could be conducted, I’m also proud that despite the unprecedented, alarming circumstances, our leader at the time chose to take the most cautious route: participating in the peaceful transfer of power, and trusting that our democratic system would not only survive, but be strengthened by ultimately overcoming threats to its integrity.
The Washington Post, NY Times and other legitimate press are being extremely aggressive, as they should be, in seeking and reporting the truth – and these credible news sources are seeing leaps in subscriptions as well as a renewed sense of mission. Further, even George W Bush and other conservatives (as opposed to the alt-right) are standing up for a free press. Republican Sen John McCain bluntly warned: “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.” If the press or patriotic leakers are prosecuted, there will be political “blood” (consequences at voting time).
Further, grassroots organising, protests and pressure on our elected representatives have revived with a vengeance. Americans are no zombies. In the end, we won’t let anyone pull one over on us for long – or attack our hard-won freedoms.
“Credible news sources are seeing leaps in subscriptions as well as a
renewed sense of mission.”