Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday (the first since he asked the Russian government to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email last July) was the harbinger of something ominous. The usual tropes applied to it — Trump’s gaslighting of the country, of denying things that are plain to see while pretending they are not, demanding respect after building his career off the abandonment of respect — but it was taken to a whole new level after knowing that he had hired staff to fabricate applause lines.
When Trump accused CNN of being “fake news” for running an appropriately sourced story about an active investigation by several intel agencies simply because every detail hasn’t been confirmed he attacked the very foundation of free press in our society. But even more worrying is how the press in attendance simply played along — on camera, the President denigrated a reporter as being fake, and the other reporters sitting on either side of him calmly raised their hands and waited to be called on.
This is corrosive on every level — as is attacking Buzzfeed for publishing the exact same dossier that every single reporter, policymaker, and elected representative in DC has seen. I’ve heard those rumors for months, and they are neither secret nor fake — they are unconfirmed. There is no reason to withhold them from the public, especially knowing that they are the reason behind multiple FISA warrants and intelligence and FBI investigations.
But this is the reality under Trump. Unlike the dumb caricatures of Obama’s attitude toward the press because of some FOIA requests — see journo-derp — this is where the real fight for press freedom will take place. Yesterday, we saw an incoming president actively attacks the media, gaslights the country about it (fake news website Breitbart asking a question about fake news was especially rich), and the press witnessed it and meekly went along with the flow as if it were normal.
Our country is in a crisis mode, and we have been for months, and it still is like pulling teeth to get the watch dogs to respond. The media need to wake up about the threat to their livelihoods and our freedoms and do their damned jobs.