President Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden this week with President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, beaming from ear to ear as this fellow right-wing demagogue parroted Trump’s favorite catchphrase, “fake news,” in front of the assembled White House press corps. Trump said he was very proud to hear Bolsonaro use the term and went off on an extended rant against social media, promising to “do something about it.”
Trump complained again last weekend about “Saturday Night Live” mocking him, and suggested that the FEC and the FCC look into stopping them. His top henchman in the House of Representatives, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, just this week filed a $250 million lawsuit against small-time Twitter parody accounts that made fun of him (most famously, one allegedly written by a cow) and Donald Trump Jr. is writing op-eds complaining about Twitter and Facebook censorship.
The “fake news” charge is nothing new, of course. Trump has used the phrase even more than “no collusion” and “witch hunt” over the past two years, clearly trying to indoctrinate Americans into believing that they must believe him and his allies and no one else. He has said it outright:
Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.
The attack on social media stems from a daft conspiracy theory that holds the various platforms are censoring conservatives. It’s not true. Right-wingers simply don’t know how the internet works and thrive on victimization and conspiracy theories, so this fits in nicely with their worldview. Attacking satirists and humorists for being disrespectful to people who are in power, as Trump and Nunes are doing, is a new thing — and a direct attack on the First Amendment. It is obviously designed to intimidate critics into…