Heading Logo

Trump's escalating media attacks troubling

By ROBERT B. REICHTribune News Service (TNS) Published: July 6, 2017 4:00 AM

On Sunday morning, Donald Trump seemed to promote violence against CNN.

He tweeted an old video clip of him performing in a WWE professional wrestling match, with a CNN logo superimposed on the head of his opponent. Trump is shown slamming the CNN avatar to the ground and pounding him with punches and elbows to the head. Trump added the hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN, for "fraud news network."

This tweet culminated a bizarre week of Trump attacks on the media.

On Saturday night, Trump used a portion of his speech at the "Celebrate Freedom" rally at the Kennedy Center to denounce the press. "The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them. The people know the truth," he said. "The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I'm president and they're not."

Trump's words drew a standing ovation from the crowd, which waved miniature American flags.

[Article continues below]

On Thursday, Trump posted a crude tweet blasting the co-hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," who have been critical of him -- calling Mika Brzezinski "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and Joe Scarborough "Psycho Joe," and claiming that when they visited him New Years Eve, Brzezinski "was bleeding badly from a facelift."

Last week on Twitter, Trump charged that "The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!" It wasn't clear exactly what Trump meant by this, except to take a jab at the Post.

What's going on here?

Maybe Trump's attacks on the press were meant to distract public attention from a week of embarrassing news -- the Congressional Budget Office's conclusion that the Senate's version of Trumpcare would cause 22 million Americans to lost their coverage, and the inability of Senate Republicans to pass the bill; the refusal of election officials in many states to cooperate with Trump's commission on voter fraud; and the news that Republican financier Peter W. Smith last fall assembled a team of computer experts to contact hackers connected with the Russian government, saying he was working with Trump campaign advisor Michael Flynn.

[Article continues below]

If Trump's goal was deflection, he did a fairly good job. His inflammatory tweets and statements took up a lot of newspaper space and airtime.

Or perhaps Trump is truly losing it. "President Trump is not well," Scarborough and Brzezinski concluded after the Trump tirade against them. Maybe the strain of being a thin-skinned narcissist under the continuous and critical glare of the press is finally tipping him over the edge.

But I fear an even more menacing reality.

Trump began his presidency attacking the press for "fake news." Then he called the networks and publications that criticized him "enemies of the people."

His newly escalating attacks seem to be going a step farther -- mobilizing his supporters against media personalities and executives who are critical of him.

As the tweets and rallies become shriller and more provocative, their underlying message is that Trump's critics are bad people who are conspiring to undo his presidency -- people whom Trump supporters must "not let" silence him, who deserve to be slammed the way Trump took it out on CNN in the mock video he posted Sunday morning.

It's a narrative that is showing up increasingly on right-wing websites.

In one recent video from the National Rifle Association, for example, Dana Loesch, an NRA spokeswoman and former editor at Breitbart News, charges that a left-wing cabal "use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again."

As black-and-white images of recent protests play in the background, Loesch says, "The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth."

This "clenched fist" theme is being legitimized by the president of the United States, who's on a new and intensifying warpath against those in the media who criticize him.

Will news organizations and professionals be intimidated? Probably not, at least not at this point. But we may be on a slippery path. Trump's increasingly incendiary tweets and messages constitute an overt assault on freedom of the press, the cornerstone of our democracy.

Whether you agree or disagree with Donald Trump, all of us must stand up against this.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

Rate this article

Do you want to leave a comment?   Please Log In or Register to comment.

writesomething Jul 6, 2017 1:38 PM

Where are the lawsuits for slander and libel against this Fake News media? CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and Washington Post should be lawyering up, or should they? Time will show that 99% of their news coverage is accurate, fair and balanced. It's Trump who is trying to deflect attention from the matters that a free press wants the public to hear. An informed public knows enough to judge for themselves what to believe. I'll take that any day over a Russia style state controlled media or the juvenile twitter remarks of a President being shadowed by an FBI investigation.

