The Trump administration’s first day in office was a remarkable one. Not remarkable with accomplishments or in uniting the country. It was remarkable in absurdity.
Trump did manage to bring a historic crowd to Washington, D.C. Not the crowd for his inauguration. The crowd that assembled Saturday which brought over 500,000 people to the nation’s capital to protest the Trump administration. The Women’s march brought over a million people together in every major American city, in all 50 states, and in 32 nations. There was even a march in Antarctica. Trump, that means a lot of people don’t like you.
While the march was going on outside the Trump team decided to ignore it. Trump visited the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and that’s where the day’s propaganda campaign against the press began.
Trump brought a team to applaud him during his speech at the CIA. He claimed he has the greatest respect for the CIA and it was the media distorting the facts and perpetuating a myth that he’s feuding with our nation’s intelligence agencies. He didn’t bring up the fact that just a couple of weeks ago he compared the CIA to Nazis. Trump also claimed that the crowd for his inauguration was the largest in U.S. history.
Later in the day the Trump team announced that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would hold a press briefing. It started an hour later than originally announced. Anyone who’s ever watched a press briefing from the White House knows that after the Press Secretary gives the briefing that he’ll take questions from the press. Sean Spicer is no Josh Earnest, Obama’s last Press Secretary.
Spicer started the briefing by complaining about Time magazine reporting that a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. The report was a mistake which the reporter owned up to and apologized for. Spicer tweeted that the apology was accepted. He forgot about that tweet as he engaged in a diatribe about the injustice of the report. He didn’t stop there. He then went into a tirade over the press reporting the crowd for the inauguration was smaller than Obama’s 2009 inauguration. He claimed the press were lying despite the photographic proof. He said the administration will hold the press accountable, which was a thinly-veiled threat.
Spicer’s briefing only lasted about six minutes and he refused to take any questions.
On Sunday Kellyanne Conway was interviewed by Chuck Todd on MSNBC, where as usual she refused to actually answer any questions and engaged in distractions and deflections. The part that raised everyone’s eyebrows was when she said Sean Spicer was using “alternative facts.”
What are “alternative facts?”, you might ask? Oh, those are lies. Facts are facts. Anything that are not facts are lies and propaganda. Ask Joseph Goebbels who wrote the playbook the Trump is lifting from. She also claimed that Trump’s inauguration had the highest ratings ever, which was another “alternative fact.” Obama’s 2009 inauguration had more than Trump’s, and the highest overall belong to Ronald Reagan. Sorry, Ms. Conway. But at least she’s living up to the first three letters in her last name.
There are three goals with this propaganda campaign from Team Trump.
The first goal is to sugar coat Trump’s huge ego. Ratings and numbers are very important to him. I don’t believe we’ve ever had a president get upset over ratings or crowd size in the past. We’ve definitely never had one talk about his penis at a debate before Trump.
The second goal is to distract the public and press’ attention from real issues. When they scream about ridiculous stuff like ratings and crowd numbers we stop asking the real questions like “what are you going to replace Obamacare with?” and “are you currently engaging in corruption?”
Finally the third goal is to build the public’s distrust of the press and among Trump’s strongest supporters, it’s working. They do this by gaslighting, which is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target (I got that definition from Wikipedia). Destroying the credibility of the press allows the Trump team to lay out their “alternative facts” with the public believing them and not trusting the press when they ask questions or engage in fact checking.
The press already has low approval with the public and it has been that way for a long time, so Trump has a head start. Trump wants the public to trust him, not the news organizations. In the future he will continue to exert pressure on the press, fill the briefings with friendly conservative news outlets that worship Trump, punish reporters for doing their jobs, and move the press entirely out of the White House. He’ll reward those who cooperate like good puppies. Their hope, which won’t come true, is that the press will cave into pressure from the public and ease up on the administration. If that happens then the most dastardly and illegal stuff they can get away with.
The pressure is real. It’s even hitting a tadpole of journalism such as myself.
For months I’ve had prospective clients tell me they can’t use my work, even though an editor will like it, because Trump fans won’t allow it. I’ve lost a few newspapers here and there over my Trump cartoons. I’m still receiving emails from clients concerned that I draw a lot of cartoons on Trump and they tell me readers are outraged and threatening them. I expect to lose a client this week actually.
One of the ideas of self-syndicating my work to newspapers is that nobody tells me what I can and can’t draw. I refuse to cave into financial pressure and change how I choose topics. Those editors aren’t wrong as the pressure they face is financial. A newspaper’s objective is to make a profit. I do need to cover issues other than Trump, and I do when they occur and I just really get tired of Trump for a day.
I don’t draw a Trump cartoon just to do one. I don’t draw one to insult him without it involving an actual issue. The problem is that there’s a new Trump issue every day. The guy can’t stop. He is a serious threat, not just to me and the rest of the press, but to the entire nation. When the press falls democracy quickly follows.
The one problem Trump has to figure out is that he’s not just president to those who voted for him. He’s everyone’s president, whether they or he likes it or not. He needs to figure that out and govern accordingly. That goes for his team too. The entire Trump administration needs to learn how to become a presidential administration. There are no training wheels for this.
I will continue to hold him and his entire ridiculous administration accountable, even with my financial survival at stake. I hope the rest of the press does the same.
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