The First Amendment protects five basic freedoms, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government.
Freedom of speech allows POTUS to tweet: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @ABC, @CBS, @NBCNews) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people, SICK!”
Calling out the media as an “enemy of the people” has been used by dictators and despots for 2000 years.
Postdating to AD 68, the Senate called Emperor Nero, “hostis publicus”, or enemy of the public. Since then, Soviet dictators Stalin and Lenin called out “vrag naroda” to anyone they deemed an enemy of the people. Punishment was so harsh to be a vrag naroda, it insured compliance of the population. Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong, another communist, used the remark freely.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Adolph H. cried ‘Lügenpresse’ (lying press) a Nazi slur and an anti-democracy slogan. Both the Nazi regime and the East German government knew its power. Some Neo-Nazis still like the catchphrase.
Our 37th President, Richard Nixon, liked to point out graphically: “The press is your enemy…Enemies. Understand that? … Because they’re trying to stick the knife right in our groin.”
Political scientists and foreign experts agree the reproachful enemy of the people technique removes information sources and is notably used by despots.
Brian Klaas, author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy stated, “To roll back democratic checks, despots must blur the lines between truth and falsehood.”
The Society of Professional Journalists in its code of ethics “encourages all who engage in journalism to take responsibility for the information they provide, regardless of medium.” In other words, in a free press, journalists must prove what they write or say.
Our 45th POTUS likes to attack the media, discrediting the traditional sources of information, which leaves our citizens wondering who to trust.
Eventually, we have disorientation not believing our leaders and not believing the voices that contradict the leader.
Norwegian playwright and literary titan Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), well known for his plays, wrote, “A (political) party is like a sausage machine, it grinds up all sorts of heads together into the same baloney…”
At a campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida on February 18, 2017, our President said, “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?” Fake news? Alternative facts?
“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt tweeted. The remark left Swedes scratching their heads, because no attack had occurred.
President Trump’s senior adviser and former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon told the New York Times that the media “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” Is this freedom of the press?
“I want you to quote this,” Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
Neither do I.