More than a hundred publications have responded to The Boston Globe’s call for an editorial response on Thursday to President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the news media.
Here is an excerpt from an Associated Press story:
‘‘We are not the enemy of the people,’’ said Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor for the editorial page of The Boston Globe, referring to a characterization of journalists that Trump has used in the past. The president, who contends he has largely been covered unfairly by the press, also employs the term ‘‘fake news’’ often when describing the media.
The Globe has reached out to editorial boards nationwide to write and publish editorials on Aug. 16 denouncing what the newspaper called a ‘‘dirty war against the free press.’’
I really do appreciate the sentiment. I also have to say “karma, baby.”
Anybody who thinks Donald Trump or some other equally vile creature wouldn’t exist without the complicity of the media hasn’t been paying attention.
The small-mindedness the misogyny, the racism, the elevation of cruelty as a virtue, have all been amplified by the same individuals and organizations who now are complaining about being mistreated. They’ll argue on some level that their actions were about survival. Newspapers need readers. Reporters have families to support. Nobody meant for all this bad stuff to happen, but it did.
The Union-Tribune, which makes a decent attempt at even-handedness these days, spent the first six years of the Obama administration as a platform for owner Doug Manchester’s misrepresentations. Dinesh D’Souza’s twisted version of reality, with its obvious aim of fostering racism and division, was given star billing.
More recently, local TV news operations at NBC7 and CBS8 have produced stories with racist assumptions or projections concerning Earl McNeil, a mentally ill man who died at while in custody of the National City police.
(Really CBS8, did you have to run a story–initially with the byline of Unknown Reporter– allowing readers to presume he deserved to die?)
I recently attended a showing of ACORN and the Firestorm, a documentary about the destruction of a 40-year-old community organizing group. Nearly all the accusations made in the media and by politicians like Congressman Darrell Issa turned out to be untrue. But, hey, a group working primarily with people of color were targeted so I guess it’s okay that the US Congress still passes a budget resolution annually barring federal funding for an organization that ceased to exist in 2010.
The National City office of ACORN reported the attempt at a video sting to police, and the individual defamed in that video won a six-figure settlement from James O’Keefe. The police officer who initially denied ACORN’s version of events (later confirmed) was…wait for it… now-National City Police Chief Manny Rodriguez, the same guy whose smirking about Earl O’Neil’s death has enraged activists.
I guess it’s okay when victims of misinformation aren’t reporters. No apology or reparations needed.
Racism, in case you haven’t been on social media lately, is now fashionable. Daily videos of ordinary people trying to do ordinary things–except that they’re not white–being harassed and abused are now the norm.
The First Amendment protects the press from the government. It does not offer up any protections from cult-driven followers of the Dear Leader. And it doesn’t say individuals working for the government have to be nice. Or honest. Or available for comment.
What we’re looking at in terms of the “dirty war against the free press” is NOT law enforcement or military personnel seizing printing (Or broadcast. Or computer hardware) equipment.
There will not be censors stationed in newsrooms. Vladimir Putin has demonstrated they’re not necessary. That’s the message Donald Trump is sending everytime he speaks about Amazon’s taxes.
The dirty war part is now about making reporters and the work they do socially unacceptable. Now Dear Leader and his minions are using the totalitarian terminology of “enemy of the people.”
How that language differs from “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” is only a matter of context.
As has been especially true with people of color lately, people in the journalism profession are concerned about their personal safety. Newsrooms have multilayered security. Broadcast reporters at Trump’s rallies have armed security.
Some reporters maintain a level of privilege due to their celebrity status. Most don’t, though there is some residual history of the press as an important American institution offering some protection. That’s why the same people yelling obscenities at CNN cameras are later seen taking selfies with reporters.
The very definition of ‘press’ and/or ‘media’ has changed, and along with that change has been a blurring of the lines of responsibility and respectability. The primary political reporter for the UT wouldn’t have been hired due to his appearance (long hair) just a few
years (giving away my age here) decades ago. Now he’s widely respected for his analysis.
Next up in the dirty war against the press will be government agencies zealously enforcing laws passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorism. It’s already happening to foreign correspondents and those employed by or freelancing for advocacy publications at our borders. And don’t forget, our borders extend to one hundred miles inland when it comes to enforcement. Once the dementors of nationalism have rounded up all the easy targets, they’ll be looking to extend their power.
Social media has become weaponized in the service of the ideological aims of the administration. Trolls are the new brownshirts in this particular run-up to authoritarian rule.
The companies controlling social media and the internet, despite claims to the contrary, also are playing a role in crafting a world where social acceptability and credibility are confined to a narrow range.
In days of old, government-controlled media meant state funds were used. No longer. Now corporations now subsidize programming on Fox, the network the President of the United States uses to set his daily agenda.
From Judd Legum’s recently launched (and most excellent) Popular Information Newsletter:
Fox News is a propaganda network for the Trump administration and dominates the TV ratings, but the playing field is leveled online, right?
Fox News gets the most distribution on Facebook of any publisher, according to data from Newswhip.
Facebook is also paying Fox News to produce 12 shows a week for its new platform Facebook Watch.
Advocacy publications that would have been considered within the range of normal discourse even a decade ago are downgraded in searches, flagged in algorithm-based ad programs, and shunned by their mainstream media counterparts, all-too-often afraid of even sharing links, lest they be tarred with the brush of disrespectability.
The San Diego Free Press voter guide for the June 2018 primary was effectively banned from advertising on Facebook; by the time we’d proven ourselves not be foreign agents the election was long past.
Zuckerberg’s moronic media watchers went so far as to go back in time to “deauthorize” story promotions on SD Free Press from years past before any of their new policies were in place.
I’m not among those who believe there is anything to be gained from simply ignoring the ignorance being purveyed through official (and sanctioned, like Fox) channels.
My ask of the brothers and sisters working on the front lines of the media is something very simple: use your privilege while you can. And remember to include the rest of the folks who aren’t so lucky in your stories.
The first draft of history would be better told with the understanding that all humans were created equal.
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