Trump's Attacks on the Press Raise Fears of an "Extinction-level Event" for Democracy
May 22, 2016
Robert Reich / Robert Reich.org / Michael Winship / Bill Moyers.com
Commentary: Donald Trump's many fascistic tendencies, his treatment of the media -- "disgusting reporters" he calls them -- replicates the tactics of demagogues since the 1930s. The groundwork for the Trump phenomenon has been laid by the government and mainstream media's failure to recognize and address the growing rage of Americans out of jobs, opportunities and hope.
Donald Trump's Attempt to Destroy Press
Freedom Is Reminiscent of 1930's Fascists
Robert Reich / Robert Reich's Facebook Page
(May 15, 2016) -- Donald Trump's many fascistic tendencies, his treatment of the media -- "disgusting reporters" he calls them -- replicates the tactics of demagogues since the 1930s:
1. Banning not just reporters but even publications that have covered him negatively from covering at his public events, while giving campaign credentials to extremist outlets like "Political Cesspool," a radio show that labels itself "pro-white."
2. Inciting crowds against the media. Trump regularly whips his crowds into an anti-media frenzy and urges his fans to boo the press pen. Hostile rhetoric toward the press is a staple of his events. "I would never kill them, but I do hate them," he said of the press in December. "And some of them are such lying, disgusting people."
3. Throwing reporters out of Trump rallies. Last weekend, Michael Mayo, a columnist for Florida's Sun-Sentinel, was threatened with arrest if he didn't leave a Trump rally in West Boca after he entered through the public line and tried to film protesters. The campaign has reportedly begun to intersperse plainclothes security officers amid the crowd to root out anyone who is not a true Trump fan.
4. Using violence against reporters. Two weeks ago, a Secret Service officer watching over the press section choked Time photographer Chris Morris and slammed him to the ground when he tried to venture out of the media pen.
5. Threatening the media with libel. Last month, Trump vowed to make libel laws more punitive against the media if he becomes president. "I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money," Trump said during a campaign event in Texas.
A free society depends on a free press. Which is why demagogues and fascists like Trump seek to destroy press freedom.
What do you think?
The Tyranny of Trump
Author and blogger Andrew Sullivan fears the Republican candidate's rise is "an extinction-level event" for democracy
Michael Winship / Bill Moyers.com
(May 10, 2016) -- A provocative, lengthy essay about Donald Trump in New York magazine by writer, former New Republic editor and blogger Andrew Sullivan has sparked discussion and debate around the country.
His treatise, the cover story of New York's May 2 issue, is headlined "America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny," and in it he launches from a discussion of Plato's Republic and the pros and cons of what Sullivan calls "late-stage democracy" into how the groundwork for the Trump phenomenon has been laid by the government and mainstream media's failure to recognize and address the growing rage of Americans out of jobs, opportunities and hope:
After the suffering of recession or unemployment, and despite hard work with stagnant or dwindling pay, the future stretches ahead with relief just out of reach. When those who helped create the last recession face no consequences but renewed fabulous wealth, the anger reaches a crescendo.
The deeper, long-term reasons for today's rage are not hard to find, although many of us elites have shamefully found ourselves able to ignore them. The jobs available to the working class no longer contain the kind of craftsmanship or satisfaction or meaning that can take the sting out of their low and stagnant wages. The once-familiar avenues for socialization -- the church, the union hall, the VFW -- have become less vibrant and social isolation more common.
Global economic forces have pummeled blue-collar workers more relentlessly than almost any other segment of society, forcing them to compete against hundreds of millions of equally skilled workers throughout the planet. No one asked them in the 1990s if this was the future they wanted.
And the impact has been more brutal than many economists predicted. No wonder suicide and mortality rates among the white working poor are spiking dramatically.
Enter Donald Trump and his strongman philosophy: "To call this fascism doesn't do justice to fascism," Sullivan writes.
Fascism had, in some measure, an ideology and occasional coherence that Trump utterly lacks. But his movement is clearly fascistic in its demonization of foreigners, its hyping of a threat by a domestic minority (Muslims and Mexicans are the new Jews), its focus on a single supreme leader of what can only be called a cult, and its deep belief in violence and coercion in a democracy that has heretofore relied on debate and persuasion . . .
. . . [W]hat's notable about Trump's supporters is precisely what one would expect from members of a mass movement: their intense loyalty. Trump is their man, however inarticulate they are when explaining why. He's tough, he's real, and they've got his back, especially when he is attacked by all the people they have come to despise: liberal Democrats and traditional Republicans.
At rallies, whenever a protester is hauled out, you can almost sense the rising rage of the collective identity venting itself against a lone dissenter and finding a catharsis of sorts in the brute force a mob can inflict on an individual. Trump tells the crowd he'd like to punch a protester in the face or have him carried out on a stretcher.
No modern politician who has come this close to the presidency has championed violence in this way. It would be disqualifying if our hyperdemocracy hadn't already abolished disqualifications.
Sullivan warns, " . . .those Democrats who are gleefully predicting a Clinton landslide in November need to both check their complacency and understand that the Trump question really isn't a cause for partisan Schadenfreude anymore. It's much more dangerous than that . . ..
For Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It's long past time we started treating him as such.
At the independent news website MinnPost, Eric Black described Sullivan's essay as "a long, nay epic, but brilliant exegesis of Trumpism . . . Sullivan mocks Trump's actual policy ideas, at least as to their merit, but not for their power to capture the pain and hopes of his target audience."
And Tom Toles at The Washington Post wrote that that the piece is "an unexpected end-times reprise of Plato's critique of how democracy can falter into tyranny. It has the good timing of putting a new conceptual frame on the Trump phenomenon. It also shows once again that the ancient Greeks knew everything and our job is just to keep forgetting and rediscovering what they said."
But there has been pushback from progressives critical of Sullivan's characterization of Bernie Sanders as a "demagogue of the left" and his belief that "the past few presidential elections have demonstrated that, in fact, money from the ultra-rich has been mostly a dud."
At AlterNet, Jim Sleeper fired back, "Not even half-right on both counts . . . I'll write and work and vote for Hillary Clinton against Trump this fall, but not because I've been told that corporate money in elections and the marketization of everything aren't dissolving our citizenship and democracy, and not because I've been told that Sanders is a demagogue like Trump for saying so."
And at Salon, Alex Trimble Young writes, "The war between left and right, Democrat and Republican, is in [Sullivan's] view far less important than the war between the educated, reasoned, and disinterested elite and the impassioned, ignorant, and self-interested masses."
You can read Andrew Sullivan's "America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny" in its entirety here.
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