OH, I’ve been trying to wean myself off feeling disgusted about Donald Trump; same way with Brexit. But those terrible twins of the modern age keep standing in the way and spoiling the view.
Trump has for days now been blowing cold and even chillier over the death of the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. One dead journalist doesn’t account for much in Trump’s press-hating, journalist baiting world – a shadowed place where cameras are summoned to record his every stupid word, but prying journalists and their inconvenient questions are shunned and despised.
Now Saudi Arabia has finally admitted that Khashoggi died in their consulate in Istanbul. And that leaves Trump in a bind: does he condemn this cruel and outrageous act against a journalist or does he impose sanctions on his Saudi mates?
Oh, go on – you guess.
Trump says any retribution won’t include cancelling “$110bn worth of work, which means 600,000 jobs”. And by work, he means arms sales, as weapons are the main currency when dealing with the Saudis.
A murky pool all round, but let’s concentrate on what Trump says about journalists. While Khashoggi’s death was only still a dark and gruesome rumour, Trump told supporters at a rally in Montana that it was okay to attack journalists. He said of Republican congressman Greg Gianforte, who was charged for an unprovoked assault on Guardian political reporter Ben Jacobs – “He’s my guy.”
So a politician who’s prepared to shove and assault journalists is just the guy Trump wants to have around him. A bit of praise thrown like raw meat to his braying supporters – and another incitement from Trump for his supporters to hate all journalists.
Advocates of press freedom, journalists and the British government have chorused what the Guardian characterises as their “dismay and disgust” at Trump’s remarks.
Journalists across the States took to social media – their drug of choice, even as it eats away at journalism – to condemn Trump. To pick on one, here is Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times, speaking on Twitter: “Gianforte is a criminal. He pled guilty to [assault]. The president is congratulating a criminal on committing a crime.”
According to an Ipsos poll conducted in August 44 per cent of Trump supporters believe the president should be able to close news outlets for “bad behaviour”. And bad behaviour is basically any story of which Trump disapproves. In short, anything that’s not on the fawning Fox News.
A month before that poll, a gunman went into The Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland and shot five people at the newspaper. Jarrod Ramos said to have had had a long-running dispute with the paper. It is not possible to say that Trump’s attacks on journalists and what they do caused that shooting. But it is possible to imagine that pouring hatred on journalists in a country full of guns might not end well.
Being a journalist can be like any other job. But it can also be dangerous. The Committee to Protect Journalists calculates that 44 journalists have died so far this year. Four of those were among the dead in Maryland.
Trump can’t bring himself ever to praise journalists, even dead ones, preferring to stir up hatred in a self-serving bid to preserve himself and his deeply questionable ways.