Following Trump’s Lead, Cops Now Brutalizing Journalists
Demonizing the press is a crucial part of an authoritarian’s playbook.
They say it is common practice in authoritarian countries…think Russia or Saudi Arabia…for working journalists to be hauled off or detained when there are protests or such that are embarrassing to the country’s leaders.
But not so in the United States! The First Amendment to our Constitution has been mostly durable in preventing such barbaric behavior. But as the massive, passionate street demonstrations spurred by the death of a Minneapolis black man killed by a white police officer continue throughout the country, things, in the words of Bob Dylan, have changed.
According to the US Press Freedom Tracker as reported in the New York Times, there have been over 100 instances of of reporters being harassed, intimidated or injured by police officers during the protests.
A chilling example: Minnesota State Patrol officers arrested a CNN broadcast team as they went live on the air.
Here is a four-minute, multi-city summary of cops committing acts of violence on the working press, published by always excellent NowThis News via YouTube:
A Pillar of Democracy
I cannot honestly say there’s a conspiracy between Trump and the cops beating on journalists. But Trump’s repeated attacks on news media have naturally reverberated among men and women inclined to support him.
A report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) documents Trump’s anti-press behavior. Declaring that such slander “has dangerously undermined truth and consensus in a deeply divided country,” CPJ gives examples of attacks on a pillar of our democracy:
- “Undermining credible reporting with charges of ‘fake news;'”
- “Using US Customs and Border Protection to question journalists and search their electronic devices at border crossings;”
- “[Calling] for boycotts of news organizations and for changes in libel laws to punish reporting he doesn’t like;”
- “Ending formal White House press briefings for more than a year;”
- “Scrubbing and withholding information from government websites.” and
- Filing frivolous lawsuits and threatening regulatory action against media companies when their opinions don’t flatter the president.
A Shot Heard Around the World
Trump’s repeated characterization of the press as the “enemy of the people” has global consequences as well. CPJ concluded that Trump has emboldened foreign leaders, especially those with authoritarian leanings, to crack down on their own news media.
Michael Dubke, who served briefly as Trump’s communications director, told the Washington Post: “What concerns me is that authoritarian leaders who have already placed restriction of their press are using President Trump’s words to justify what they’re doing.” Shades of Nuremberg.
Reshaping the Global Order?
The items listed in the above graphic should be familiar to anyone who has followed the Trump administration. They’ve been compiled in many forms, most currently by podcaster GroundTruth, in a project titled, “Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook.”
GroundTruth has tracked nationalist leaders in seven countries, including the United States. The other countries are Brazil, Columbia, Hungary, India, Italy and Poland. Its conclusion: All of these leaders seem to be working from the same playbook. Gleaned from their speeches and policy agendas, these nationalist leaders, Trump included, seem bent on joining China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian states in “Stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.”
Under the heading, “Erode Truth,” GroundTruth had this to say:
One of Donald Trump’s first targets was the truth itself. Attacks on the press, on science and on easily observable reality have become daily occurrences as his administration [strives] to erode the idea of a shared set of facts and to undercut the value and meaning of truth. As part of weaponizing doubt, the administration uses tactics of distraction and false parity to promote extreme ideas and stoke polarization.GroundTruth
Luckily for us, the police attacks on journalists will have their day of accountability, as liberal society continues its role of being the adults in the room. This has become more difficult, as Trump wields the biggest of all bully pulpit and is not afraid to use it.
Luckily for us, Trump’s incompetence will be his undoing. The scene at St. John’s church last Monday, where peaceful protesters got tear gassed so that Trump could stage a photo op by holding a bible upside down, appalled most Americans.
That’s why he can’t have four more years. Trump will deny it ever happened and we just might believe him.