Who is the Enemy of the People?

by on August 16, 2018 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By the Staffs of the OB Rag and San Diego Free Press

Today – August 16 – in over three hundred editorials in newspapers and media platforms large and small across the country, the American press is standing up and renouncing president Trump’s declarations that the media is “the enemy of the people.”

The San Diego Free Press and the OB Rag join these denunciations, in the call to confront Trump first put out by The Boston Globe, which began its call with:

A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press. Journalists are not classified as fellow Americans, but rather “the enemy of the people.” This relentless assault on the free press has dangerous consequences. We asked editorial boards from around the country – liberal and conservative, large and small – to join us today to address this fundamental threat in their own words.

The Globe published a chart based on an Ipsos poll conducted August 3-6, 2018, that showed a total of 29% agreed with the phrase, “the news media is the enemy of the people”. 21% didn’t know, while just under half (48%) disagreed. Yet among Republicans, it’s a sentiment endorsed by 48-51% of them.

Trump just last month, The Globe pointed out, told a crowd in Kansas,

“Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

This stands in sharp contrast to a list compiled by The Washington Post that shows in the first 558 days of his presidency, Trump made 4,229 false or misleading claims. But among Trump supporters, only 17 percent think that his White House regularly makes false claims.

The Globe ended their call with:

Lies are antithetical to an informed citizenry, responsible for self-governance. The greatness of America is dependent on the role of a free press to speak the truth to the powerful. To label the press “the enemy of the people” is as un-American as it is dangerous to the civic compact we have shared for more than two centuries.

We citizen journalists in San Diego have joined this call, yes, but we also have our own particular experiences with the media and press in this country that enable us to see beyond the platitudes about “free press”. We understand that not all media in the U.S. are equal; we have the establishment corporate, mass media and then we have everybody else, including ourselves, small and independent progressive platforms.

The establishment media brought us the 2016 election – for a year and half – they brought us Donald Trump, un-criticized, un-researched, un-challenged and un-confronted; the establishment media in all truth enabled the Trump campaign, giving him billions of dollars in free publicity. It was only later when they realized his open and complete dishonesty did editors begin sending reporters to do some digging. They also squelched Bernie Sanders bid to reform the Democratic Party.

Yet, the establishment media earlier also brought us Bush’s rationales for the invasion of and occupation of Iraq. They fired employees who opposed the Iraq War while hiring reporters who printed lies. They brought us the crushing financial crisis – where no one went to prison – without asking too many questions. It’s plain there’s always been a bias against the common people, the working class, the middle class within the slants of corporate media.

The tragic irony is now – while they are being assaulted by the top executive – the realities of corporate journalism’s hardship. Newspapers are cutting staffs, news staffs, and they’ve been doing that for the last few years. A couple of years ago, 265 people lost their jobs when the Tampa Tribune closed suddenly after publishing for 123 years. Dozens of staffers at New York’s Daily News were just let go by Tronc, the former owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune and LA Times. The number of people working at newspapers fell from 424,000 in 2000 to 183,300 last year. That’s a 57 percent drop.

And another irony has arisen. Just as some ask whether the establishment media is broken, we are experiencing an explosion of investigative reporting and real journalism – perhaps because of – but certainly at the same time as – Trump’s attacks on the media and press. In a real sense, we are living in a new “golden age” of journalism, where reporters are breaking the latest stories on Trump’s abuses and of his swamp-like cabinet members just about every day. As one of our staffers said, “Trump’s White House is a wacky barbecue for theft and grift, it needs our coverage. We are in a golden age of reporting.”

Just as the intersection of politics, media and technology has dazzled us and left us citizens scrambling for what’s real and what’s the truth, the explosion of technological leverage for ordinary citizens with the rise of the internet has disrupted the status quo, for those whose power and fortunes depend on the mass media.

Then along comes a wanna-be autocrat like Trump, who has no understanding of institutions not directly serving to gratify his ego, certainly not of the Constitution, nor of the Bill of Rights nor the First Amendment. But the patriotic bluster in his speeches only exists to provide immediate gratification to his acolytes, and to his base that never leaves him. The truth will be what Dear Leader says it is.

We have witnessed all of it. A few days after Trump assumed office in 2017, the first iteration of the Muslim ban was instituted and subsequently deemed illegal by the courts.  That was the beginning of the long shadow which Trump cast over communities in San Diego and across the country, especially those communities with immigrants.

