Today, over three hundred American newspapers will be running editorials with one aim: to stop the White House’s ongoing assault on the press.
This gesture, coordinated by the Boston Globe, is a reaction against President Trump’s increasingly virulent attacks. Repeatedly describing the press as the “enemy of the people” and some of the “most dishonest people in the world”, he whips his supporters up into a frothing frenzy against the “horrible fake news media”.
The outgoing UN human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has described Trump’s anti-press rhetoric as being “very close to incitement to violence”.
In his attempts to redefine reality, he recently told a crowd in Kansas: “Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."
Trump’s tactic is to discredit the messenger, so that if special counsel Robert Mueller finds against him, many people will be disoriented enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, thereby staving off impeachment.
It’s a deeply cynical, scorched earth approach, which is doing lasting damage to the fabric of US society.
Today’s action by the US press shows that it’s not going down without a fight. The precise wording of each newspaper’s editorial is up to local editors, so we’re likely to end up with 300+ stirring re-statements of first principles. I’m expecting inspirational words as editors dig deep to explain to their readers the overarching value to society of press freedom, the pursuit of truth and the first amendment.
I hope the Globe pulls them all together into a book, which should become required reading in legislatures, journalism courses and civics classes around the world.
(The New York Times’ editorial can be read here.)