An American President declaring war with the press who cover him, who refers to them as “the opposition party,” and “the enemy of the people,” is at war with America. There is no other way to say it. As unfathomable to imagine as it might once have been, here we are.
For these are Mr. Trump’s, and his sinister advisor, Stephen Bannon’s, official labels for news organizations and journalists who don’t coddle and rubble-stamp the Trump administration’s agenda.
“We are fighting fake news,” Trump alleged in a speech Friday to a selectively adulating audience. “It’s fake, phony, fake.” He dismissed CNN in the same speech as the “Clinton news network,” and asserted that his victory reflected “a movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
More accurately, we confront grandiosity of a magnitude, and a contempt, disdain and ignorance of constitutional instincts and understanding at levels “the likes of which [we’ve] we’ve never seen before” in a Presidential candidate—a chilling, but inescapable, conclusion.
For our President, a deeply disturbed, vindictive, vapid narcissist who happens to possess, at the highest levels, every personality trait of the psychopath, has found another “delegitimization mission.”
For years, he sought to delegitimize former President Obama, fomenting doubts about Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Long after Mr. Obama put that baseless insinuation to rest by releasing his long-form birth certificate, Trump, with cynical, callous contempt, brazenly maintained that scurrilous lie.
Now, as President, slavering to contrive an enemy he can’t live without, whom he can rabidly fight, he’s found one—the “mainstream press.” Now his mission, conjoined with Mr. Bannon’s, systematically is to delegitimize, to discredit it.
Trump finds enemies and nemesis effortlessly. Challenge him, “call him out” on his pathological lying and the misinformation he spews with glib blitheness, and alas—you are an enemy! Trump, in his warped, malignant narcissism, carries deeply within him the conviction that he is above accountability. Therefore, he experiences challenge as an affront. To deign to hold him to account outrages, if not enrages, him, unleashing his fury and vindictiveness. It entitles him to retribution, to go after you. He will teach you. He will turn against you, and he will turn everyone he can against you, with a vengeance.
Now his campaign to impugn the press’s legitimacy is “full on.” He has a new enemy to “delegitimize.” His aim is to convince, if not his “basket of deplorables,” then as many of his “susceptibles” as possible to mistrust the “mainstream press,” and trust, instead, his sinister delegitimization of it. Moreover, it’s to convince them to trust as a source of legitimate information not the “fake news” he unconscionably ascribes as emanating from the mainstream press, but the “legitimate news” emanating from his venal tweets and administration.
The prospect of his success is real, and terrifying. And it’s all becoming more terrifying rapidly, before our very eyes.
We must keep our eyes open. And the press itself must stand up strongly, vociferously. It must not enable President Trump, in his malignant arrogance, to demand that it (or, literally, a journalist) “sit down” because he objects, as he always will, to its fulfilling the vital function he’s incapable of grasping.