The Donald Trump “way” is to shout foul any time he is criticized, for as we have discovered, this man is innately incapable of acknowledging error, much less apologizing.
The media are an easy target because Trump, like all presidents before him, knows that the power imbalance in his favor makes it very costly for the media to fight back when the president punches. Whereas Trump has no problem crossing the line in saying that the media “are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” the media—at least the mainstream media—respects the line.
Can you imagine the Washington Post calling Trump the most dishonest person on the planet—even though he certainly is? (OK, he’s merely one of the most.)
Except that now many in the media are fighting back, actually calling a lie a lie. And it’s obvious from Trump’s and his team’s responses that they have been hurt. Note not only Trump’s silly, childlike charge of “fake news,” the now-familiar “you’re failing” (shades of Meryl Streep), and the lie about an apology. Also note the time of his tweets—five o’clock in the morning, for goodness sake. The Times and the Post are keeping him up at night! Even after his alter ego, Steve Bannon, said the media should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.”
“The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!” (5:04 AM – 28 Jan 2017)
“The coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost has been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its dwindling subscribers and readers. They got me wrong right from the beginning and still have not changed course, and never will. DISHONEST.” (5:16AM, 28 Jan 2017)
We should encourage a sharp response to a disrespectful president and dictatorial administration. In fact, I’d like to see the media issue a collective message to Trump that upholds freedom of the press, recites the intrinsic importance of speaking truth to power in a democracy, and in the strongest possible language vows to resist any attempt to muzzle the media or any government agency.
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University and blogs at In the Human Interest.