Reflections on Why a Free Press Matters: January 6th, 2017


“The chief function of propaganda is to convince the masses whose slowness of understanding needs to be given time so they may absorb information; and only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on their mind.”

~ Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

Hitler was voted into office by the German people in 1933. At that point, less than 3% of Germany’s 4700 papers was in Nazi hands. But by stoking fears of Communism, and a constant delegitimizing of the independent press (Lugenpresse– Lying Press), printing plants and equipment were seized by the Nazis while political opponents were intimidated, bullied, brutalized, arrested and sent off to camps.

The white supremacist agenda of the Nazis, i.e. the Aryanization of German institutions, companies, schools etc. also meant that Jewish-owned newspapers and media outlets were seized. From there it was but one small step to controlling all the media, and the “news” that came out of that media was not fact-based but served the Nazi agenda, and should therefore be called propaganda: “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”

As the free press disappeared, the amount of brainwashing of the German people increased and it’s not surprising that after the war, the Allies insisted that “the reestablishment of a free press was vital to the denazification and reeducation of Germans.”

Another historical and more recent precedent is Putin’s ascent to power and the effect it has had on the free press in Russia. If you check the Press Freedom Index, Russia is positioned at 148 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_Freedom_Index). For those of you who have paid attention, dissenting Russian journalists and intellectuals have been under siege since Putin came to power. Since 1992, 50 journalists have been murdered, there have been 12 attacks on editorial offices and several foreign journalists have been denied entry to Russia, or have been deported.

In addition, according to the 2009 World Report by Human Rights Watch, Russia has used legislation to implement media restrictions, while activists and human rights defenders have been harassed and bullied. Censorship on Russian TV is widespread and at a staggering 82%.

While so-called “extremist” (opposing) content has been prosecuted, journalists and media outlets have been dragged into court and sued.

2009 figures show that government ownership and control of the media has increased dramatically: “Russia owns 60% of newspapers” (in whole or in part) and has the majority of the control over broadcasting companies.

Aside from these disturbing figures, there’s also internet censorship and surveillance.

So here, too, we see a gradual, and eventually, a complete power grab of the media which leads to a brainwashing of the people due to the propaganda they get fed on a daily basis.

Donald Trump is using both the Nazi and Putin playbook: constant delegitimization of the media and his political opponents (or even just people, private citizens who have hurt his feelings). Portraying himself as a victim, he attacks, bullies and intimidates with a constant repetition of buzzwords, which he beats like a war drum, hypnotizing and brainwashing his fired-up base. Thus the media is “crooked”, “dishonest”, “distorted” and “inaccurate”. The media spreads “lies”, “over reports one thing” and “under reports” another. During and after the election, there has been constant talk of suing the media and when Trump had won, he “invited” major media figures and journalists to Trump Tower to tell them they had done such a disastrous and unfair job covering him in the election: mind you, it was an off-the-record meeting, so they were not allowed to report on it.

You may think that Trump’s alleged sexual harassment and “pussy grabbing” has nothing whatsoever to do with what I now see as the start of a “media grab”. When you grab a pussy, you take something that is not legitimately yours. When you bully, intimidate and god forbid, make attempts at grabbing and fucking over the media in this country, you essentially do the same thing. You take something that’s not legitimately yours, because the free press isn’t owned by the US President but belongs to the people and serves the public interest.

The latest target are America’s intelligence agencies: they are “biased” and “partisan”– they don’t know a thing about hacking or computers and they are in cahoots with the press, Obama and the Clinton campaign. In this morning’s NYT, Trump dropped the word bomb “witch hunt”, playing the victim again, just because he feels his opinion (the Russians didn’t hack) is more important than intelligence findings (the Russians have hacked). In retaliation, he has also threatened to shrink intelligence services, while fawning over Vladmir Putin as if he were a lovable, huggable teddybear instead of a dangerous dictator who oppresses and steals from his own people.

Trump’s fans love everything that comes out of his mouth and have moved far beyond fact checking, and this is where the danger comes in because when the electorate doesn’t value facts or newspapers or intelligence findings anymore, dangerous propaganda is gaining ground and the brainwashing may well have taken root. This is where we’re crossing over to the dark side, and when disaster strikes or war breaks out, the people who believe in fairy tales only have themselves to blame.

 

 

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