When the president of the United States announces to the world that the free press is “the enemy of the people,” we have an extraordinary situation, indeed. The only other president to come anywhere close to saying something like this was Richard Nixon, and he was caught on tape saying it in private, and in the heat of the Watergate scandal, when he called the press “the enemy,” he meant it in reference to himself, and not “the people.”
This, of course, is in sharp contrast to the prevailing, and vital, affirmation that sits at the core of our democracy, that a free press is an essential component of a free society. It is well known that the first step a tyrant takes to clamp down on public freedom is to discredit and suppress the press.
We are far from holding that all the press in our society is free and devoid of influence by behind the scene forces devoted to twisting and distorting the truth. Exhibit Number One is Fox News and the other news outlets of the deceitful Rupert Murdoch, a passionate arch-right wing partisan servant of global oligarchic interests, with no qualms about engaging in the art of deception to advance his cause. The method includes charging the “other side” with the same corrupt motives they have.
The so-called “alt-right” of Trump White House advisers Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, and the just-defrocked Milo Yiannopoulos, are more extreme versions of the Murdoch brand, serving the same oligarchy by eroding domestic democratic institutions.
In fact, all the major news networks are owned and controlled by a handful of corporate giants who no doubt influence what counts for the news they put on the air every day. But there is a major difference that’s key in today’s environment. That is, few of the writers and editors who work for mainstream media organizations are “in on a fix” that their corporate masters may be rendering.
That is, a very high percentage of the working journalists who cover government and the White House for mainstream news organizations are honest and hold to a high standard of reporting the truth as best they can. The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN are distinguishing themselves in these critical times.
In fact, this is a period of an extraordinary opportunity for all journalists to define for the general public what animates their indispensable efforts. The case of CNN’s Don Lemon, a late night host, is exemplary. When a Trump shill called Lemon’s topic “fake news,” Lemon forcefully interrupted him to define that “fake news” involves a deliberate deception, and not any subject unpleasant to Trump. When the shill repeated his charge, Lemon then cut him off for good.
This is a time for those in the news to shine, to exercise and to feel a new sense of pride and purpose for their work.