I read an essay about Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. It was a highly well-produced article that disputed the mainstream media’s reporting on Flynn. This particular essay claimed that Flynn was more “patriotic” and more disciplined than even General McChrystal. Flynn, the writer claimed, was a master at working with coalition partners.
I’m not putting up a link to the piece because it is nothing more than propaganda produced by Trump’s son-in-law. Did you know that his son-in-law owns the New York Observer? It sounds like a newspaper, right? Like something that might compete say with the New York Times or Washington Post. Only it’s tagline gives a reader more insight: A sophisticated take on news, culture, politics & luxury.
In other words, a weekly dose of propaganda and ad writing.
There has been a lot written on fake news sites over the past few weeks. I hope you are paying attention to that.
I have worked in newsrooms across the country. I’ve taught classes on Media & Culture. I understand what Trump is up to. Megyn Kelly sums it up accurately in her interview with Don Lemon:
“I think Trump has a disdain for the media. And I think he is hoping to discredit the media in a way that will render any criticisms of him unnecessary and unbelievable. If he can paint all of us with this wide brush – We are disgusting. We are scum. We are not to be trusted. – then it doesn’t really matter what we report or what we write because we are scum, we are disgusting and we are not to be believed. So I think it’s a strategy of his. I also think that he really gets upset when he sees negative press, even though he generates it intentionally. I do think we are going to have to steel our spines cause I think it’s only just begun.”
I want you to re-read that passage from Ms. Kelly. Then I want you to come back and read it again tomorrow. I want you to read it until you know it because understanding what she says here is critical to the strategy already in place by Steve Bannon, Mr. Apprentice’s chief strategist.
We have this thing called the First Amendment. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In our culture, the 1A is generally regarded as the right to “bitch and moan” as I used to tell my college students. That’s what it’s most often quoted for, as in “I can say whatever I want!” That’s not exactly true, as most grown-ups learn but Trump did not.
Civility isn’t a lesson he studied very well.
At any rate, the subject at hand today isn’t the speaking part of the 1A but rather the “free press” part. Thomas Jefferson summed up the importance of a free press in a democracy this way:
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
And by free, here, we mean the freedom to report and inform the people, because without a free press, there is no accountability.
No accountability is what Mr Apprentice and his band of merry chaos makers are seeking. Unfortunately, voters who failed to vote in this past election gave them a path toward no accountability. It is up to us – We The People – to make sure that we don’t end up with a government without newspapers.
Trump’s Chief Strategist and his son-in-law are working at making sure they control every bit of information that WE THE PEOPLE have access to. Megyn Kelly has it right. By discrediting the press – something this president-elect has done for the past 18 months – he renders them unnecessary. “Come to me for the real information,” he says. “I’ll tweet it. I’ll post it to Facebook.”
Newspapers and serious news outlets need to cease quoting Trump’s tweets in their news stories. To quote those tweets is to render journalism useless and to validate the propaganda machine he has put in place. If they are unable to speak to Mr. Trump directly or through a press secretary, they just need to report that he had “No comment.”
Quoting his tweets is exactly what he wants people to do because it enables him to control what is news about him.
Take this weekend for instance:
- Mr. Trump settled a lawsuit with Trump University to the tune of a $25 million tax-deductible fine. The settlement included all the standard language of such a settlement. You’re familiar with it. Trump makes no admission of guilt but agrees to shell out millions so that he can focus on “Making America Great Again.” (Propaganda slogan).
The public isn’t stupid. So we all know that if Trump was innocent of fraud he wouldn’t be paying out $25 million. He’s guilty as sin. But his people go on talk shows to talk about how magnanimous this new president-elect is, that he has volunteered to give up $25 million so he could focus on helping all of us. (This is propaganda.) Or as my mother might say: Total Bullshit. Mr. Trump is the first president in US History to be guilty of committing fraud against US citizens, the very citizens he’ll swear an oath to serve.
- Mr. Trump didn’t want this story to be significant. So he strategically took to Twitter to rant about his running mate getting booed at a Hamilton concert. Theaters should be safe places, he tweeted, chiding the cast & audience, demanding an apology. (Theaters are to be safe but America isn’t?) Because we love a good tweetstorm, Trump was successful in distracting the voting public from seriously contemplating what it means to have a sitting president who has committed fraud, but who won’t acknowledge the wrongness of his actions. Keep in mind elderly and young people alike lost their savings in search of the promises Trump made and didn’t fulfill. This will become even more apparent in the near future as voters find out how much Trump has defrauded them. The fraud case was a much bigger story with much bigger consequences for us all, but it got lost in the hoopla over Hamilton, which is exactly to his benefit. And that’s how propaganda works best.
- Let’s talk about how Trump hasn’t held a press conference. How he isn’t making any of his announcements of any of his Cabinet members. This allows him to control the narrative that we hear about people like Jeff Sessions, a man declared too unfit to be a federal judge because of racists statements he’s made in the past, but whom Trump has slotted for his Attorney General. Reporters from the leading newspapers across the nation have been denied access to Mr. Trump. They are not allowed to sit in on any meetings so far. They’ve been relegated to a roped off area in Trump Towers. This roping off is a way to demean and discredit the media. (Corralling them in public view is a propaganda technique.) And about doing business at Trump Towers? Never before in modern history have we had a president-elect dispense with all the protocol that honors the office he has accepted. By holding his meetings in his home, Trump is sending a subliminal message to everyone – the public and the Legislative Branches of government, the very entities established to hold him accountable – that he is the King of the fiefdom. He, after all, not the taxpayers, owns Trump Towers. If he conducts business in his own home, then it’s his business and not ours, not the Legislative Branches. He’s free to do as he wills. There is no accountability. That is propaganda. It is a way to control the public. And it certainly limits the ability of a free press to report freely on say things like that business meeting Trump had with investors in India, another evidence of the blurring of the lines over Conflicts of Interest.
