In less than 72 hours, launch codes of the world’s most potent nuclear arsenal will be handed over to a narcissist who spends his time slamming comedy shows, his critics and Hollywood actors via Twitter. And who’s also prone to making typos.
Today’s Pic du Jour, the site’s 1,110th straight and snapped in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on 11 January 2014, reminded me of Trump’s press conference last week, his first as President-elect and first in five months. That performance was widely panned, slammed and criticized, too.
One of the better critiques was this one by Juan Cole, who characterized it as “unpleasantly reminiscent” of “authoritarian publicity techniques” utilized by tin-pot dictators he’s lived under in the past in the developing world. That’s not a stretch; that’s very much how he behaved. This is already our new reality.
From filling the room with a cheering crowd who also jeered at some reporters, to using fake props and condemning criticisms as fake news, he set a dark uncomfortable tone. And that was only the initial portion that I was able to stomach and watch.
Cole broke his piece down to five points. I’m most concerned with the second, describing Trump’s attempt to browbeat journalists he deems “unfriendly”.
2. Divide and rule. Trump tried to single out Buzzfeed for publishing the document and CNN for reporting that it was part of the intelligence community’s report by denouncing them as “fake news” and refusing them the opportunity to question him. He instead allowed the white supremacist Breitbart (a chief producer of fake news from its inception) to toss him a softball. Creating disfavored and favored news outlets is a typical authoritarian move. Trump is punishing CNN to create an incentive for other news outlets to treat him with kid gloves, and he is hoping the other reporters will climb over the prostrate bodies of the Buzzfeed and CNN journalists on their way up to White House access. The reporters and news organizations will have to stick together to overcome this tactic. Trump is also trying to legitimize his buddy Steve Bannon’s Neofascist monstrosity, Breitbart, by favoring it over CNN in public. (The Breitbart reporter suggested that Trump crack down on all those mainstream ‘fake news’ outlets, which is sort of like a wine-seller arguing for prohibition).
It’s a routine Trump tactic. And it will work. Most horrendous was the way he legitimized Breitbart, the outfit that put a capital ‘F’ on the term Fake News, on a global stage. That’s an ugly genie that won’t go back into its Neofascist bottle.