Today, hundreds of newspapers, at the initiative of the Boston Globe, are purporting to stand up for a free press against Trump’s rhetoric.
Today also marks exactly one month since I was dragged out of the July 16 Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up until the middle of the night.
As laid in my cell, I chuckled at the notion that the city was full of billboards proclaiming Finland was the “land of free press“.
So, I’ve grown an especially high sensitivity to both goonish behavior toward journalists trying to ask tough questions – and to those professing they are defending a free press when they are actually engaging in a marketing exercise.
As some have noted, the editorials today will likely help Trump whip up support among his base against a monolithic media. But, just as clearly, the establishment media can draw attention away from their own failures, corruptions and falsehoods simply by focusing on Trump’s.
Big media outlets need not actually report news that affects your life and point to serious solutions for social ills. They can just bad mouth Trump. And Trump need not deliver on campaign promises that tapped into populist and isolationist tendencies in the U.S. public that have grown in reaction to years of elite rule. He need only deride the major media.
They are at worst frenemies. More likely, at times, Trump and the establishment media log roll with each other. The major media built up Trump. Trump’s attacks effectively elevate a select few media celebrities.
My case is a small but telling one. Major media outlets were more likely to disinform about the manhandling I received in my attempt to ask about US, Russian and Israeli nuclear threats to humanity – I’ll soon give a detailed rebuttal to the torrent of falsehoods, some of which I’ve already noted on social media – than to crusade against it.
Other obvious cases: None of the newspaper editorials I’ve seen published today mention the likely prosecution of WikiLeaks. If there were solidarity among media, the prospect of Julian Assange being imprisoned for publishing U.S. government documents should be front and center today.
Neither did I see a mention of RT or, as of this week, Al Jazeera, being compelled to register as foreign agents. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert has openly refused to take questions from reporters working for Russian outlets. Virtual silence – in part because Russia is widely depicted as the great enemy, letting US government policy around the world off the hook.
The above are actual policies that the Trump administration has pursued targeting media – not rhetoric that dominates so much establishment coverage of Trump.