Sunday, Sep 23, 2018 | Last Update : 09:57 PM IST
A cause for concern is that he’s tried so hard to intimidate the independent media which scrutinises his actions closely.
The US Senate passed by unanimous consent a resolution affirming that the media “is not the enemy of the people”. This was in response to President Donald Trump’s sustained diatribe against the media at every opportunity, with which he has managed to convince at least many Republicans with his own version of “fake news”. The Senate move comes on top of an initiative led by the Boston Globe, where over 350 news organisations published editorials reiterating the freedom of the press and the important role it plays in society. All this might mean nothing to the Teflon-coated President who nurses the quite ridiculous notion for a US President that any media critical of him are spouting fake news, whereas he’s the one chosen by the people who alone knows what is good for America first.
Mr Trump’s views on the media in the US, looked up to for over two centuries as one of the pinnacles of a free press, are at odds with the foundational principle of a model democracy. His despotic vision may include a kowtowing media fawning on every move by the President. A cause for concern is that he’s tried so hard to intimidate the independent media which scrutinises his actions closely. Which is why, for the first time in US history, so many news outfits had to take a joint stand against a President determined to turn the public against a vital arm of democracy: the fourth estate. Mr Trump’s penchant for stirring up hatred — chanting his mantra about fake news at least 400 times — against the media is aimed at upsetting the balance. By generating this cynical dislike for the media, he may be hoping his regressive ideas will be more accepted by the public.
The major pushback by the media may have gone some way towards a majority of the American people keeping faith in a free press, which as a former Supreme Court judge said famously is “for the governed, not the governor”. A country that has been ruled by the strength of its major institutions run on pristine principles cannot afford to be derailed by a “sultan” who wishes to spread his ideas regardless of whether they are right or not. Honest journalism is integral to the check and balances of power. In any case, how much reverence would society have for a President who calls a former woman campaign staffer a “dog” in public? Beyond such peccadilloes, what Mr Trump is doing is to push democracy to a decline in a country with a 242-year history of a commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. What is happening in Mr Trump’s America with regard to the independent media is a warning to many countries where the “watchdog” media faces similar threats from relentless attacks by those in power.