With a thin skin, a massive ego and a total inability to ever have it said that the emperor has no clothes, Donald Trump is once again lashing out at the “fake news media” for daring to report the truth about his meeting with Putin. He is once declaring the press to be the “real enemy of the people.”
The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media. I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear……..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2018
This is very, very dangerous rhetoric and he has repeated it constantly. It’s language used through history by totalitarian dictators who know that a free press is a threat to their autocratic rule. In the early Soviet Union, a great many people and institutions were declared to be enemies of the people, and being labeled as such meant you could be arrested, sent to gulags, or executed. Chairman Mao used the same language to justify purging vast numbers of people who opposed his rule in China. Adolf Hitler regularly excoriated the press, saying things like this:
George Orwell, who understood totalitarianism better than nearly anyone, said, “Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” But There is nothing Donald Trump hates more than criticism. He views himself as perfect, infallible, so any criticism must, by definition, be unfair and any reporting that makes him look bad must be “fake news.” This stands in stark contrast to Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, “The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty & property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”
“It is the press, above all, which wages a positively fanatical and slanderous struggle, tearing down everything which can be regarded as a support of national independence, cultural elevation, and the economic independence of the nation.”
It was Jefferson who pardoned those who had been arrested, fined and jailed under the Sedition Act, a blatantly unconstitutional law signed by John Adams that criminalized much newspapers opposition to the government, something Trump so badly wishes he could do. This is part of why he shows such deference to Putin, who has the power to do what Trump can only dream of at this point, use the power of government to punish anyone who opposes or criticizes him. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it can’t happen here and do not miss the deeply fascist nature of Trump’s rhetoric.
A year or two ago, the phrase “when someone tells you who you are, believe them” became popular. We should take that seriously. Trump’s continual use of fascist rhetoric tells us who he is. We should believe him.