And here I thought it was Iran, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and a few countries with nuclear weapons pointed at us. Donald Trump straightened everyone out with another rant against the media, which eclipsed the well-earned criticism many outlets deserve with a ridiculous level of demagoguery:
When I and others objected to the continuing nonsensical demagoguery on Twitter, the objections to it fell into two broad categories. The first was a risible attempt to say that Trump was only objecting to “fake news,” not the media as a whole. Other than Fox News, though, can anyone come up with a prominent outlet that Trump hasn’t accused of being “fake news”? That’s an entirely disingenuous distinction without a difference at all.
The second was that Trump is right and that the media is “the true enemy of the people,” a charge that’s impossible to address in 280 characters. The phrase “enemy of the people” has a tradition going back to Roman times, and it’s not a pretty tradition, either. It has almost entirely authoritarian tones, even with its use by the Robespierres of the French Revolution who convinced themselves that they were anti-authoritarian. When Nikita Khrushchev disavows its use, you know it’s bad. With that said, though, this tweet and others like it don’t represent the dark night of authoritarianism descending on an otherwise tranquil body politic. It’s more whiny than anything else because of it’s ridiculous exaggeration, and for the strange ways in which President Trump views who is and isn’t an “enemy.”
Consider for a moment the president’s persistent use of this phrase when regarding “Fake News Media” and those who really are enemies of the United States, or at least the principles that guide us. For instance, Trump has spent the last few months gushing over Kim Jong-un (perhaps for understandable strategic reasons), who has been developing ICBMs to deliver nuclear weapons into all parts of the US. He’s done the same with Xi Jinping at times, and extolled Vladimir Putin too, even though both China and Russia already have nuclear weapons aimed at us and who conduct cyberwarfare against us on a continuous basis. Those are actions of enemies rather than political opponents.
That’s not to say that the media is above criticism, even harsh criticism, which anyone who’s read more than three articles here would realize. The media has both inflated Trump and treated him badly, sometimes in the same effort. It’s divisive, corrosive, and discreditable. The coverage of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation reached new lows in media bias and flat-out manipulation. It has become clear since before the Washington Post’s drama-queen embrace of the motto “Democracy dies in darkness” that many media outlets have arrayed themselves as opponents of Donald Trump, let alone many of the individuals who report for those outlets.
Opponents, however, not enemies, and of Donald Trump, not the “people.” Donald Trump is not “the people”; he is a servant of “the people.” We would have shredded Barack Obama during his presidency for arrogance in conflating himself with “the people,” and we shouldn’t give Trump a pass on it now. Trump has every right to resent malicious reporting aimed at damaging his efforts, both personally and professionally, and every right to criticize it harshly. If he wants people to take that criticism seriously, though, he’d be better advised to make it specific and to drop the ridiculous hysteria of “true enemy of the people.”
Of course, it would also help if prominent media outlets dispensed with drama-queen mottos and logos, and dialed down the hysteria they project with Trump, too. Ben Shapiro hits the nail on the head:
Note to President Trump: the media are not the enemy of the people.
Note to the media: President Trump is not the enemy of the people.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) October 29, 2018
Maybe we can take a break from drama-queen antics across the board.