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Est. April 5, 2002
November 30, 2017 - Issue 720

Trump and the Charge
The Power of PR


"President Donald Trump is busy every day
and the only work that seems to draw his
interest is to delegitimize every agency
of government and, most important, to
delegitimize the function of America’s
free press, the right to report that is
a vital part of the First Amendment."

The U.S. and the world are at a crucial time in history for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that objective truth is under withering fire from the most powerful and the definitions of words themselves are being changed before our eyes.

When you see a rock and someone standing next to you tells you that what you’re seeing is a tree, the usual response is to question your perception, the balance of your mind, and even your eyes. The joke is: “Are you going to believe me or your own eyes?” But now, it’s not a joke.

President Donald Trump is busy every day and the only work that seems to draw his interest is to delegitimize every agency of government and, most important, to delegitimize the function of America’s free press, the right to report that is a vital part of the First Amendment. He doesn’t understand the importance of a free press and has been unwilling to learn. Since he is 71 years old, he’s not likely to take even a toddler’s step to begin to learn. Anything that does not fawn over him and pledge obeisance to him, he calls “fake news.” For Trump, the world is full of fake news, except for his propaganda outlet, Fox News, and he repeats “fake news” multiple times a day, knowing full well that a lie or distortion repeated often comes to be seen as the truth.

His supporters, from the 2016 presidential election to the present, are enthralled by Trump’s lies and would vote for him again. Fortunately, even those people are capable of an occasional ray of discernment, can see that what he’s telling them is wrong or an outright lie. A substantial percentage of his voters still stick with him, because they seem incapable of seeing an objective truth (such as that the Trump-GOP “health care bill” would have left even more people out in the cold, even Trump voters). Because so many believe Trump’s lies, the republic is in danger. The president obviously does not believe in the people’s constitutional right to a free press. And, it isn’t just the right of the press barons to have an unfettered press, but it is the right of the people for there to be a free press.

Justice Hugo L. Black, in the U.S. Supreme Court decision, New York Times Company v. United States, 1971, wrote: “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.”

The danger to the republic is that the U.S. is being led by someone who is more qualified to run a rental car agency than trying to understand that presiding over a nation of 325 million souls is a little more complicated than running one of his businesses, where he gets to call all the shots, including how big the mirrors should be in all the rooms. Yet, he persists in foisting off illusion as reality and tens of thousands of his adherents will follow his lead off the cliff.

Perhaps, that is the genius he thinks he possesses: It’s public relations and propaganda that has replaced the reality of running a country where people are suffering ill health, poor housing, lack of education, a toxic environment, and decayed infrastructure. What’s the solution? For Trump, it’s more war. And recall that he said the U.S. needs to start “winning wars, again.” That is where most of the federal budget money lies. Even though this nation is not “winning” many wars these days, he still parades up and down threatening war, whether it involves North Korea or the “terrorists” in the Middle East and elsewhere (we use quotes on terrorists, because U.S. bombs and drone strikes have killed an alarming percentage of non-combatant men, women, and children).

What Trump is doing is nearly as effective as outright censorship. He is muddying the water with his charges of “fake news.” He knows exactly what he is doing; causing a large segment of the American people to doubt the credibility of mainstream news outlets, so the people will not know what to believe…until they think that everyone lies as Trump does and, therefore, they come to believe nothing. It’s what rulers strive for.

There are, however, other efforts to curb dissent and to curb free speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom that are just as dangerous as a lying president (who also would violate privacy of Internet use and generally act as a Latin American strong man of old), who seeks control of the means of communication, which would give the people moral ammunition to fuel the resistance to his authoritarian bent.

Now, the nation, including the states, have taken an Orwellian turn involving the invasion and subsequent collapse of much of the Middle East. One of the most contentious issues is the monumentally unbalanced conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Over the past few decades, the world has begun to realize the brutality of the conditions in which Palestinians live, with their every move controlled by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the legal structure of control that many around the world describe as an apartheid system.

Through all of this, most politicians in the U.S. line up to support the government of Israel, no matter what it does. It reminds one of decades ago, when the right-wing politicians and organizations admonished protesters, “My country, right or wrong… Love it or leave it.” In this case, however, it is another country that they are pledging allegiance to and that, in itself, should sound some kind of alarm among the electorate. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, the sitting members jumped up and down at nearly every point made by Netanyahu. An embarrassing display, but one that showed the American politicians’ willingness to follow a foreign power’s lead.

So, it’s not so surprising that laws have been passed and executive orders have been issued and policies have been adopted in many states and on college campuses, as well as the federal government that find criticism of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians to be antisemitic. According to these laws, ordinances, executive orders, and policies, criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitism. Criticism of Zionism is antisemitism, as well, they declare.

The fear among civil and human rights advocates is that too many of these policies and laws will be used to control (for example, on university and college campuses) the content of speech by visiting lecturers and writers. Some of these laws and edicts will allow analyzing and censoring thought, because it might be considered hate speech or speech that is designed to agitate in a hateful way. The kind of thought police that this would require was the reason that the founders of America adopted the First Amendment in all its parts, to protect the free flow of ideas and thoughts. They did not write it to protect citizens from uncomfortable speech or thought, however vile it might be.

The daily lies of a president and his multiple and mindless daily “tweets,” along with the attempted control of speech involving Palestinians and Israelis by politicians and others in positions of power in the U.S. are but two of the assaults on free speech and the First Amendment. But, because of the importance of the Middle East as a world hot spot and the support of Israel by U.S. politicians to the tune of billions of dollars each year, American citizens need to know daily what is happening there. There’s no such coverage. For some reason, the U.S. free press is reluctant or fearful to report on the life of the average Palestinian under an oppressive regime.

Turning the minds of most Americans to understand that any criticism of Israel is antisemitism is a monumental job. That takes a lot of money, to hire lobbyists, create organizations, and buy politicians (at least, buy into their reelection coffers). The effort has continued over the past few decades and has worked well. The BDS movement (boycott, divest, and sanction) is a prime target and is charged with antisemitism, even though it is a non-violent effort to force Israel to treat Palestinians humanely. And, there is Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) that is seeking a peaceful solution, but JVP is charged by Israel and its supporters in the U.S. as “self-hating Jews,” which they decidedly are not.

In fact, just this week, JVP stated: “The spread of antisemitism in this country is real, and terrifying. Neo-Nazis march down America’s main streets. The president calls them ‘very fine people,’ and retweets conspiracy theorists claiming Jews control the world’s finances. White supremacists have growing platforms in mainstream media and receive humanizing profiles in The New York Times. But who is most likely to be labeled antisemitic? Advocates for Palestinian human rights…enough. Real antisemites like Steve Bannon have joined forces with right-wing Zionist groups like the Zionist Organization of America to forge a toxic political force: Zionist antisemitism. The only way to fight oppression is to fight all oppression— that’s what real intersectionality means. That’s why we fight for Palestinian human rights, and why we don’t see a contradiction between fighting antisemitism and fighting devastating Israeli policies. That’s what JVP is all about…”

The fear of speaking out on this issue among the average citizen is real (that is, if they even know about the condition of Palestinian life). But, as Voltaire said: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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