Setting some things straight
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!”—President Donald Trump, Feb. 17, 2017
Yes, Mr. President, you are right. “Sick,” is indeed the appropriate word.
It is a sick thing for any president of the United States to say, and I am sick of you and those who think you can do no wrong, saying it.
You see, I am a member of what is now all lumped together as “the media,” and I have been for more than 40 years now in a state along with other folks at least somewhat like me, and while ours is a medium for which you care little (reading is such a pain), neither I nor they are either fake or enemies of the American people.
But I will say, here and now what I and a fair number of my colleagues are enemies of: we are enemies of liars and loudmouths, of boors and bullies, of demonizers and demagogues, and of frauds and fools.
Pardon the alliteration and feel free to slip on any shoe that fits.
But since you claim that you use Twitter to escape the filter of folks like me and think nothing I say can be trusted, suppose we look at what some other men of note, some of them your predecessors, have had to say about the relationship between the press and the American people.
None of my words, mind you, nothing here to be labeled liberal bias or a flat out lie. These are the words of some great men, wise men, visionaries, and these are the words that came strictly from them. (For future reference, they keep these things hidden— in books.)
How about Thomas Jefferson? He said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” Lots of folks know he said that.
But how about this? “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”
Huh. “…the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.” Interesting phrase, that, don’t you think?
And, of course, the great man’s most famous observation was: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
But, not limited to 140 characters, Jefferson could be a bit wordy, so how about Benjamin Franklin? He thought, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of the press.” That’s succinct. You don’t suppose by “subduing,” he meant like calling it “fake,” do you?
How about FDR? The second President Roosevelt, in addition to whipping the Great Depression and steering the country through World War II, found time to observe, “Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.” Pretty pithy, that one.
John Adams had a very clear opinion on the popularity of the press’ watchdog role in a free society: “As unbalanced parties of every description can never tolerate a free inquiry of any kind, when employed against themselves, the license and even the temperate freedom of the press, soon excite resentment and revenge.” Any resentment, here? Any revenge?
Since liberal Supreme Court justices absolutely cannot be trusted, why don’t we see what a Republican appointee to the high court, Justice Hugo Black, had to say. “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.” Short and sweet, but “deception” is a most fitting and purely pregnant word.
And, surely no musing of any sort about would-be tyranny and authoritarianism—and that’s what this is, you know—would be complete without at least one insight from George Orwell, so how about this one: “Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” Don’t much like that one, do you? Would get rid of it, too, wouldn’t you?
What was it that Mitt Romney (not one of my favorites, but looking better by the hour) said about you? Oh, yes, It was: “Donald Trump creates scapegoats in Muslim and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment Freedom of the Press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”
The press is neither the enemy nor the scapegoat that you would make it, Mr. President. But even as you strive to become the little tin god of your dreams, neither is it going to let you lead this nation into that abyss.
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.