President Donald J Trump used his first full day in the office to launch a blistering attack against the media, accusing them of spreading fake news regarding the size of his inauguration crowd.
Wait, 1.5 million people?
Trump was visiting the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a meeting intended to demonstrate his support for the organisation. After he had previously compared the CIA to the Nazis. Trump used the visit to attack journalists, calling them “among the most dishonest human beings on earth”, and then added that up to 1.5 million people had attended to his inauguration, despite all evidences pointed out to the contrary.
It looked like a million and a half people” there on Friday – with the crowd extending all the way back to the Washington Monument.
Later, the Press Secretary Sean Spicer at the White House made a series of false statements claiming that the media were deliberately lying and were trying to divide the nation.”This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.
And then he launched a blistering attack on freedom of speech and said to journalists and bloggers present in the briefing room:
That’s what you guys should be writing and covering.
But Spencer went even further in his comments, and suggested that Trump will bypass the media to deliver his message directly to the American people as, he and only he can deliver the right one.
In a style reminiscent of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, Spencer added:
The American people deserve better, and so long as he serves as the messenger for this incredible movement, he will take his message directly to the American people, where his focus will always be.
An unimpressed media
As expected, reactions were overwhelmingly negative, including from Conservative commentator Bill Kristol, who said to CNN:
It is embarrassing, as an American, to watch this briefing by Sean Spicer from the podium at the White House.
And he is right. It is embarrassing to see Spencer telling the press what they should write about or cover. The media should be free and journalists should be able to cover the news as it really happens without trying to fit a political agenda.
And the truth was that Trump’s inauguration was a fiasco.
The whole truth…?
According to figures from Metro Washington, 193,000 trips had been taken by 11am on Donald Trump’s inauguration day, compared with 513,000 during the same period on 20 January 2009 when Barack Obama took office.
This alone suggests that Trump may not be the ‘people’s leader’ that he claims to be. And that is something that his administration will have to deal with.
Of course, the mainstream media can lie and are biased. Recently, the BBC Trust admitted that Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s Political Editor inaccurately reported Jeremy Corbyn’s views about shoot-to-kill policies in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015.
But does this mean that political leaders such as the Press Secretary or the 45th US President have the right to tell journalists what to write or cover? No.
A false narrative
What Trump and his team are trying to do is to turn the anger of decent American citizens against the press. In other words, when things will start to turn ugly, when the wall between USA and Mexico won’t be built, when industrial jobs won’t come back in the North East – Trump will accuse the press of making it up, to divide the nation.
It’s an old trick used by the far-right. Mussolini used exactly the same dirty tricks against the press.
The dictator encouraged journalists to see themselves as “educators” in service to the nation, and to participate actively in the education of the Italian people whilst banning all dissident voices for not reporting ‘the truth’.
He attacked journalists for not telling people what he wanted them to say about him, and his movement and claimed that only he could speak directly to the Italian people.
Bordering on the fascist
What we saw in the White House was a clear attempt by Trump’s administration to manipulate the truth. Of course, Trump isn’t Mussolini. But the people that have supported him behind the scene, see themselves as alt-right; in other words, fascists who refuse to be called fascists.
But there is hope. On Saturday, millions of people around the world took part in anti-Trump protests to highlight women’s rights, which activists believe are under threat from the new US administration.
There is one thing that we can all be sure of, now. Trump and his far right buddies will face huge opposition from the American people. Despite of all the claims made by Trump’s administration, the US President isn’t the man of the people. And that is the truth.