Presidential counsellor Steve Bannon has told the media to "shut up." And his boss has called journalists, "the most dishonest human beings on Earth.” In the wake of those pronouncements, Robin Sears writes:
Tyrants always respect and fear an independent media, often more than journalism’s ordinary readers. They understand its power to reveal their agendas, to mock their follies, and to delegitimize them. That’s why they do their best to demonize and marginalize journalists. From Mussolini to Chavez to Putin and Erdogan, it is a tactic proven successful – at least in the short term – for tyrants everywhere.
Trump's recent executive order provides yet more proof that he's a tyrant who lives in an alternate reality. He believes that, over the weekend, things went well in airports. And that puts a special burden on journalists:
If as a journalist you have evidence of misconduct, of bald-faced lying, of policies inimical to agreed American self-interest, you report it. You ensure your sources are bullet-proof, you seek out respected endorsers for your findings. But you report it – even if the Trump regime gets advertisers, subscribers and viewers to threaten to walk. A tactic you may be sure they will use.Tyranny sometimes arrives on quieter feet than burning down the Reichstag. But it always requires threatening and bullying an independent media into submission. Sometimes it is brutal in its repression, but often it succeeds “by changing the channel” constantly. Introducing irrelevant news stories in response to attack, or staging corny photo ops. Tyrants always use a compliant media to denigrate opponents with phony stories. Like Pravda, in Putin’s good old days, house organs like Fox and Breitbart have used those tactics with devastating effect.It is a foolish cliché to cite the unpopularity of the media. Lawyers, cops and politicians don’t rank much higher. Yet few of us do not cheer when any of them successfully defend justice and defeat the bad guys. When tyrants try to drive the media’s reputation down even further it’s important not to dismiss it, or worse quietly snicker. Failing to smack back at Trump’s media taunts is at some point to fail to defend the republic.
This is journalism's moment.
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