Only in this dystopian, Trumpian universe in which we now live could the president vow to preserve one’s 2nd Amendment rights while attempting to denigrate and destroy freedom of the press guaranteed under the 1st Amendment. I am quite sure the irony escapes our new president-elect and his boy wonder, conversion-therapy acolyte Mike Pence. John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, was spot on when he said Americans must be prepared to fight every day in the next four years and not wait until the 2020 election to launch a war to send the barbarian at the gate home permanently to his gaudy tower on 5th Avenue. It is time for people to stand up for one another. Democracy is not about agreeing with one’s neighbors, but the right to voice disagreement without threat of harm or violence from those same neighbors. Hillary Clinton was right when she said that America is stronger when people stand together in their differences. There are divisions in this country right now to rival the Grand Canyon and everyone, everyone, whether they admit it or not, is scared.
One person who has functioned for many years as a modern-day biblical prophet is Michael Moore. He never stops speaking truth to power. In a cry in the wilderness that he launched last summer, he predicted a Trump win. In fact, he said early on that “This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president.” Here we thought the evil clown sightings across America were just a prank. The prank has turned into a presidency. Moore, never one to mince words, goes on to say that we have elected “an idiot for president,” and that Trump has an “embarrassingly narcissistic stance on everything because everything is about him.” In a weird way, those who voted for Trump were being optimistic, even after the dark, apocalyptic predictions of the Republican Convention where nothing but disaster was foretold in the future of America should Clinton be elected. “We want to—we need to—hope for the best,” Moore tells us, “because…life is already a shit show and it’s hard enough struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck.” I guess human beings are, by default, optimists. That optimism will be difficult to sustain as people of color, of the middle class and especially those in poverty, as well as Muslims, Jews and God knows who else find themselves continually punched in the face by Trump and friends over the next four years. But John Oliver said this is not the time to run to Canada; it is a time to punch back.
All along, this has been nothing more than a Trump reality show with the voters confusing “reality” with, you know, reality. We learned a long time ago that a reality show is nothing but circus and never about reality. Even Trump, himself, thought running for president would help him get a better contract from NBC for his reality show, The Apprentice. The show is a prime example of ridiculous theater from our orange-faced blowhard-in-chief. “You’re fired,” he bellows with his signature hand gesture of index finger and thumb touching tips in what used to be the sign for “a-okay” but now means, I guess, “here is my point as I stick it to you.” At worst, Trump thought he would lose to Clinton and then he and Steve Bannon could use the publicity to start Trump TV. I guess that will be his legacy project when his four years are up: first president without a library, because who needs books? His “library” will be production facilities for producing narcissistic and racist programming from a secret location in New Jersey guarded by a security guard who looks suspiciously like Chris Christie.
There is a bright side to the outcome of this election. Get ready for the return of journalism as a force in American society. Much to Trump’s chagrin and his statements to the contrary, people are subscribing to newspapers and magazines again. His proclamation that The New York Times is a failing institution is flat wrong. They are not “losing thousands of subscribers” due to their “very poor and inaccurate” coverage of his antics. (Side note: are there degrees of “poor?” More evidence of the limited Trumpian vocabulary: someone can be very poor instead of just poor, or very unique instead of just unique) The paper has actually picked up new subscribers at four times the normal rate since election day. Other papers and magazines reported similar jumps in subscriptions: The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Mother Jones. This must cause Trump some indigestion since he spent so much of his campaign railing against any and all media questioning and criticism of his bloviating speeches and nonsensical tweeting. Even after the election, he has continued to hurl insults at the press, and has repeatedly given the slip to the reporters camped out at Trump Tower.
Mother Jones editor, Clara Jeffery, said in an interview that “If we want a fearless press, we’re going to need lawyers and we’re going to need money. We need vigorous, fact-checked reporting to combat the fake news and to cast light on those who would hijack our democratic system.” In part, she is referring to the recent spate of fake news reports being posted as click bait on social media websites like Facebook. People are not only wanting solid, factual reporting and discussion, but they want outlets they can trust with ongoing checks into accuracy and fairness. This is why ProPublica has seen an increase in donations running ten times the rate they normally see. Some of this can also be credited to John Oliver. When he signed off on his season finale post-election, he asked his viewers to donate to non-profit journalism endeavors like ProPublica and subscribe to organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Then there is the backlash: Sean Hannity supports denying press credentials to several papers and news organizations, something Trump tried at various times throughout the campaign. Good luck with that. Intrepid reporters find a way to confront power, and with Trump’s vengeful temper and florid face, the confrontation won’t be pretty. We can expect more petty tantrums on Twitter at three o’clock in the morning as well as threats to sue everyone. As the American editor of The Guardian, Lee Glendinning, said on the Wednesday after the election, “Never has the world needed independent journalism more.”
It is unclear if this rebirth of journalism will be permanent. I am sure Trump will provide plenty of impetus for people to want to know what is truly happening. We need to open our checkbooks, log on, and subscribe. And, we should not just support media sites that mirror our personal politics. I want to know what all the reporters have to say, from liberal to mainstream to conservative coverage. I find it fascinating when the folks at Fox News find themselves criticizing Trump. This guy has offended people of every persuasion which makes him all the scarier. The bottom line is, this is not a time for silence. As writer David L. Ulin said at an event at Skylight Books on Monday, “I’m not an activist. I’m a writer. But we are all, we must be, activists now.”