March 8, 2017
By Larry Cary
Since President Trump took office, I have not written the daily column his behavior and actions could command because waiting seemed respectful of the office, or as some people said, “Just give him a chance.”
On the other hand, I just didn’t have the time to devote to a daily column detailing each bizarre aspect of his unfolding administration. But at some point, enough becomes enough. That point has been reached.
Everyone’s worst fears about Trump the politician becoming Trump the President have been borne out in the past six weeks. His assault on our democracy began with his unconstitutional religious ban on immigration. And it continues with his frequent use of the “big lie” propaganda technique. A “big lie” is a false statement of outrageous magnitude employed as a propaganda measure in the belief that a lesser falsehood would not be credible. The falsehood is repeated so often and with such force that large numbers of people think it must be true.
As a candidate, Trump demonstrated he had no problem using the big lie technique. His famous statement about all Mexican immigrants being rapists and murders really jump started his campaign for the presidency. And after becoming president, Trump has shown he is almost uniquely unconstrained by the truth.
One example of his use of the “big lie” was Trump’s demand that Congress investigate his unsubstantiated claim that millions of ineligible people voted for Hillary Clinton. The lie began with Trump’s claim that he would have won the popular vote had this not occurred, but then he ramped it up into a “big lie” when he demanded that Congress investigate his claim.
More recently, Trump has demanded that Congress investigate his unsubstantiated claim that President Obama ordered wiretapping of him and his campaign. By again using a “big lie,” Trump is trying to divert attention from the legitimate questions being raised by the repeated disclosures in the press that people in his campaign had spoken to Russian officials while Russia was leaking the information it gleaned from hacking the Democratic Party in an effort to damage Clinton’s ability to win the election.
Trump’s National Security Advisor resigned after lying about talking to Russian representatives about the sanctions our government was then instituting in response to their interference with our democratic election. Trump’s Attorney General has recused himself from investigating any matter related to the Russian/Trump issue after falsely telling the Congress in his confirmation hearings that he had no contact with Russian Representatives when supporting Trump’s election. During the campaign, his campaign manager resigned when it became public that he had helped support Russian interests in Ukraine. And of course, while campaigning, Trump publically called for the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton.
The evidence during the campaign points not only to the Russians helping Trump’s candidacy but also to the extensive use of “fake news” on social media to attack Clinton. Hundreds of thousands of manufactured untrue articles about her appeared on social media. The wilder the allegations in the fake news the more it was circulated and the more it was believed. Clearly, another example of the big lie at work.
Trump’s campaign benefited tremendously from the media’s intensive coverage of him. He could not have won the nomination and the election without the press. But now, turning the phrase “fake news” on its head, Trump brands any criticism of him no matter how true as fake news intentionally made-up by the media.
Trump calls the press the “enemy of the people,” an expression of hatred for our constitutionally protected freedom of the press so vile that Republican Senator John McCain warns us that dictators get started by “suppressing the press.”
McCain recently said on CNN, "If you want to preserve -- I'm very serious now -- if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press," According to McCain, "And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started."
Members of Trump’s administration will not stand up to his efforts to destroy press freedom. Sean Spicer, Trump Whitehouse spokesperson, said before Trump took office that “what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship” is open access by the press. Of course, this statement makes Spicer’s exclusion of press critical of the President all the more objectionable.And, of course, we have the incredible statement by Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, to justify the big lie as merely the assertion of “alternative facts.” In reality, “alternative facts,” are just intentional falsehoods being touted to a trusting public wanting to believe in their President.
We should all heed McCain’s warning and defend and support the media doing its job of telling us the truth when President Trump is lying to the American people. Without an aggressive press, Trump’s big lies and his desire for an Imperial Presidency could go unchallenged and spell disaster for our country and its democracy.
• Larry Cary is a labor lawyer practicing in New York City. His firm’s website is www.carykanelegal.com.