Fake News Fake Democracy

 

If democracy dies in darkness, it should be no surprise that the Trump administration continues to dim the lights borne of truth.

In a shady White House illuminated by the sinister glow of deception and lies, it is rich indeed that the “fake news” has been banished.  Not only has the White House canceled its N.Y. Times and Washington Post subscriptions, but Donald Trump has now ordered all federal agencies to end their subscriptions to the two major newspapers, vowing to “terminate them” as peddlers of fake news.

Stop Spreading the News

As the media does its job by calling out Trump’s lies, he has accelerated his anti-media blitzkrieg.

In the Trump world of disinformation, he skillfully sows mistrust in the media, not only delegitimizing journalists but facts themselves.

Unlike Trump who is lambasting the media as “fake news” and “enemy of the people”, there once was a time when American Presidents saw the media as a way to enlighten people.

Once upon a time, we had leaders who shrugged off press criticism and championed the free press as a democratic ideal.

I was struck by a full-page advertisement from 1960  put out by the periodical publishing industry featuring a message from one such president. To help promote the value of magazines in the public’s lives ( “a leading force for moral and cultural growth”) they enlisted the help of President Eisenhower to encourage reading and learning the news.

Eisenhower not only did not call out the press as the enemy of the people  but lavishly praised them stating that “Informed citizens are the guardians and spirit of Democrcy”

An informed citizenry is essential to the health of a democracy, but in the murky darkness that surrounds Trump, facts are incidental. He lives in the shadows of disinformation and wants his supporters to live there too. Misinformed, without accurate information, his followers fill in the gaps of knowledge by using existing beliefs. Stored in memory they become indistinguishable from hard data.

Eisenhower, on the other hand, understood the importance of information. There was room for disagreement. One could differ with an editorial but it was not deemed fake.

 “For more than a century, our magazines have spoken out on domestic and international matters- sometimes from a highly individualistic view; often with broad vision. It is inevitable that none of us will always agree with, or like, all that magazines have to say. But over the years, magazines have provided new ideas, brought fresh insight into old problems, shed light on new ones and have served to inspire and advance our understanding and knowledge on many subjects.

Our magazines are a leading force for moral and cultural growth in our country, and one of our sure guarantees of an informed public.

Compare this to Trump’s tweet from September:  “Our real opponent is not the Democrats  or the dwindling number of  Republicans that lost their way and got left behind, our primary opponent is Fake News Media”

Postscript. Ironically only 9 years later, President Richard Nixon, Eisenhower’s own Vice President famously called the press the enemy of the people, the playbook Trump is drawing on now.

 

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