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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

 

Trump press ban.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.

by Tom Sullivan

The Trump threat to evict the press corp from the White House might actually do reporters some good, writes Hullabaloo alum David Atkins at Washington Monthly. Putting to bed the "dreary spectacle" of press room briefings where reporters compete in a high school-ish competition to be called on is overdue:

The Trump Administration will be actively hostile to the press, and the press should see itself as hostile in return. Journalists from major media organizations would likely do better reporting separated from the high-school-cafeteria environment of the briefing room, and would be better advised to seek out leaks from disgruntled Republicans than from cozy access granted by being a good “team player.”
At Politico, Jack Shafer believes Trump is making America great again by giving the press no reason to kiss up to the White House in the name of "access." Trump's inauguration marks an end to the "transactional relationship between sources and journalists." It is Liberation Day:
Opportunities to ignore the White House minders and investigate Trump announce themselves almost daily. For instance, the load-bearing walls of the Office of Government Ethics are groaning with the weight of filings by his appointees, as the New York Times reported earlier this month. Trump has installed the “wealthiest cabinet in modern American history,” the Times says. Its website has already crashed from public queries and the OGE director has denounced the Trump plan to avoid conflict of interest as “wholly inadequate.” Reporters will be mining these forms for months and producing damaging results without any Trump administration confirmation or cooperation.

As Trump shuts down White House access to reporters, they will infest the departments and agencies around town that the president has peeved. The intelligence establishment, which Trump has deprecated over the issue of Russian hacking, owes him no favors and less respect. It will be in their institutional interest to leak damaging material on Trump. The same applies to other bureaucracies. Will a life-long EPA employ take retirement knowing he won’t be replaced, or if he is, by somebody who will take policy in a direction he deplores? Such an employee could be a fine source. Trump, remember, will only be president, not emperor, and as such subject to all the passive-aggressive magic a bureaucracy can produce. Ditto the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, and even conventionally newsless outposts like Transportation and Labor.
Trump the Incurious, the president-elect with no clue who John Lewis is, probably thinks Deep Throat means something entirely different from what it once meant in Washington. If the post-Watergate press unlearns its stenography, Trump may actually learn something as president. Like eating his strained spinach like a good boy, he won't like it.

Josh Marshall thinks Trump's attempts to bully the press are "no different from the dominance politics he played on his opponents in the GOP primaries." Bark loudly in the other dog's face until he submissively rolls over onto his back and pees in the air. It's the same game the right used to "work the refs" in the press for so long. Trump is just better at it.

Shafer quotes Newt Gingrich from an appearance on Sean Hannity's show. He lays out Trump's game plan:
Trump and his team “need to go out there and understand they have it in their power to set the terms of this dialogue,” Gingrich said on the Jan. 11 episode.
A Russian journalist Marshall cites congratulates the American press on being screwed:
This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice. You can’t — in Putin’s case — campaign to vote him out of office. Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking — while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
But like Shafer, Marshall sees the dynamic in different terms:
Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He's told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won't obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don't surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.
Unhinge away.

Trump the Message Undisciplined no doubt thinks press coverage works the way Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" does. That in the event of negative stories his presidency has magic ways "to try to shut the whole thing down.” Good luck with that. It didn't stop Deep Throat and print-only newspapers. It's not likely to in the age of the Internet and social media. But first the press needs to unlearn how to sit and roll over.