Read On: Trump goes to war with journalism
Dear American People:
You may have heard the news that I’m now the Bad Guy, that the man who has been president of the United States for all of five weeks recently declared me your enemy and reiterated it as recently as Friday while giving a speech in Maryland.
I’m a journalist, see. The president accuses me of spewing “fake news,” which under his definition means anything that’s personally critical, negative or with which he simply disagrees.
He told the crowd yesterday, "(Journalists) are very smart, very cunning, very dishonest. (The media) doesn’t represent the people; it will never represent the people.”
President Trump also called for an end to the use of “sources,” meaning anonymous sources. “They just make it up,” he charged yesterday. He then added parenthetically that criticism “doesn’t bother me.”
So let me just interject, my supposed enemies, that this is preposterous. I am the farthest thing from your enemy that exists. The overwhelming majority of my media comrades and I are messengers for truth. We believe in America. We believe in the 1st Amendment. We believe in these so much that we would go to jail and risk our lives to defend them.
Here is the biggest problem with the media war that our chief executive is now waging: It stops the flow of information cold. It ends all discussion. If everything is “fake news,” it means there is no “real news” left at all.
I feel like I need to remind you that nothing like this has ever happened before. A U.S. president has never waged such a nasty campaign to discredit the press as a collective entity. It has to be said: This is what fascist regimes do when their goal is to render all news obsolete save for that which they say is genuine.
“I’m only talking about the dishonest reporters,” the president said yesterday.
Oh? And how exactly are we to differentiate the dishonest ones from those who are honest if a man who wouldn’t know truth if it walked up and kneed him in the groin is the final arbiter of fact?
Evidently our president answered Friday that he already knows the difference when — shockingly, unconscionably — the White House barred the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, the BBC, the Daily Mail and The Hill (among others) from covering Friday’s press briefing. Unless action is quickly taken to halt this insanity, it isn’t hyperbolic to call it the beginning of the end of journalism as we know it.
This is, unfortunately, what happens when the man calling the shots claims exclusive ownership of reality. You have a country where no one knows what to believe anymore, where perpetual informational darkness becomes the norm.
In other words, you can’t even believe me when I tell you I’m authentic because I could, after all, be just another one of those “dishonest” reporters driven by purposeful misdirection and deception.
Beware, good citizens! Beware! I’m the monster from the planet Fakecury, and I intend to spread evil by turning you against all goodness, all progress. My agenda is the perpetration of liberal mayhem, designed only to discredit and malign those with whom I disagree.
To believe what our president is saying, you must buy into the existence of a vast plot whose origins and objective are entirely outlandish. As if I am somehow beholden to a sinister conspiracy.
But let’s go back to something President Trump said yesterday: that his goal is to put an end to the use of unnamed sources.
It sounds on its face to be reasonable enough, the idea that any news truly worthy of the term need be generated by those courageous enough to stand up and be identified. But understand that without off-the-record information and sourcing, the Watergate scandal would never have been exposed back in the 1970s. And that’s just for starters.
Indeed, if you rewrite established laws and prohibit the use of background sources, the field of investigative journalism would cease to exist. Actually, we can take it a step further and predict with some certainty that the news media itself would be replaced outright by disinformation and propaganda.
Is this what our president is counting on? I’d like to hope not. Because if this really is his chief objective, it means he’s looking to freeze the exchange of ideas — the very definition of life under a dictatorship.
Let’s remember that this president was created by the media at which he rails. He obviously well understands that a press that made him can destroy him just as easily. So he’s taking steps to thwart that possibility.
Anyway, that’s my take, America. I hope with all my heart that you believe me when I promise that I’m not your enemy. Your real nemeses are oppression and tyranny, not the messenger who shines a light on them.
Sincere regards, Ray
RAY RICHMOND is a longtime L.A.-based journalist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.