Then they came for . . .

In yesterday’s post, I mused about how to sift through the noise to get to the actual News.  One technique I use is to pay attention to what the Administration does, not what it says; another is to pay attention to action taken on what each of us considers the Big Issues.  I keep a list of those issues as I see them – so far, I am closely watching actions the Administration has taken/is taking on Russia, Immigration, Judicial System, Reproductive Freedom, Functioning of Executive Branch and Freedom of the Press.

Another way of sorting through the noise to get to the action is to make lists of who has been/is being harmed. You know, as Martin Niemoller warned us (more or less):

First they came for the [women who need health care] and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a [woman who needed health care]

Then they came for the [Muslims and refugees], and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a [Muslim or refugee]

Then they came for the [undocumented immigrants], and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not [an undocumented immigrant].

Then they came for [the media]—and I did not speak out – Because I was not [a member of the media]

But wait, that’s not right.  Along with listing those who have been/are being harmed, we also need to list those who are standing up in response (i.e. all of us!). So let me rephrase:

First they came for the [women who need health care] and — over 4 million people worldwide took to the streets in the largest demonstration in U.S. history.
Even though not all of them were [woman who needed health care].

Then they came for the [Muslims and refugees], and – thousands flooded airports and borders in support, and judges and lawyers held the line.
Even though not all of them were [Muslims or refugees]

Then they came for the [undocumented immigrants], and – tens of thousands of citizens pledged to put their bodies on the line to stop deportations, and lawyers keep fighting
Even though not all of them were [undocumented immigrants]

Then they came for [the media]— . . . .

And now it’s up to us.  Freedom of the Press is the cornerstone of a free and open democracy.  That’s Civics 101, and high school level First Amendment law.  All presidents have difficult relationships with the press – precisely because of the First Amendment’s guarantee that the press should be free to criticize and, yes, hold accountable those in power.  Efforts by American presidents to shut down the media are as old as our system of government, but that does not make them any less dangerous.  And this president’s efforts are very dangerous indeed.

Now let me be clear, I am not talking [only] about what those in power are saying; I’m talking about what those in power are doing.

Specifically, who is being called on in White House Press Briefings? Pay attention to that.

Specifically, who is getting White House Press credentials? Pay attention to that.  Look! It’s the “Twinks4Trump” guy!  The same one who has been called a “dangerous troll,” a “conservative mouthpiece” and an “alt-right activist.”

Specifically, who is the lawyer representing Melania Trump in her suit against the Daily Mail for its false allegations that she had been an escort in the 1990s?  Remember “Gawker”? The publication that had to fold when a jury awarded Hulk Hogan $140,000,000 after Gawker published Hogan’s “sex tape”? Did you know that the legal strategy for that suit was specifically and expressly to make the publication shut down? THAT’S the lawyer representing Melania Trump against the Daily Mail.  Pay attention to that.

Specifically, what about “alternative facts”? And “fake news”? Yes, that was a lot of talk, but, as with his tweets about the “so-called judge,” I believe these attacks amount to dangerous action.  And so does Bret Stephens, of the Wall Street Journal, whose remarks on the issue were published in Time:

We ought to assume that [Trump’s media strategy] is darkly brilliant — if not in intention then certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.

He isn’t telling O’Reilly that he’s got his facts wrong. He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them — or, in his case, both. (emphasis added by me)

 They are coming for the media.  Who is going to speak out? We are, of course.  By continuing to read and watch and listen, and by using our own good judgment and critical thinking skills to dull the noise and amplify the real threats.  We also need to expand our media diet beyond our familiar – podcasts, local papers, blogs, radio shows – and force ourselves to sit quietly while people we don’t agree with speak.  And we need to be vigilant not to elevate “fake news” coming from the Left, but to dig deeper and investigate sources and facts on our own, however we can.

These lists are going to get longer – many of our fellow Americans are living through new immigration nightmares even as I write this.  We need to keep paying attention.

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