amt_ Jul 6, 2017 5:48 AM

Donald Trump CNN tweet shows his mastery of social mediaJuly 5, 2017by TAMMY BRUCEThere are many discussions about the President Trump “wrestling” CNN tweet, but it’s time to get to the heart of the matter: that the tweet was brilliant, anticipating a ridiculously overwrought reaction by the legacy media, and boy, did they deliver.It’s one thing to say the media is fake and can’t be trusted, and quite another to show it to the American people. So consumed with their loathing of the president, some in the legacy media can’t see past themselves and did exactly what you’d expect the pathologically obsessed to do: pathologically obsess.While everyone else was laughing at the tweet of a staged pro-wrestling stunt from years ago, various CNN news actors insisted their lives were now at risk. This proved the president’s point that the network is not serious, on a singular mission to destroy the president, and ergo can’t be trusted to report what really matters to the American people.The president remains one-step ahead of those who work to harm his ability to do his job, creating an environment where the American people can decide for themselves who they can trust. And it’s apparently not the media. A new NPR/PBS/Marist poll found just 30 percent of Americans have trust in the media, which is double-digits lower than the president’s latest Rasmussen approval rating.There is another revelation brought to us by the absurd reaction by the mainstream media: their hypocrisy.We’ve been told for weeks that a play in Central Park featuring the slaughter of Mr. Trump was “just art.”Just after Kathy Griffin, who worked for CNN at the time, distributed a picture of her holding up a bloody, decapitated head of Mr. Trump ISIS-style, CNN’s Jake Tapper hosted a panel which insisted it was much ado about nothing.Molly Ball of The Atlantic noted, “I have a hard time bringing myself to care about something like this,” after which she blamed the Trumps for objecting to the depiction by accusing them of “needing to see themselves as victims.” Mr. Tapper tried to stifle a laugh. The panel then declared they had “much bigger things to focus on” than the display of a CNN host holding up the bloody head of the American president.Well, fast forward just a few weeks, and CNN suddenly does care, and did find time to accuse the president of inciting violence against them — because of a staged wrestling meme where their logo gets jumped. Got it.The truth is this: Mr. Trump is simply the world’s greatest provocateur. As a businessman and entertainer, he understands the benefits of keeping your opponents on their heels. Ridicule and mockery of your opponents is one of mankind’s oldest political tactics. The provoked can never win, because they’re allowing emotions to dictate their actions, revealing themselves as undisciplined, unserious fools.Part of the problem for the “journalists” in legacy media is Groupthink. You may hear it referred to as a bubble, but it’s more complicated than simply being isolated from others. It’s a concerted and dangerous state where a group of people believe they have sole possession of the truth and work to make sure alternative facts never infect the inner circle of decision-makers, or those they’re trying to influence.It also makes it impossible for those afflicted in media to properly and fairly view Mr. Trump and his work. And that is exactly the president’s point.Yet, there is some projecting here as well. There was a strangely coordinated new media narrative last week focusing on Mr. Trump’s tweeting (of course), breathlessly announcing that his Twitter feed doesn’t deal with any important policy issues. “More than 10 percent of Trump’s recent tweets have been attacks on the press,” tweeted CNN’s Jake Tapper, which linked to a whole segment of him dissecting the president’s tweets, replete with Mr. Tapper’s “I’m really concerned” faux-furrowed brow.Because Twitter is such a big part of the media’s lives, they actually believe that if they don’t see it on Twitter it’s not happening. Newsflash for so-called journalists: the president doesn’t use Twitter to govern, he uses it to push back, interrupt the left’s narratives, and stay in touch with the American people.CNN, in their official response to the wrestling tweet, actually complained that the wrestle tweet somehow proved the president wasn’t doing his job. “… Instead of preparing for his first overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his healthcare bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”It take less than a second to push the tweet button, at which point one then goes about running the free world.Whether it’s Obamacare, North Korea, ISIS, tax cuts, the economy, the upcoming G-20 meetings, or even the poor little Charlie Gard fighting for his life in England, the president governs first and tweets when necessary. Part of his ability to do his job is to confront those who work 24/7 to impede his ability to do so. Mocking them takes a few seconds out of the day, but their reactions confirm his concern: many in the legacy media can’t be trusted to do the most basic part of their job which is to simply bring you the news, not hate-fueled propaganda.http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jul/5/donald-trump-cnn-tweet-shows-his-mastery-of-social/