Trump Escalates Attacks on Press
The Stakes in the Attempt to Silence the Media
Updated February 26, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Friday, February 24, Trump and his regime further intensified their dangerous and outrageous assaults on the press. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in a speech filled with fascist venom, Trump’s major focus of attack was on the media. He said, “A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people because they have no sources—they just make it up.” And he claimed, “They are very smart, they are very cunning, they are very dishonest. It doesn’t represent the people; it never will represent the people.” He demanded that the press name their sources and claimed “they just make them up when there are none.”
Just a couple of hours after this, the regime made an unprecedented move to bar a number of specific news organizations from a White House press event. Reporters from the New York Times, CNN, Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, and Politico were refused entry into a scheduled briefing by Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer. Only those handpicked by the regime were allowed in, including reactionary outlets like Breitbart News, Washington Times,and One America News Network, and several others like ABC, CBS, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg. Reporters from Time magazine and the Associated Press had been among those given permission to attend the briefing but chose not to participate—in protest of the White House actions, according to the New York Times.
New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said of the barring of specific news organizations: “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties.” In fact, this is indeed part of an unprecedented presidential assault on the U.S. press, and it must be opposed.
The media being targeted perform a specific function under capitalist-imperialist rule. They report the news through a framework which assumes the basic good intentions of the U.S. government and ruling class around the world, and the basically just character of the social relations of U.S. society. As part of this, they shape the terms of debate around key social questions. Within these constraints and framework, they at times investigate and expose abuses and outrages and air some dissenting opinions, in part to check one or another part of the ruling class from getting too powerful and also to point to abuses that, from the point of view of some defenders of the system, should be brought to light and reformed.
They also adhere, as part of this, to some standards of objective reporting—again, coming from a long-term view of preserving the system. Such was the case during the Vietnam War, in which many reporters, at least initially coming from a standpoint of defending what they understood to be democratic ideals and even U.S. interests, as well as objectively reporting the truth, brought to light important crimes being committed by American forces. At that point, these reporters and the institutions they worked for incurred the wrath of the Johnson and Nixon administrations, but even then nothing close to what is being done now was attempted in terms of intimidation and suppression (though in later wars the U.S. government took care to much more closely rein in and control reporters).
What the Trump regime is now carrying out with unprecedented vigor is an attempt to stop the media from conducting any exposures or investigations of the administration and even from contesting what are clearly distortions of objective reality or outright fabrications. This will serve to suffocate any dissent.
These and other assaults on the press are part of how the Trump/Pence regime’s fascist juggernaut is moving rapidly to break down and essentially eliminate the historical institutions and norms of bourgeois-democratic rule in order to replace those, through the iron fist of fascism, with new norms that serve the Trump/Pence agenda. In addition, this battle is one concentration of the overall struggle going on between different sections of the bourgeoisie brought on by Trump’s attempt to consolidate a fully fascist regime.
And in doing this, the Trump/Pence regime is further rallying and mobilizing their fascist social base—when Trump says the “dishonest” media do not represent the “people,” he is counting only those who support him and his regime among the “people.” Others are inconsequential or even the “enemy.”
Part of the logic and dynamics of fascism is the need to shut down critical thinking and the ability of people to figure out what is true. The Trump/Pence fascists cannot allow any press that doesn’t obediently swallow and repeat the lies that come out of the regime, that raise any question about the narrative they are spewing out. That is why the regime is moving decisively and rapidly to force the press to be compliant and loyal to them—or silence and suppress them through the force of the state and by rallying the fascist base against them.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.