Media-government conflict never reached such an alarming level in US
LAHORE: While the sitting US President Donald Trump had announced during his first full day in office that he had a “running war” with the media, branding journalists as being one of the most dishonest human beings on the planet, he now wants his compatriot newsmen to reveal their sources of information hilarious by any stretch of imagination!
In one of its most recent editions, The Guardian has maintained: “Several organizations, including the Washington Post, are developing Trump-focused investigative units which will probably rely on anonymously-sourced stories.” Trump has attacked the practice of quoting anonymous sources, while his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, called on the media to “stop with this unnamed source stuff”. The president, however, has left himself open to charges of hypocrisy. In the 1980s and 1990s, he regularly spoke to the press under aliases, to promote himself.
Right from the first American president George Washington who thought he was treated unfairly by the print media, hundreds of rulers across the globe have nourished a love-hate relationship with the men in press but the intensity of this media-government conflict has never reached such alarming levels as we are witnessing today in a country that claims to be an undisputed champion of democracy and freedom of speech.
Many American presidents like Thomas Jefferson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George Bush Junior, etc have all had their problems with their national press, but Donald Trump has literally been boiling with anger at the media since the day he had ‘trampled’ his opponent Hillary Clinton in the stunning American presidential election of November 2016.
Remember, during the early 1970s, despite president Richard Nixon’s hostility towards men with the pen, the US media was nonetheless allowed to do its job and the world had gone on to witness the surfacing of the Watergate Scandal that had ultimately forced Nixon to relinquish charge amidst a lot of embarrassment and criticism.
In one of his February 18, 20127 tweets, Trump had viewed: “The fake news media (failing NY Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS and CNN) is not my enemy; it is the enemy of the American people!”
And quite recently on last Friday, Donald Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer had flashed headlines by barring major news outlets, including the likes of the New York Times, CNN, the Guardian and Politico, etc, from attending an off-camera White House media briefing. Sean Spicer was quoted as saying: “We’re just not going to sit back and let false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there.”
It is noteworthy that in December 2016, it was the same Sean Spicer, who had opined that media outlets should not be stopped from covering the White House.
On Friday (February 24), Trump had tweeted: “Fake news media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!”
Renowned British newspaper The Guardian has noted: “Within the press, reaction was furious. New York Times editor Dean Baquet said: “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations.”
It quoted Lee Glendinning, editor of The Guardian, US, as saying: “This is a deeply troubling and divisive act. Holding power to account is an essential part of the democratic process, and that’s exactly what the Guardian will continue to do.”
The Guardian had added: “Some observers suggested the move to block some organizations from the Friday briefing was an attempt to distract the public from controversial stories.” On Saturday, the Trump administration faced new reports regarding its efforts to downplay what intelligence agencies believe to be the communicators between campaign staff and Russian intelligence. The Washington Post reported that the administration asked senior members of the intelligence community and the Congress to call news organizations and challenge such reports. The calls were organized after the administration unsuccessfully asked FBI officials to dispute the accuracy of stories, the Post said.
The American edition of this esteemed British media outlet has added: “The dispute is getting into areas where detente is usually observed, for example the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” The April 29 event has been plagued by withdrawals. The New York Times has not attended it since 2008; the Guardian will not attend it this year. The Buzzfeed reported this week that the CNN may not attend it either. The news service owned by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is reportedly backing a prominent pro-immigration campaign, is pulling out of hosting a party. The Vanity Fair and the New Yorker have said they will not host parties either. The Washington Post writes: “No president has ever said what Donald Trump has said.
“As you know,” he remarked Saturday, “I have a running war with the media.” The president’s comment, made during a visit to the CIA Headquarters, seems to be news to the media which hasn’t declared war back. But it does make explicit what has been obvious for months, if not years: Trump consolidated his public support in part by making all journalists his political opponents. His frequent denunciations of the press as “lying” and reporters as “the most dishonest human beings on earth” have been a rallying cry for his supporters, as well as a shield for him against unfavourable reports about his statements, finances and personal behaviour.
Trump’s anger is benefitting the US media: The Washington Post reports: “The irony of Trump’s self-declared war with the media is that the media has already been a beneficiary of a fight it never picked. The Vanity Fair, for example, attracted a record 80,000 new subscriptions in the two weeks following Trump’s angry reaction to the magazine’s devastating review of a Trump-owned restaurant in Trump Tower. The New York Times got its own Trump Bump after he criticized the paper in a series of post-election tweets. In the first month after the election, the paper said it gained about 200,000 new digital and print subscribers, more than 10 times the number in the same period a year earlier, according to a spokeswoman. The three leading cable networks saw record audiences and profits, including the CNN, which Trump has disgraced repeatedly.”