Wednesday, 25 January 2017 12:32

Dear Journalists: Trump, war on media and those alternative facts

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spicerIn the world of politics, you make the day-to-day record. That’s your job and you can’t be afraid to do it. This is a time that requires heroes because the new administration has declared war on your profession. You’ve been branded as biased, dishonest and crooked and your reportage has been called fiction. If you allow yourself to be discredited, though, the danger is that people will accept the proposition that what’s true is fake. 

History has shown that the only effective check on runaway power is the truth. You are the bulwark of freedom, like it or not. You’re in a unique situation to record, elucidate, and expose. Presently, there are many looming threats to hundreds of positive programs advanced by Obama, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan and, even, FDR. You can’t sit this one out. Many people who stayed home on Election Day because Hillary was going to win or go to prison are voting, now, on the pavement. Many who did vote are recasting their ballots in the streets. What’s happening across America and the world is without precedent. You can’t ignore or minimize it.

There are risks, and you don't even have to ask if there's an enemies list, but no one said your job would be easy. If there’s no one to critique the official narrative, however, no one becomes informed. Reports of officials removing access to government research on environmental and agricultural topics are alarming. So, too, is the takedown from government websites of other materials that, once, were in the public domain. When those who become uninformed, or deceived, realize that the seeds they swallowed have sprouted in their tummies they will blame you.

The new administration wants journalists to do either one of two things. The first is to join their club. The second is to shut up. It's daunting, and there will be pushbacks, but a third option, to tell the truth, is the only viable path. The powers are not going to give up easily, though and, throughout, will insist that what they're doing is for the common good. Hiding information is never good, however, no matter who does it. The people need information to make informed decisions about their leadership and its policies. What you do counts because a desert is full of mirages.

During his first official White House press briefing the new Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, accused the media of dishonesty for reporting that there were more people at Obama's inauguration than Trump's. The weather was different and that, alone, might have accounted for the disparity but it was a chance to turn the matter into allegations of media fraud and dishonesty and the administration took it. Even the CIA was regaled with the same narrative. These exercises are, per se, acts of dissimulation.

Hundreds of thousands of American men and women died to make America the place it is today. Their deaths insured the existence of our constitution, including free speech. In totalitarian states, the first casualty is an independent press meaning you bear a heavy responsibility to the memory of those who sacrificed their lives. The truth is at the very heart of your mission and you’re charged with telling it, wherever it leads.   

Freedom of information must always be foremost. There’s only one way to accomplish this and that’s if you’re conscientious enough to be honest about the present and about remembering, no matter who it angers. The truth is dispassionate, courageous, and it’s timeless.

You are deceived, however, when you let yourselves be trapped into making issues out of non-issues such as how many people showed up at any one inauguration, or not. Consider it an astute move that allowed the administration to deflect attention away from the millions of marchers across every continent. Call it what it was; a well-executed sucker play. President Trump, ultimately, will be judged by what he does more than by the size of his prodigious ego and its fragility.

There is a hullabaloo, now, about “alternate facts.” This is another trap for the unwary. There are, always, alternate facts. No two people see things the same way, even if they’re observing side by side. You hear alternate facts in every courtroom, every day. That’s how the system works. It’s for the people, the jury; to decide what set of facts is true or false.

It’s important that you don’t become unwitting parties to the current pogrom designed to suppress the truth because the people can't hold their breath that long. Women and children marching without anonymous masks count more than whether there were plastic sheets on the national mall on January 20th. Don’t be deceived into believing that what’s important are not the facts you’re looking for.  


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