Blocking Media, A Sign Of Authoritarianism

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington (DC): At the press conference when President Donald Trump announced his labor secretary nominee, his peevish face reflected his discomfort standing in front of the media. Trump has always felt so, but regardless that day spent more than an hour with press answering questions and said that he was enjoying the session.

That day, Trump was fixated on blaming media for almost everything that went wrong in his then 3-week presidency. He was unhinged. He accused news media of being dishonest and fake. Talking about the allegations of his election campaign colluding with Russia, he said Russia is a ruse created by the media. On another topic, quitting of his secretary of state, Michael Flynn, he said media had treated him unfairly.

Then on February 17th he tweeted that fake news is the “enemy of the American people.” His attack on media cannot be dismissed as just intolerance toward the news he dislikes. It is not just the news media he is after. He also at times aimed at judiciary. He abused the judge from Washington State for temporarily stopping his executive order.

Is this how authoritarians and fascists start? Suppress judiciary and free press – the two institutions that hinder misuse of power or becoming a powerhouse–and use fear-mongering politics to suppress any other revolting forces, such as public protests? The history has given us many such authoritarians who used the same tactics to rule the roost, but no one would have imagined that such threat could pose to the world’s strongest democracy.

Strategies that work to entrench authoritarians are being followed here, and one can see that the history being repeated. However, the institutions are strong enough to withstand any such attempt, unlike many nascent democracies in the world.

Trump has given national security his top priority — safety of the Americans is his highest responsibility. Citing  the example of Chicago, he has always said the city has become dangerous. On February 23rd he tweeted as follows:

Such fear-mongering politics is a sign of authoritarianism. On February 24th, the White House has blocked a few major mainstream news agencies from entering and attending the briefing given by the press secretary. Such a step of that scale is the first in the recent history. It is a threat to democracy. After all, it is the responsibility of the press secretary to treat all the news agencies equally and address the briefings.

Such an attack on the news media is yet another sign of authoritarian regime. Interestingly, Trump is not trying to attack all of the news media. Every time he goes ballistic with media, he sites an example where he says a particular network covered his news properly, and then rants on other media outlets. It could be a way to make all of the media to fall in line. The following is one of many tweets he made accusing media:

In favor of Trump, Media has committed many mistakes in the past, and they were wrong many times. In the press conference, Trump faulted media for mistakenly reporting the absence of the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the oven office. However, such mistakes and many more shouldn’t cost the right to report news.

Even Barrack Obama had issues with FOX News and even tried to stop the network from covering the White House at one time, but he never crossed his limits to accuse and ridicule the agency openly. Obama and his press secretary had always tried to give fair chance to all the news media. Even the Fox News host Shepard Smith has agreed so, and said that CNN is not fake news.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.