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Over the past three years, we have heard it said repeatedly by a politician named Trump that the free press is the “enemy of the people.” This is outrageous, and my blood runs cold whenever I hear this, especially when it is said by a man who sits in the White House, watching Fox News and tweeting. It is especially chilling to hear assaults on the media coming from a man who is a compulsive liar e.g., Saudia Arabia is not the most important supplier of our oil supply, Canada is. Canada supplies 40% of our oil imports, Saudia Arabia supplies 9%.).
Freedom of the press is an integral element of democracy. The press keeps us informed and holds politicians accountable. Like them or not, agree with them or not, they deserve the support and protection to write, think, speak, and report without fear.
The petty tyrant temporarily in the White House expects adulation. His skin is too thin for the job. Harry S Truman memorably said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Presidents and public officials get criticized. That’s part of their job.
The phrase “Enemy of the People” is known best as the title of a play by Henrik Ibsen. The doctor in a small town discovers that the waters of the local spa are contaminated. He wants to tell the truth. He is warned by those in power that telling the truth will ruin the town’s economy. If he knows what is good for him, he will remain silent. By telling the truth, he is dangerous. He is “an enemy of the people.” I read the play in college, along with Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” a powerful play about feminism.
The phrase is best known in the 20th century for its usage in the Soviet Union, where Lenin labeled opponents as “enemies of the people.” How curious to see Trump adopting the language of Lenin and Stalin. Any coverage that he does not like he calls “fake news.” He wants his base to disbelieve whatever is reported, unless he tells them it is okay. He wants to be the arbiter of truth and fact. He has the instincts of a dictator.
Trump’s efforts to silence the press is about the most contemptible element of his war against the Constitution and our democracy. When I hear Trump’s mobs chanting “CNN Sucks,” it is disgusting.
I am thankful to journalists everywhere for reporting without fear or favor. We have to have their backs.