Enemy of the people? Who cares?

Aug 22, 2018 at 10:08 am
enemy of the people

Donald Trump says the press is the “enemy of the people.” So… why should we care?

It is not as if Trump retracting this and apologizing would change anything. We are talking about a man who thinks the stealth fighter is invisible (“They said, ‘Well, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it, even if it’s right next to it.’”) and that Frederick Douglass “is an example of someone who’s done an amazing job.”

“Enemy of the people” is just Trump’s latest entry in his textbook of populist, dictator speak. The phrase goes way back to, well.. at least to Mother Russia (surprise!). “Vrag naroda,” or “enemy of the people” was used by Lenin and Stalin against anyone in their way.

Truth is, a recent poll showed that nearly four in 10 of us thought “certain news organizations are the enemy of the American people.” The results were better with a better question: Quinnipiac University’s pollsters asked Americans whether news media are best described as an “enemy of the people” or an “important part of democracy.” About 65 percent overall thought we are important, and about half of the Republicans said we were enemies.

Again, who cares what Trump and what the other half believes? It won’t change anything.

It is not like we could convince otherwise the people who believe in not believing, the people who think Q is going to “unleash a floodgate of truth,” who say “we are making history and watching the Art of the Deal unfold before our eyes” and who advise “patriots” to stockpile food and ammo for an imminent civil war (I read this on the Facebook forum The Patriots Podium, which has about 355 members, from Louisville to Los Angeles). They won’t be taking down their Sean Hannity and Father Coughlin shrines soon.

So who cares if they hate and disbelieve us?

Many in the press do. More than 400 newspapers printed editorials last week trying to explain why a free press is credible and important. The Los Angeles Times did not participate, telling readers it refuses to write on anyone’s schedule and “ ... Why give them ammunition to scream about ‘collusion’?”

The Courier Journal also did not publish, but it gave no reason. Other Gannett properties editorialized, and several local papers did as well, among them the News and Tribune in New Albany. Trump did call the campaign collusion.

We at LEO Weekly decided to not waste an editorial explaining why we are actually allies of the people, because, well… that seems clear to those who need no convincing. Also, like the LA Times, we never want to be part of a Greek chorus, especially one that wouldn’t want us as a member. Again, remember that the people whom the 400 or so newspapers were trying to convince will never read their editorials.

We shouldn’t care what they think.

Trump’s anti-press vendetta is to be welcomed. It has helped Make America’s Newspapers Great Again… MANGA! Actually, he has made all journalism great again, and has underscored why alt-weeklies can be so effective.

I wrote in November 2016 (predicting his loss!) about how “I will miss Trump bigly”: “He has made television news great again, like an addictive reality TV show that shocks you more every day. He has made newspapers great again, prompting award-winning investigative journalism and creating news so outrageous that even The New York Times had to put his raunchy exploits on its front page, printing expletives that would make the Gray Lady blush.”

Since then, Trump’s unrelenting attacks and idiocy have boosted newspaper subscriptions. The New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said the paper added 132,000 subscribers in the 18 days after the election. The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal reported record growth in subscriptions, NPR reported.

Teams of reporters are now digging into all things Trump.

Here in Kentucky we have our own mini-Trump, Gov. Matt “Elected on the Bell Curve” Bevin. He uses the bullhorn of Facebook and Twitter to propagandize, often sounding tone-deaf (West Louisville kids playing chess?!). His press office spends its time creating videos and editorials for Bevin-buddy papers, the Baptist Convention’s Kentucky Today, while ignoring calls from not-fake journalists.

His recalcitrance just makes us want to work harder, and it emboldens us to find new, creative ways to tell the story.

Which brings me to alt-weeklies. Core to the alt-weekly philosophy is that we wear our opinions proudly, eschewing the mainstream press’ facade of objectivity. A former LEO editor once said something along the lines of this: You can conclude that someone is an asshole, but show me why and let them say why they are not. Fairness and intellectual honesty are crucial in telling alt-weekly stories, and part of that is being honest about your point of view.

You might notice mainstream news media, among them The CJ, are becoming more like alt-weeklies. The reaction to Trump has been to loosen the shackles of so-called objectivity, allowing at least some stories to sparkle with snark, personality... and truth.

Trump’s attack on us has MANGA.

So... maybe, just maybe, this is why we should care.