There are dark clouds gathering on the horizon of free speech. Every American understands how important the press is to this fundamental right. It might seem kind of ironic, but if you scan the very news organizations that Donald Trump is attacking, you’ll see how his war on the media is reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
Of course, any history buff knows that the control of information is the first step in controlling people. Historically, it’s one of the first steps that the Nazis took. For example, when the Nazi party first took power in Germany in 1933, they controlled only a small percentage of the thousands of newspapers in that country. After their election, they began to exercise immediate control over the media organizations in Germany.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders set off alarm bells recently and concerns the Trump administration might be traveling down this kind of censorship road. When she called on Breitbart News’ Charlie Spiering first at a recent press conference at the White House, it signalled a disturbing turn of events that should alarm all Americans.
In early 1933, the Nazis began to channel all the news into stories that were designed to create anxiety for the German people. Once the people were sufficiently frightened, Hitler’s thugs began to take political measures to erase democracy and civil liberties. In the ensuing melee, printing presses were smashed and political dissidents were arrested and sent off to detention and or concentration camps.
Back then, that darkest of stains on the world’s history began with a regime that was hostile to and tried to control the press. One of the fundamental turning points for the Nazis was being able to erode the credibility of the media at the time. If you look at this quote from the press release where Huckabee Sanders takes a swipe at CNN, you can see some striking similarities.
“I think that we have gone to a place where, if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that’s a dangerous place for America. And I think if that is the place certain outlets are going — particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings — and if that’s coming directly from the top, I think that’s even more scary.”
These words are yet another salvo in a direct attack on the press in the United States. Ultimately these attacks come from a president who has gone on record with his admiration for dictators like Vladimir Putin.
People in the media are sufficiently alarmed that they are speaking out. Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic has even gone so far as to say that media outlets can expect violence from people inspired by Trump.
Recently he mentioned the fact that two major publications in the United States appear to be at the forefront. The situation began when CNN printed a story about Russia it later retracted and Trump sent out a series of tweets denouncing the organization. In the past, when Trump has denounced similar organizations like the New York Times and Washington Post, their subscription numbers have actually gone up.
Violence Against Media?
That’s the problem according to Goldberg who says that violence against media institutions might be imminent because Trump’s followers could view these incidents like a video game and not real life. When a noted respected editor for a credible publication here in the United States starts sounding these kinds of alarm bells, there’s no way parallels can’t be drawn back to that darkest period in human history.
At one point during the Nazis rise to power, they established a propaganda ministry that sought to control the press. Along with only using what they considered to be racially pure journalists, this ministry held daily press briefings so they can control the dissemination of the news. Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that the Nazis didn’t try to suppress the news but rather limit people’s access to it.
Here’s one of the other things the Nazi propaganda wing used that seems to have found a new life in Trump’s administration. In July 1937, an art exhibit was denigrated by the Nazis and held up as an example of everything decent ordinary Germans should reject. The artists were considered to be subversive. Now consider this quote from the Atlantic’s editor and the parallels that can’t be denied to Nazi Germany’s propaganda machine.
There are those “who don’t understand that this is a cynical reality TV game and are going to hear over and over again from the president that the reporters, journalists are enemies of the state,” Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, told Yahoo News’s Katie Couric.
It was back in January when Trump was CIA headquarters he made his war on the media official. He told reporters at the time that it was no secret that he had an ongoing war with news organizations, and placed one of the fundamental pillars of our society in a dangerous position.
Not only has he consolidated his public support by demonizing immigrants and some other segments of our society, he’s taken on the press and made them out to be a public enemy and an easy target. Putting all journalists in one basket and making them a political opponent is a move that can’t and well.
His frequent comments about fake news and the fact the press is continually lying have become rallying cries for his supporters. Perhaps what’s even more alarming is these attacks on the media have made it easier for him to hide his financial statements and anything else from them.
We have to wonder where this is all going because it doesn’t seem to have a political precedent that we can point to. At least not in the United States of America. However, once the Nazi propaganda machine took hold, the youth wing began to burn the books of Jewish writers and anyone opposed to Nazi ideology.
Let’s hope that doesn’t start happening here.