By demonizing journalists, Trump has prepared the way for something far darker
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President Trump's portrayal of the press as "enemy" is not only a godsend for the circulation and ratings of some media but now for an emerging cottage industry of footnote-laden academic dissections.
Last week, there was a Slate podcast in which Harvard Law Prof. Noah Feldman made the case for his rhetoric and actions perhaps justifying impeachment proceedings (if the Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives). But, of course, that's a professor from Harvard, hotbed of unpatriotic leftist dogmatism, at least for the likes of Fox News Channel, Steve Bannon and Rush Limbaugh.
Now there's a negative critique from an academic combo from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. Those are not institutions typically confused with Mother Jones, Hampshire College, the ACLU, Daily Kos, The American Prospect or MSNBC.
RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor at the University of Utah, and Lisa Grow Sun, associate professor of law at Brigham Young, argue in a paper that even conceding past presidents' feuding with the media, "The evidence is overwhelming that Trump is engaged in something more substantial and more troubling than his predecessors,” as Jones puts it. “Because he appears to be on the path toward eliminating important protections for the press, we think this issue absolutely demands careful public attention.”
The duo's arguments makes much of the work of German political theorist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), who wrote at length about a mode of politics in which the struggle against a supposed enemy is central. In Schmitt's construction, a political practitioner would divide the world into friends and enemies, and a government would designate such "enemies" via “ostracism, expulsion, proscription or outlawry.”
The two academics argue that Trump undermines American democracy "and jeopardizes the media’s ability to act as an obstacle to the creation of other enemies — such as the judiciary, the intelligence community, people of certain races, immigrants and refugees."
“In the things he says, the things he does, and the things he forecasts, Trump is consistently and unrelentingly delineating the press as such a force — an ‘other’ that threatens the political unity of the state and that ought to be distrusted, countered, and perhaps ultimately stripped of ordinarily observed rights and liberties because of this exceptional status,” the authors say.
They readily concede that simple labeling the press as "the enemy" in his Twitter-filled discourse (or ravings) doesn't fulfill the German philosopher's criteria per se. But they believe that even under a more rigorous set of definitions, "Trump’s relationship with the press seems unquestionably calculated to construct the press as an enemy."
I will hereby save you and the president — given his aversion to reading anything weightier than the crawls on cable news channels — about 60 pages of academese and cut to the chase of a piece to be published in the Arizona State Law Review.
"President Trump has not merely engaged in bombastic rhetoric about the press. He has not merely engaged in abusive treatment of the press. Rather, a close investigation of the full scope of his words and behaviors demonstrates that he has engaged in classic Schmittian enemy construction."
A letter of outrage about O'Reilly
To whom it may concern:
"A letter signed by over 450 sexual assault victims has been sent to 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch demanding he ensure accountability for the sexual harassment claims against Fox News‘ biggest star, Bill O’Reilly. 21st Century Fox is FNC’s parent company." (LawNewz)
A bit too civil
Sean Spicer's response to questions from Zeke Miller of Time and Chip Reid of CBS News, among others, about the new secrecy regarding who visits the White House was lame. But the air about the dialogue at yesterday's White House press briefing reminded one that, quite apart from the caricature of journalists held by many, those same journalists in Washington can get too decorous.
Spicer made his most contorted argument yet for why the Obama past should be ditched and, thus, identities secret. His claim of Obama hypocrisy, for example, was strained. And unconvincing, too, were his claims for admirable Trump White House transparency — by and large citing rather banal and pedestrian declarations of where Trump is physically, the thinnest summaries of his schedule, or broad and superficial "background" briefings on policy. The expansive definition of privacy includes that of golfing partners.
It deserved somebody saying, "Sean, my friend, that's bull —." Instead, the tenor was more in keeping with the day's big event, the earlier Easter Egg Roll.
Easter in the Mar-a-Lago parking lot
Jordan Fabian of The Hill drew the short straw as Easter presidential pooler. But at least he got into the premises of Mar-a-Lago, as opposed to being at the public library, which has at times been the case. As he reported shortly before 10 a.m. Monday:
"We currently are holding in vans in a parking lot."
Black men in baseball
From The Undefeated on Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball on Saturday, where all the players again wore Robinson's number, 42.
"In 1956, Robinson’s final year in the majors, African-Americans constituted 6.7 percent of major league rosters. Today that number is 7.7 percent, according to MLB."
It then provides the skimpy list of African-American players on 2017 Opening Day rosters, including the disabled list, as provided by MLB.
Writing in The Atlantic, Will Leitch underscores lots of the interesting changes a new baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, has made or is floating. But Leitch thinks some of those involving pitching, including speeding up the act of pitching, may be perilous.
