Sunday, July 15, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He once again referred to the free press as "the enemy of the people."

Trump has referred to reporters that way before, and before Trump, the phrase was popular with the leaders of Nazi Germany ("Feind des Volkes"), China under Mao, and both Lenin and Stalin in the Soviet Union. 

But today's outburst may have been put in his mind by the surviving staff of the Annapolis Capital Gazette. That paper was attacked by a man with a shotgun who was angry at their reporting on his criminal past. Five people were murdered in the attack. (Trump at first refused to order flags lowered to half-staff, only to grudgingly reverse the decision later.) Three days after the attack, the Gazette pointedly referenced Trump's many attacks on the free press in an editorial:
Here’s what else we won’t forget: Death threats and emails from people we don’t know celebrating our loss, or the people who called for one of our reporters to get fired because she got angry and cursed on national television after witnessing her friends getting shot. 
We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people. 
No, we won’t forget that. Because exposing evil, shining light on wrongs and fighting injustice is what we do. 
We are journalists. 
Yes, we bring values and beliefs to our work. We believe in truth. We believe in speaking for those who don’t have the power to speak for themselves. We believe in questioning authority. 
We believe in reporting the news.
Trump meets with Vladimir Putin tomorrow. There is effectively no free press in Russia, thanks to Putin's control of state media and the frequency with which journalists critical of him are murdered. Last week Trump said that Putin was not an enemy, but a "competitor."

Why does this matter?

  • In a democracy, the people get to decide for themselves who is an enemy.