Donald Trump: Provocateur?

Donald Trump: Provocateur?
FBI arrests man who threatened to kill Boston Globe staff for criticizing Trump. President Trump has earlier referred to the Boston Globe employees as the “enemy of the people” and “fake news”. President Trump has used his dislike for the mainstream media as a tool to bolster his image in the face of rising criticism..

FBI arrests man who threatened to kill Boston Globe staff for criticizing Trump.

President Trump has earlier referred to the Boston Globe employees as the “enemy of the people” and “fake news”.

Background

President Trump has used his dislike for the mainstream media as a tool to bolster his image in the face of rising criticism. A trademark strategy is to discredit any criticism of him or his administration by classifying the news agency as “fake news”. So far, his strategy has worked wonders for his domestic support base as major non-partisan news outlets like MSNBC and CNN have been branded as peddlers of fake news.

Earlier in 2018, over 300 national and local news media outlets had launched a campaign to counter President Trump’s attacks and promote a free press. The Boston Globe was the spearheading news agency of the campaign and it received significant criticism from President Trump in the weeks following a scathing op-ed piece.

Earlier this month, CNN's Jim Acosta urged White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to say the news media are not the enemy, which she would not do. Thirty-one journalists in the U.S. have been attacked so far in 2018, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. In June, five employees were killed in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md. A man with a longstanding grudge has been charged with multiple counts of murder.

Analysis

Trump has led an unprecedented assault on the American media over the past three years, falsely claiming that coverage unfavourable to him is “fake news” and declaring journalists to be enemies of the public. He has frequently urged supporters at rallies to direct abuse at individual reporters, leading some to hire bodyguards. Trump had posted several attacks on the media to Twitter, complaining about “fake news” and declaring that the media was “opposition party” and “very bad for our great country”.

The FBI said Robert Chain’s calls scared employees of the Globe, leading the newspaper to call police and contract a private security company to protect its staff. Six days later, Chain allegedly called the newspaper from a cell-phone registered to his wife. When asked by a Globe employee why he was calling, Chain allegedly said: “Because you are the enemy of the people.”

Chain allegedly continued: “As long as you keep attacking the president, the duly elected president of the United States, in the continuation of your treasonous and seditious acts, I will continue to threaten, harass, and annoy the Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, the other fake news.”

The New York Times Company previously owned the Boston Globe but sold the newspaper in 2013. Trump, apparently angered by the coordinated editorials against him, drew attention the link between the two newspapers in a tweet on 16 August.

The president continued to attack the media using the same terms on Thursday, a day after his own justice department filed its complaint to court detailing Chain’s use of Trump’s slogan. Trump claimed in a tweet that he “cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is,” adding: “Enemy of the People!”

Assessment

Our assessment is that the primary debate is the concern of the media that those not supporting the policies of the current US administration are labelled an “enemy of the people”. We feel the proclivity to insist that truths you don't like are "fake news" is dangerous to the lifeblood of any democracy. President Trump’s words also empower other political leaders who are looking to suppress their own new media outlets and dismiss reports. We also feel President Trump’s narratives encourage such deviant behaviour from people who support extreme ideologies. We believe that the consortium of news agencies running the campaign to secure freedom of the press are fighting for what is right, as dissent is critical in a democracy.

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