Trump, Archenemy of Truth
Donald Trump’s unrelenting assault on the media is in fact an assault on the implacability of truth, the notion of accountability and the power of free speech. It is also a bit of a bow to the conspiracy theorizing that Trump is wont to do.
Last week at CPAC, the politically crippled Reince Priebus delivered a soliloquy lamenting Trump’s negative media coverage, saying, “We’re hoping that the media would catch up eventually.”
Trump’s “boss,” Steve Bannon, immediately blasted the notion the way a shotgun blasts a quail rising from the brush:
“The reason Reince and I are good partners is that we can disagree. It’s not only not going to get better. It’s going to get worse every day.”
“And here’s why. By the way, the internal logic makes sense. They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed — adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.”
He later added:
“And as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they’re going to continue to fight. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day — every day, it is going to be a fight.”
The conspiracy theory Bannon posits here is perfectly shaped for the xenophobe: America’s media has economic interests that extend well beyond this country’s borders, and therefore Trump’s “America first” message and policies pose a very real, bottom-line threat to the media’s global prosperity. The threat is so urgent that the American media is willfully damaging the only real asset it has — credibility — by inventing falsehoods designed to damage Trump and insulate its own profitability.
As far-fetched as this may sound to any reasonable person, one must always remember that Trump isn’t a reasonable person or even a particularly smart one, which makes him the perfect vessel for Bannon’s pseudo-intellectual vanities.
The day after Bannon spoke, Trump himself came to CPAC and reaffirmed his commitment to this anti-media crusade, parroting Bannon’s language.
First Trump said: “A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people.”
He continued in a barely coherent diatribe of sentence fragments, incongruous ideas and broken logic. But if you listened closely, you could hear echoes of Bannon. At one point, Trump said: “We have to fight it, folks, we have to fight it. They’re very smart, they’re very cunning and they’re very dishonest.” At another he said of the media: “Many of these groups are part of the large media corporations that have their own agenda and it’s not your agenda and it’s not the country’s agenda, it’s their own agenda.”
Trump is Bannon’s puppet, whose one sustaining parlor trick is to deliver incoherence with confidence. Strangely enough, people find comfort in this kind of imperfect parlance.
Maundering is the rhetoric of the middlebrow.
Demagogic language is reductionist language. It draws its power from its lack of proximity to soaring oratory. It can be quaint and even clumsy, all of which can give idiocy, incomprehensibility and untruth a false air of authenticity.
So Trump and Bannon spin their folksy tale of media corruption to give Trump a needed enemy in his perpetual campaign and a needed diversion from the enormity of his disasters. This fits Trump perfectly because not only does he have a gnawing insecurity, he also views the confrontational nature of news as maleficently targeted.
Trump doesn’t seem to register that lying — all the time! — is not allowed. He doesn’t seem to understand that news, by its very nature, is the publishing of that which those in power would prefer to conceal. He doesn’t seem to realize that fawning promotion of politicians’ positions is not the exercise of journalism but the promotion of propaganda. Or maybe he does and is enraged at the absence of propaganda.
So Trump lashes out with mindless twaddle, insinuating that the media has fully abandoned the pillars and principles of journalism to join the opposition.
The fact is that Trump simply wants the truth not to be true, so he assaults its quality. He wants the purveyors of truth not to pursue it, so he questions their motives.
And yet, truth stands, rigid and sharp, unforgiving and unafraid. It is our only guard against tyranny and the brave men and women who labor away in its service are nothing short of patriots and heroes.
The press won’t pat Trump on his head and give him a gold star for the few things he gets right, and then turn a blind eye to the overwhelming majority of things he gets wrong.
That’s not how it works. That’s not how it has ever worked. Trump wants to brand the press as the enemy of the American people when the exact opposite is true: A free, fearless, adversarial, in-your-face press is the best friend a democracy can have.
The press is the light that makes the roaches scatter.
Remember this every time you hear Trump attack the press: Only people with something to hide need be afraid of those whose mission is to seek.