In an effort to fight back against Trump’s recklessly incendiary words regarding the mainstream media, the Boston Globe, a publication that has been a friend of the American people since its founding in 1872, is asking news organizations today to join in a coordinated response to President Trump’s ever-increasing attack on the Fourth Estate.
It’s problematic, and a little embarrassing, to have to insist that we, the press, are not the enemy of the American people. But we find ourselves in the awkward position of having to urge many people to believe it, because the accusation comes directly from the president of the United States, a man admired, still — still—by millions of Americans.
To believe any statement made by Trump, you need to understand that much, if not most, of what he says is untrue by any standard. Untrue by being simply false, untrue by being willfully misleading or untrue as being unsupported by any evidence. It’s a staggering number.
As of the end of July, the Washington Post, one of many media organizations keeping track of Trump’s false and misleading claims, found that, after 558 days in office, Trump had made 4,229 such claims.
But the Washington Post is part of the mainstream media, and is therefore, in Trump’s world, an enemy of the American people and, so, it could be argued (we suppose) that Trump has, in fact, never lied.
But let’s put that little fantasy aside.
In fact, the mainstream media reports on things the president has done. Let’s look at golf. It seems like one of the most trivial of complaints, but it’s illustrative of both Trump’s twin fondnesses for untruths and excess that, despite saying repeatedly during the campaign that once elected, he would be too busy to play golf, he has, as of Wednesday, spent 163 days at golfing clubs at a cost to taxpayers of $74 million. The press doesn’t make this stuff up. We are not the enemy.
The press didn’t make up Trump’s “good people on both sides” remark in the wake of last year’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Rather than take the opportunity to attack racism, Trump said what he said. The press reported it. We are not the enemy.
Google “children in cages” and guess which U.S. president’s name comes up in virtually every instance. The press told readers of the horrific effects of Trump’s zero-tolerance migrant-separation policy. We are not the enemy.
Trump downplayed the effects of Hurricane Maria and tossed some paper towels to a few survivors. The press has reported 4,000 people have died as a result of the hurricane, and federal response remains tragically slow. Reporting that fact does not make us the enemy.
The mainstream media has not referred to people seeking asylum in the United States or other immigrants as murderers, rapists, vermin or animals. We have reported it when the president has used those terms, but, no, that doesn’t make us the enemy.
When Trump fawned over Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and sided with the Russian ruler while assaulting his own country’s intelligence organizations, it was duly reported by the mainstream press. You’re familiar with the phrase “don’t kill the messenger”? We are not the enemy.
The fact that the earth is in great peril, at least in terms of being a place fit for human life, has been reported frequently by the mainstream media, as has the fact that Trump’s policies, appointments and words have ignored the issue and accelerated the danger. The press has never called climate change a hoax, but noted it when Trump used that word. We are not the enemy.
Trump’s recent tweet regarding the California wildfires was both reckless and (at the risk of redundancy) false, and included such accusations that California’s environmental laws and policies resulted in taking water that could have been used by firefighters and instead diverting it into the Pacific Ocean, as if Gov. Jerry Brown stood cackling madly, backlit by raging wildfires, while throwing a secret switch that sends roaring rivers out to the sea. Both firefighting agencies and state officials rebutted the tweet, and the media reported both the tweet and the rebuttals.
But, again, we are not the enemy.
Of course, the media doesn’t spend all of its time on Trump. Journalists report about your world, your nation, your state, your city on every level, sometimes as watchdogs when corruption, moral misdeeds and financial abuse occurs, and sometimes as cheerleaders when there are so many happy and heroic things to share with readers: triumphs and victories, moments of great inspiration and bravery.
Marvelous and wonderous things still happen every day, and every day the mainstream media reports on these.
But now, more than ever, the media has to keep an extraordinarily vigilant watch over the actions and words of the leader of this country. In happier times it didn’t need to be said that a free press is essential to democracy. Now, sadly, it does.
We come in peace; we are not your enemy.
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