Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Trend to Centralized Control by an Autocratic Authority in the Era of Trump


Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments on this revealing story: “If everything said about Trump, a pathological liar, is ‘fake news,’ then who will give us ‘the truth?’ In a Jan. 24 speech on the floor of the House, Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, gave us the answer. He described what he believed was the unfair way the national media was covering President Trump. And he ended with an admonition for his constituents: ‘Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.’ There it is. If you want the truth, ignore everything except what the President is saying. This is what totalitarianism is all about.”

This how the story, “Trump Era, Censorship May Start in the Newsroom,” begins:

“. . .  the muzzling starts, not with a boot on your neck, but with the fear of one that runs so deep that you muzzle yourself.

“Maybe it’s the story you decide against doing because it’s liable to provoke a press-bullying president to put the power of his office behind his attempt to destroy your reputation by falsely calling your journalism “fake.”

“Maybe it’s the line you hold back from your script or your article because it could trigger a federal leak investigation into you and your sources (so, yeah, jail).

“Or, maybe it’s the commentary you spike because you’re a publicly supported news channel and you worry it will cost your station its federal financing.

“In that last case, your fear would be existential — a matter of your very survival — and your motivation to self-censor could prove overwhelming.

“We no longer have to imagine it. We got a real-life example last week in San Antonio, where a PBS station sat atop the slippery slope toward censorship and then promptly started down it.”

“This is how the muzzling starts: not with a boot on your neck, but with the fear of one that runs so deep that you muzzle yourself.

“Maybe it’s the story you decide against doing because it’s liable to provoke a press-bullying president to put the power of his office behind his attempt to destroy your reputation by falsely calling your journalism “fake.”

“Maybe it’s the line you hold back from your script or your article because it could trigger a federal leak investigation into you and your sources (so, yeah, jail).

“Or, maybe it’s the commentary you spike because you’re a publicly supported news channel and you worry it will cost your station its federal financing.

“In that last case, your fear would be existential — a matter of your very survival — and your motivation to self-censor could prove overwhelming.

“We no longer have to imagine it. We got a real-life example last week in San Antonio, where a PBS station sat atop the slippery slope toward censorship and then promptly started down it.

“It’s a single television station in a single state in a very big country. And the right thing ultimately happened. But only after a very wrong thing happened.”

The editorial misfire bears retelling because it showed the most likely way that the new administration’s attempts to shut down the free press could succeed, just as it shows how those attempts can be stopped.

Continue reading the rest of the story:

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