The press: Trump’s war on journalism
The “reign of King Trump” has begun, said Robert Reich in Salon.com, and if there’s anything tyrants hate, it’s “the free press.” Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump wore his disdain for the “disgusting” and “dishonest” media as a badge of honor, and at a surreal news conference last week, he dashed any hope that this was just a pose. To applause from a sycophantic cheering section of his aides, now-President Trump told lie after lie, simply ignored any questions he didn’t want to answer, and verbally attacked CNN’s Jim Acosta because his network reported—correctly—that intelligence officials had warned Trump of widely circulating rumors that Russia has blackmail information on him. Then Trump press secretary Sean Spicer admitted the new administration is planning to move the White House press corps out of its long-standing West Wing office to a nearby building, and dilute the 50 real journalists with dozens of fringe bloggers and right-wing talk-show radio hosts who openly support Trump. Journalism was already in a “weakened state” because of the slow collapse of the newspaper industry, said Jay Rosen in PressThink.org. Now we have the swearing-in of an authoritarian president who calls all unflattering stories “fake news” and relies on “whipping up hatred” against reporters and news organizations. For the press, “winter is coming.”
The press brought this on itself with its “malpractice,” said George Neumayr in WashingtonExaminer.com. During the campaign, biased journalists did everything they could to prevent Trump from winning. Since the election, they’ve been working to delegitimize him, an effort that culminated in BuzzFeed’s disgraceful decision to publish last week’s lurid dossier of unverified claims against Trump. Sorry, but when you violate basic journalistic standards, you have no “sacred right to be called upon at press conferences.” The simple fact is that the press needs Trump more than he needs it, said Dustin Steeve in TheFederalist.com. As Trump demonstrated throughout the campaign, he can use Twitter to “reach the American people directly through social media” and circumvent the media’s filter. A new era is dawning.
Trump may not need the press, said Margaret Sullivan in The Washington Post, but the rest of us do. By holding politicians accountable and uncovering the truths they try to hide, journalists provide a vital bulwark against authoritarianism—a bulwark Trump seems determined to undermine. The press—and the American people— are tumbling “through a looking glass and into an alternative universe,” said Damon Linker in TheWeek.com. Trump seems to truly believe that whatever he says at the moment is true, regardless of the facts—or what he said yesterday. In this postmodern reality, everything will be “contestable, up for grabs, a matter of dispute.”
We journalists should stop being “crybabies,” said Josh Marshall in TalkingPointsMemo.com. If Trump tries to govern as an authoritarian strongman, journalists should be “unbowed and aggressive” in defending our democracy. Reporters don’t need a desk in the White House to dig for proof that Trump is lying, profiting off the presidency, or abusing his authority. “The answer to attacks on journalism is always more journalism.” Trump’s presidency, in fact, promises to be “the greatest gift to journalism” since Richard Nixon, said Jack Shafer in Politico.com. Federal agencies and the intelligence community will leak like a sieve, and so will Trump’s many enemies within the Republican Party. It may feel like winter at the moment, but it will soon turn into “journalistic spring.”
Only in America
The Women’s March on Washington, organized as a show of feminist solidarity, was roiled by infighting after some organizers told white women to “check their privilege” so women of color and lesbians could lead the protest. Being white is “not OK right now,” one organizer declared, “especially after 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump.”
An Indiana lawmaker is pushing a bill to make it illegal for state residents to change genders on birth certificates, which could make it impossible for transgender people to get driver’s licenses and other key documents. Republican Rep. Bruce Borders said that gender change “is perception overwriting the truth,” and that officially recognizing it would justify someone who “feels 45, not 56,” to change his birth date.
Good week for:
Leaving on a high note, after President Barack Obama left the White House with an approval rating of 60 percent—four points less than Ronald Reagan.
Political style, with the revelation the Trump White House will have a designated “glam room” to accommodate “hair, makeup, and wardrobe” for Melania Trump and the first family. It “will make our jobs as a creative team that much more efficient,” said Melania’s makeup artist.
Personal responsibility, after a European Parliament committee approved a resolution granting legal status to advanced robots as “electronic persons,” with specific rights and obligations, including “making good any damage they may cause.”
Bad week for:
Gimmicks, after authorities in Spain declared that wine can only come in red, white, and rose, forcing the makers of a new blue wine, called Gik, to market the product among “other alcoholic drinks.”
Peace signs, after researchers in Japan warned that hackers can steal people’s biometric security data simply by scanning photos of their hands posted on social media. “Just by casually flashing a peace sign in front of a camera,” one researcher said, “fingerprints can become widely available.”
Taking on risk, after bookies at the Irish betting website Paddy Power put the odds of Donald Trump being impeached within the first six months at 4-1 (meaning a 20 percent chance), and gave him just 7-4 odds (or a 63.6 percent chance) of completing four years in office.
End of ‘wet foot, dry foot’
Outgoing President Obama sought to solidify his reset with Cuba this week by officially repealing the 22-yearold “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed some Cubans who arrived in the U.S. without visas to remain in the country and apply for legal residency. Under the 1995 policy, Cuban migrants who set foot on American soil would receive permanent status after a year, but those who were caught while still at sea would be sent back. Critics said that many Cubans exploited their special migration status for economic opportunity, rather than to flee political persecution under Fidel Castro. Under the new rules, all Cubans who arrive in the U.S. without visas will be sent back—although, like other migrants, they can apply for political asylum.