In response to criticisms of his administration, President Trump has suggested the government create a “worldwide” TV network to show “the way we really are”:
President Trump on Monday suggested the government start its own television network as he voiced frustration with the way CNN in particular has covered his administration.
“Throughout the world, CNN has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair and false way. Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Voice of America (VOA) has existed since 1942 and receives funding from Congress. The network’s broadcasts are streamed in the U.S. and internationally.
Trump’s background in television prior to entering politics led to reports during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would start his own television network if he lost to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump denied to The Washington Post in September 2016 that he had discussed launching a media network, calling the speculation a “false rumor.”
The Financial Times reported in October 2016 that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had informally spoken with a media executive about setting up a Trump television network, but the conversations did not progress in the final weeks of the campaign.
Since taking office, Trump has continued to rail against coverage of his administration, labeling stories he dislikes “fake news.”
He has in recent months ratcheted up his attacks against the press, labeling some outlets and reporters “enemies of the people.”
Trump has had a contentious relationship with CNN in particular since hitting the campaign trail in 2015. Chants of “CNN sucks” are commonplace at the president’s campaign rallies.
The White House earlier this month revoked CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials following a heated press conference with Trump.
CNN and Acosta sued the administration for violating the reporter’s First and Fifth Amendment rights, and a federal judge ordered the White House to restore his credentials. (source, source)
The concern here I express is not related to Trump as a person or to his party, but to a principle.
Trump is acting, incrementally so, more as an autocrat before a national leader. I covered this concerning his open disdain of the decisions of the court, first by attempting to overrule the courts over which Chief Justice Roberts publicly criticized him, and second over how he is attempting to take legal matters directly to the Supreme Court and refuse to go through the process of the lower courts. While there are plenty of people who are indeed doing things to attack him because they do not like him, and it is true there are many problems that the country is facing, the fact is that such actions do not justify the abrogation of the rule of law in the name of expediency because to do so is to undermine the principles on which the nation is built. It is to act in the same way that the “enemies of America” would act except with a veneer of patriotism, because it is but to open the same way to the same abuses that those who seek a revolution also want.
Now it is true that governments have publicly funded television. The USA has PBS domestically and the Voice of America globally. The UK has the BBC. Canada has the CBC. Russia has RT. Germany has Deutsche Welle. China has CCTV. These are established institutions who by their very nature promote the particular national mantra of the government. While not perfect, they do many good things, and they have their place in a society. However, the suggestion from President Trump about making a “worldwide” TV network as a “response” to private corporations such as CNN, mostly because of how they have covered Trump, is of grave concern.
It reminds me, in a removed way, of the actions of Saparmurat Niyazov, the former President of Turkmenistan from the fall of the Soviet Union until 2006 who famously wrote a book (the Ruhnama) that he made required reading for all Turkmen students, renamed the months of the year after his own family members, removed the Turkmen word for “bread” from the dictionary and replaced it with his mother’s name, banned lip-syncing, banned beards and long hair, banned opera, ballet, and circuses, and decreed that people should chew on bones to make their teeth stronger instead of getting gold teeth.
Now Trump is not at all on a level of behavior such as that of Niyazov. However, what is concerning is the principle that Trump is, like Niyazov, giving the appearance increasingly that he is not merely a man who wants to “git-r-done”, but believes he can rule by fiat and can directly go after private interests as though it were a personal matter using the power of his office against them. Niyazov is merely and advanced stage of what happens when one rules by fiat with no limitations on one’s power, which while it can have good consequences, such as when he commuted the sentences of thousands of criminals as an act of mercy for Ramadan, it can and historically does have serious negative consequences.
President Trump has repeatedly expressed his support and admiration for the Turkish sultanate aspirant Erdogan, and it seems this is not just because of geopolitical deals, but rather because Trump has an admiration for Erdogan’s governing style. Just as people admire Trump because they want to be like Trump in having the money, power, and influence that he does so he can say what he wants, Trump admires Erdogan’s dictatorial rule and wants to rule like how he does.
The idea of a “worldwide” television network dedicated to promoting the US already exists. It is called VOA.
The term “Lügenpresse” was loved by the National Socialists, and was what the term “fake news” is to the current time.
Am I saying that “Trump is Hitler?” Absolutely not.
I’m saying that the use of language and actions today bear a striking semblance to that used by dictators today and of the past, so that as a historical pattern one should take note of them with concern because no man or society is “exempt” from the lessons of the past, lest one dare to repeat them.
Perhaps if the US and Trump wanted to improve their image abroad, they could keep the promises they boldly make before the world, such as Trump’s promise not to bomb Syria, instead of making baldfaced lies the world has come to expect from the US.
This song is a criticism of Erdogan, but given the admiration Trump has for Erdogan, one should not consider the possibility that in the future he or another leader could not demonstrate such tendencies, for the desire for power is not bound by party.