After the Muslim ban came more talk of the wall, Trump’s support for White Supremacists and Nazis at Charlottesville, reneging on DACA, the decision to phase out the Temporary Protective Status of immigrants from a host of countries; then the ICE raids began culminating with family separations and children consigned to cages.  All of these malevolent acts in which cruelty is the point, not an anomaly, have struck fear into the hearts and lives of our fellow citizens.  Policies have consequences.

Trump’s success as a leader is based on the ability to motivate people to fear the “other.” Each month that passes allows him to expand the definitions of those threatening the illusions and delusions of grandeur surrounding the President.

Those things that do not serve him must be pushed aside, and if there is resistance, then they must be defiled. Mexicans are rapists. Africans are from shitholes. Women are dogs.

Those who do not worship him and his coterie must be de-humanized, lest the citizenry feel any empathy with these “enemies of the people.” And preparing for that day when the media and press report on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s accusations, subpoenas and indictments, Trump will have convinced his base that it is indeed all fake news. What he and they do then is up for history to grab.

A new Nixonian “enemies list” has been made public. With the largely symbolic canceling of former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance (and the promise of more to come) loyalty to the chief executive has been defined as a national security issue. Trump and his aids will illegally use the power of the federal government to come down on these opponents.

We’re headed toward a point where ignorance will be championed. Or, as Rudy Giuliani said on Tuesday, in the modern era facts are ‘in the eye of the beholder.’

What stands in the way is the free press. Us – and our colleagues in media platforms, large and small, establishment and alternative.

It is our responsibility as journalists to faithfully convey the lived reality of the human beings around us and the world that we all ultimately share.  It is that simple and that incredibly difficult. Anything less is frivolous bullshit.  Trump’s assault on an independent press is a calculation that frivolous bullshit will be embraced freely by a majority of the country, drowning out the corruption, incompetence and criminality of his administration.

We applaud that so many publications and platforms have decided to take a stand against the denigration of their craft and the status of the people who work in the field. We wish to take this moment to remind us all that we as a people with a vision for a more just and equitable world will sink or swim together. The First Amendment is important. So are the rest of them.

San Diego Free Press and OB Rag have promoted citizen journalism for over a decade now.  Our unique platforms provide analysis and commentary by people who take that tremendous leap of putting their own lived reality into words, who embrace the necessity of speaking truth to power.

What can be done?  Read and report local news. Subscribe to a newspaper and write in to it. Care about and post independent media (the OB Rag, the San Diego Free Press, the Daily Kos, The Real News, Democracy Now!, Counterpunch) as well as international news stories.

Organize public events around media, storytelling, reading. Humanity is the story.  Victims are the story. Increasing inequality and corporate power are the story. Local organizers are the story.  Getting out the vote is the story. More voters and moves towards greater enfranchisement is the story. Young progressives running for office is the story. Challenges to and within the Democratic party are the story.

Assaults on the press will fail as long as the people themselves are willing to speak truth to power—in the streets, in civic settings, in schools, and here on the OB Rag and San Diego Free Press.

The press is not the enemy of the people. Well then, who is the true enemy of the people?

History will show – as it did after Watergate and the Fall of Nixon – the true enemy of the people is the man who claims he has the “truth”, the man who wants to destroy a free press, the man who wants to undermine and intimidate all critics and opponents, whether they’re journalists or not. The man in the white castle.

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” –  Thomas Jefferson.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page August 17, 2018 at 10:15 am

Very well written, Frank. I hope people pay attention because it seems like not enough people realize how serious a threat t-rump is. The parallels with history – dark history – are chilling.


Jan Michael Sauer August 18, 2018 at 11:06 am

I have always thought that our system of Checks and Balances is the best thing about our country. The Fourth Estate, our flawed, but still fabulous free press is the most important (and unrecognized) part of that system. The above article is the best that you have published this year, so far. Thank you.


Frank Gormlie August 20, 2018 at 11:06 am

Thank you Geoff and Jan Michael. The editorial was the work of 4 : myself, Doug Porter, Anna Daniels and Brett Warnke – and also represents the remainder of our editors, Rich Kacmar, Annie Lane, Brent Beltran and Patty Jones.


Frank Gormlie August 20, 2018 at 12:28 pm

On Thursday Aug 16, the Senate passed by unanimous voice vote a resolution offered by Sens. Brian Schatz and Chuck Schumer. The resolution is focused directly at “affirming Congress’ support of the First Amendment and condemning attacks on the free press, which undermine the credibility of journalists and the press as a national institution.”


Frank Gormlie August 20, 2018 at 12:31 pm

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