- If you aren’t yet worried, you are brain dead . These techniques are all the same techniques used by dictators. Bannon has made it clear that he and Trump want to establish a “nationalistic economy.” On the surface, that sounds great, right? Jobs for everyone. That’s the propaganda piece. Words like patriotism and nationalism are used by those in authority to evoke a blind trust from the peasants in the kingdom. (That would be me and you). A nationalist economy is what Hitler promised the Germans, which is one of the reasons that the Nazis and KKK are marching in the streets, shouting gleefully over Trump’s election. They are genuinely excited about this candidate because they see what so many who voted for the man have refused to admit to: His affinity for White Supremacy. Trump is old school. He thinks the world is run better by white men. Just look at his cabinet picks thus far. The inner circle. He has yet to denounce the Nazis or KKK. He’s denounced Mexicans, Muslims, and fat people, but not the White Nationalists who praise him.
- Now about the demanding thing Trump does. Trump is either demeaning someone or demanding something. This is the role of the autocrat. Trump wants to keep people on edge, afraid, despairing. It’s part of the propaganda campaign. In order to be the only one who can “Make America Great Again”, he has to keep the masses in fear. The lower we sink, the higher he rises. The more beaten down and despondent we become, the more power he has over us. Think of it like an abusive parent. He is the perfect abusive parent. Slapping us around one minute and telling us how great we will be the next.
Propaganda is designed to make Trump look powerful and us to feel helpless, needy, despairing.
All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume. Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state. – Noam Chomsky
Is it any wonder some are on medications, trying to cope with the Post-Traumatic effects of this election? Donald Trump is the most abusive man to ever run for presidency. The fact that he won only intensifies the feelings of despair, we, his victims, are enduring.
So what are we to do?
The thing a victim of abuse should always do – Fight back. Speak up. Resist. Join voices with others. Here’s are real tangible ways you can overcome that feeling of despair and take back your power:
- Write or call your Senators/Rep. I don’t care if you live in Red State. Senators and Reps know their job is to represent the people. They hate hearing from you, especially when the phone lines ring off the hook or thousands of letters pour in. Don’t believe for one minute it doesn’t matter. It matters. I think of it this way. After Karly Sheehan was murdered, and the facts of her case were made public, person after person asked, why didn’t she tell somebody? Karly was only 3, but she was a bright and articulate 3 year old. Why don’t abused children speak up? Why don’t they tell somebody? That’s was the question I put to the people who work most closely with abused children. The answer? “Because they love their parents.” They don’t want anyone to get in trouble or get harmed. So they end up dead themselves. We are like abused children that way. We don’t want to speak up. We love our country. We love democracy. But we are too scared, too ashamed, or simply don’t know what to say. How do I tell my Senator that our president-elect is abusive? How do I tell my Senator that Mr. Bannon is a manic who threatens me from the sidelines? We are all at risk for harm until we learn to speak up and identify the abuser and his abuses.
- Subscribe to a newspaper. Local or national. Last week I went online and bought subscriptions to my local newspaper, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Now more than ever we need to support these journalist that Trump and Bannon seek to undermine. Those of you who read my family’s memoir know I tell a story of meeting a young man in Vietnam who told me about how the fascist government wouldn’t even let his mother hang a picture of their father in the home. They could only put up a photo of Uncle Ho. Imagine if Trump were to send soldier into your home and burn all your books, cut the wireless connection to your home and tell you that you could only watch a state-run TV station and read state-run newspapers. This has happened in countries the world over. Is still happening. The best way to hold Trump accountable is to help pay the salaries of the boots-on-the ground journalists who are slogging it out each day with him and his propaganda machine.
- Avoid the red meat. Don’t retweet Trump’s tweets. Don’t share the salacious news about him. Look for the hard-hitting. The policy stuff. The fraud cases. The appointments he’s making. The lack of his taxes. The conflicts of interest violations. Hammer away at the hard hitting wrongs he has done. Don’t call him President. He’s a lot of things but presidential isn’t one of them. Beat him at his own game of propaganda. Call him for what he is: a man who has committed fraud, and bragged about sexually abusing women. He is a bully. He is a cheat. He is a tyrant. He is impetus & unreliable. All those names you would call an abusive mate, he is all of that. What is he not is presidential.
- Don’t be silent. Silence gets people killed. At the very least, it is being complicit to the abuse.
- Read the stories of resistant fighters. Watch Norma Rae or Iron Jawed Angels. Listen to Dr. King and Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela. And every time you think you got it wrong about Mr. Apprentice, go back and listen to his campaign speeches. Watch him mock the disabled. Listen to the interview with Billy Bush – an interview that got Bush fired from a TV news anchor job but which didn’t disqualify Trump for the White House.
- Join your local ACLU or Quakers or any other group fighting for the civil liberties of others.
- Speak up with your dollars. Join the #GrabYourWallet movement and refuse to shop where Trump brands are sold.
- Donate to the Democrats or Independents or orgs fighting for the First Amendment.
- Be kind. Do good work. Be engaged. Be informed. Study up on the techniques of propaganda. Protest peaceably.
- Get some rest. Pray. Eat well. Exercise. Take care of yourself. We need you to be your best self
- Write your Senators/Reps again.Your letters encourage them to be their best selves.