In space travel it’s vitally important to maintain the proper trajectory. Let’s take for example a trip to the moon (disregarding mid-course corrections). If your rocket’s course is off one degree at the beginning of your journey you will miss your target by 4,169 miles, nearly twice the diameter of the moon. Fortunately, space travelers, or any travelers, are able to make course corrections during their journey. However, small influences, left unchecked, can lead to dire consequences over time. We are at a moment in our history that requires a severe course correction, lest we end up as a nation in a place that is entirely contrary to the values that we hold dear.
This moment is vividly illustrated in less than 140 characters, that was dashed off by none other than the President of the United States of America.
Now would be good time to remember this small section of the U.S. Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The authors thought a free press important enough to put it in the first amendment. A free and unfettered press is the hallmark and conscience of democracy, and is the very mechanism by which the government is held to account. When an administration in power seeks to undermine trust in the press, it severely alters the trajectory of said democracy.
In fact, we have examples through history which plainly illustrate the erosion of trust in the press by governments, and the parallels are ugly and may invite criticisms of hyperbole, but here it is nonetheless.
It is simply deplorable that this connection can be made, but the language and tactics used by Nazi Germany and the Trump administration are alarmingly similar. Donald Trump has now famously coined the term “Fake News” in an attempt to delegitimize stories with which he disagrees. During the Nazi regime, critics of Hitler were branded to be members of the “Lügenpresse (lying press) apparatus.”
One would think that this alone would elicit a strong response from Congress, even the GOP, which has remained conspicuously silent. And indeed, many have expressed serious concern about the vilification of journalists and journalism in the past weeks and months. Even so, there is not enough push back on the rhetoric directed towards the press.
Trump supporters seem to be unduly influenced by it, as evidences by a recent Fox News poll which found that they believe Donald Trump over the press by a slight margin.This slaps reason in the mouth given the amount of lies and hypocritical statements uttered by him recently and over the course of the campaign (e.g., releasing taxes, Russia, etc.). He wants the nation to believe that he is the supreme voice when it comes to matters of the truth, which is laughable given the evidence, and terrifying given the implications.
Having the government be the sole provider of information is the definition of propaganda. Now, the question remains, is this simply his style or a concerted effort on the part of the administration?
His persona has always been bombastic and off-the-cuff, which works well on a reality show but it’s disconcerting in a President. So it may just be stream-of-consciousness Donald which, as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, is unlikely to mature and become “presidential” as some of his supporters hoped. If it’s a case of Donald simply being Donald, the situation is untenable and requires he be removed from office.
The other equally terrifying option is that his language and rhetoric is part of a systematic campaign of psychological influence and manipulation. Scott Adams on the Joe Rogan Podcast suggested that the use of seemingly simple nicknames like “Low Energy Jeb”,”lying Ted” and “Crooked Hillary” are actually well crafted tactics.
The Trump campaign, to its credit and shame, used sophisticated big-data techniques to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. The force behind this is the company Cambridge Analytica, who claims to have data points on 230 million Americans. Fun fact, the man whom many attribute much of Trumps policy direction is also a board member of Cambridge Analytica. There is quite a bit of sophistication in the pushing of the Trump agenda.
“Today in the United States we have somewhere close to four or five thousand data points on every individual. … So we model the personality of every adult across the United States, some 230 million people.”
— Alexander Nix (Chief Executive, Cambridge Analytica), October 2016
Regardless if Trump is disparaging the press on an ad hoc basis, or if it’s a systemic promotion of the administration’s agenda, it is unacceptable. We can already see evidence of “soft” muzzling of the press, by selective access during press conferences by Trump only picking friendly outlets.
Clueless or nefarious, the arc of this administration needs a mid-course correction and quickly. It is simply unacceptable for our great nation to take such a drastic direction towards becoming the type of intolerant, tyrannical government that we fought against in several wars. It would be an egregious affront to those who fought and died for freedom, as well as those who currently put themselves in harms way to protect those freedoms.
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