"Manfred’s guiding principle is 'pace of play,' rooted in a presumed need to appease increasingly restless fans: Millennials who supposedly (proof is lacking) can’t keep their eyes off their phones. Speeding up the game has become a full-on crusade, and Manfred is focused on the feature of baseball that entails the most standing around — the pitch. The pitch clock, which was introduced into the minor leagues in 2015, shortened games by an average of 12 minutes, for example. He has talked about wanting batters to hurry up and get in the box, catchers to hurry up and flash the sign, and pitchers to hurry up and pitch."
Media unrest in Argentina
Thank goodness we can't possibly imagine any prime-time show shilling for a government. I wrote this during a brief stay in Buenos Aires and stumbling upon reporting on a pissing match in which what's deemed a pro-government, factually sloppy prime-time TV news show is attacking (some say spuriously) the head of a big film institute (the art community doesn't like the right-of-center government).
"Brought together in a state of outrage, well over 1,000 representatives of Argentina’s film and audiovisual community crammed into the Gaumont Theater in Buenos Aires yesterday to protest and respond to the forced resignation of Alejandro Cacetta, the president of the nation’s film institute (INCAA— the National Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts), which is responsible for funding a large majority of Argentina’s film production, with more than 200 premieres in 2016 alone." (Cinema Tropical)
"The controversy took the film community by surprise two nights ago when accusations of corruption were aired publicly on the entertainment-news talk show 'Animales Sueltos' (Animals on the Loose). The show, which has a reputation for being used by President Mauricio Macri’s center-right government to make media 'hits' on political figures who don’t toe the official line, announced that it had a leaked document from the Anti-Corruption Office about irregularities in spending by Cacetta."
Greater media unrest
Veteran Turkish journalist Cam Dündar is a typical victim of the anti-press Erdogan regime and, after apparently B.S. charges of aiding terrorists, now finds himself in self-exile in Germany, and is now profiled in The New Yorker:
"Dündar, who lives in Germany as a Writers at Risk fellow of the German center of Pen International, has become a well-known figure in Germany, appearing on German political talk shows, giving newspaper interviews and writing columns in which he has urged German politicians to take a harder stand against rights violations in Turkey."
Glenn Beck countersues
The media and law beats increasingly converge these days. "Glenn Beck, and his conservative network, TheBlaze, have filed a counterclaim against firebrand news personality Tomi Lahren after she sued the organization for wrongful termination. In her lawsuit, Lahren claimed she was terminated because of her public pro-choice stance. Beck came back swinging in a 35-page counterclaim obtained by LawNewz.com and filed in Texas court on Monday."
"The countersuit states that Lahren was never fired from the network. Instead, the company says the network decided to bench her from air after a slew of bad behavior including Lahren’s mistreating of staff, and making public appearances without prior approval. In addition, Beck claims it is Lahren who is violating the terms of her employment contract with the network." (LawNewz)
Headline of the day
"Moral panics: Don't blame Facebook because some guy posted his murder video there." (TechDirt)
An early Hillary Clinton campaign post-mortem
Jonathan Allen of Roll Call and Amie Parnes of The Hill had done a book on Hillary Clinton and were reporting a second. But they were initially scratching their heads over the tales they were collecting of campaign disarray and dubious strategy since she seemed a lock-cinch to win. But then things changed and, as book critic Michiko Kukatani writes of "Shattered" in The New York Times:
"Although the Clinton campaign was widely covered, and many autopsies have been conducted in the last several months, the blow-by-blow details in 'Shattered' — and the observations made here by campaign and Democratic Party insiders — are nothing less than devastating, sure to dismay not just her supporters but also everyone who cares about the outcome and momentous consequences of the election." (The New York Times)
Two Wisconsin tales
While Trump heads to Kenosha, Wisconsin to herald his support for a manufacturing revival, The Washington Post heads to Janesville to check out the devastation amid the closing of General Motors' longest operating plant. One realizes how Trump has been too facile by half on such a revival, including not confronting the irreversible impact of automation.
The morning babble
President Trump's "Fox & Friends" exclusive with Trump included his accusing "the fake media" of unfairly alleging he's changed his views on Chinese currency manipulation. The Fox crew cheered him on that one. "just like his book, 'The art of the Deal,' you have to know how to negotiate," said interviewer Ainsley Earhardt.
"New Day's" Maggie Haberman noted the early propensity of Trump to reach out to only his base and thus, no surprise, his poll ratings languish. It also found typical editorial inspiration in The New York Times as it similarly speculated on the Trump internal politics on sticking with a global climate agreement that was sought and backed by his predecessor. (The New York Times)
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" discussed a 17-candidate special election in a Georgia Republican congressional district, heralding "wonky millennial" Democrat candidate Jon Ossoff.
Oh, is Turkey's "leader," as Mika Brzezinski put it, or its "tyrant," as Joe Scarborough quickly sought to correct her, flatly asserting Recep Tayyip Erdoğan just stole his election (the opposition there seeks a recount). Given the state of democracy in most nations, this would prompt perhaps a refreshing change in nouns attached to many heads of state, be they in Russia, China, Cambodia, North Korea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Central African Republic, United Arab Emirates, you name it, among all too many others.