IT is reasonable to be wary of newspapers, as everyone from an occasional critic of this blog to my friends in the curry house last night will argue. But President Trump takes this distrust to levels that should alarm us all.
Trump routinely talks of “fake news” and refers to the news media as “the enemy of the people”.
Recently at a rally in Pennsylvania, he jabbed his finger at journalists covering the event and described them as “fake, fake, disgusting news”.
The outgoing UN human rights commissioner has said such assaults are “very close to incitement to violence” that could lead to journalists censoring themselves or even being attacked.
Well, at least we can count ourselves lucky that Trump isn’t saying those inflammatory things to gun-toting rednecks who hang on his every stupid word…
A year ago, the editor of the Washington Post, Marty Baron, said his newspaper approached the Trump administration not with open hostility, but just as it would any administration. “The way I view it is, we’re not at war with the administration, we’re at work. We’re doing our jobs.”
Part of that job is reporting what Trump says and attempting to give a balanced picture of an unbalanced man – a man who feels it is acceptable to refer to a prominent black woman as “that dog”. The way Trump talks, it’s just astonishing, and sometimes we should remind ourselves to be astonished. It’s all too easy to be out-astonished in his company.
I know little about Omarosa Manigault Newman, except that she was a contestant on the US version of the Apprentice – a qualification that elevated her to the White House as a political aide, until Trump tired of her. Now she is touting a book and is at war with that crazily inconstant man.
In this morning’s news, Trump has removed the security clearance of John Brennan, a CIA director who has served four presidents – something this prominent Trump critic likens to the behaviour of “foreign tyrants and despots”.
Also, this morning, and this is what I am getting around to, something I knew nothing about in the curry house last night, the leader writers are beginning to turn against Trump. Not one or two of these constantly critical souls but approaching 350 of them.
These leader writers belong to news groups that have been brought together by the Boston Globe to denounce what the paper calls a “dirty war against the free press”.
That is a large gathering of leader writers – and what might be the collective noun for such an assembly? A ‘grumble’ of leader writers, perhaps.
Good luck to those leader writers, power to their scratchy pens. Calling on the collective might, if that’s what is still is nowadays, of newspapers and news websites to speak with one voice is a smart move. The leader articles do not parrot the same words, but they are passing on the same message: hands off the free press.
The Guardian has joined in this collective leader-writing effort, and here’s part of its editorial…
“Mr Trump’s insults and incitements are a calculated danger to… the respect, civility and dialogue that should exist between the press and its readers. The Guardian stands with the US press in its efforts to maintain the objectivity and the moral boundaries that this president – like so many others in much more dangerous parts of the world – is doing so much to destroy.”
I still read the Guardian, in print and online (bunging them a fiver a month for the privilege), but my friends in the curry house are not onside.
One is a Corbyn fan who believes the Guardian has it in for the Labour leader, and the other just doesn’t trust the paper’s world view, especially on China. I was outnumbered over the popadoms, in a pickle over the pickles.
I guess my problem is this: if I stop reading the Guardian and the Observer, if I spurn the BBC, just what is left for me to read and do? You should always approach all sources of news with a wary eye, but distrusting them all, and ranting about the evils of the mainstream media, is to follow Trump on the path to God only knows where.