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Was CIA director Pompeo’s anti-Wikileaks tirade a warning Trump is escalating press suppression?

6 months ago

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Trump’s CIA Director’s recent address attacks free speech that leaks secrets and free press that publishes disclosures as a threat to ‘the American way of life.’ What’s really behind Pompeo’s comments?


The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald accurately described the different mainstream media responses between two apparent assaults on press freedoms from Trump and his CIA director, Mike Pompeo. After Trump’s February comments, “the targets of his insult exploded with indignation, devoting wall-to-wall media coverage to what they depicted as a grave assault on press freedoms,” said Greenwald.

But he viewed the media’s response to Pompeo’s screed against Wikileaks and press that publishes their leaked secrets before a receptive conservative audience differently. Greenwald called it “a stark and disturbing contrast” to their reaction toward Trump’s invectives toward them. To Greenwald and many other observers, the mainstream journalism community was subdued and, in some cases, mollifying.

Greenwald comes to some legitimate conclusions about the mainstream media’s lukewarm response to Trump’s CIA director’s diatribe. Many in the corporate media are comfortable in their roles as part of the media elite and the government’s support apparatus. Those who own or control the mainstream media outlets or pay with advertising dollars to support them also donate substantially to election campaigns. They own mainstream mass messaging apparatus, politicians and their employees, including journalists, who usually champion the ideology of their media organization.

Whistleblowers and Journalists Long Aggressively Targeted

Both the government and corporations of all sizes are known to despise whistleblowers and use whatever tools available to them to punish or prosecute them. Journalists are not exempt from this assault on those who disclose corruption, exploitation, untruths or structural inequalities supported by governments and corporations. Corporate news organizations and editors have been known to participate in that silencing process by targeting and blacklisting their reporters who fight to tell truths that large corporations and governments want hidden.

Independent activist or adversarial journalists and their media organizations are especially vulnerable to these blacklisting and discrediting campaigns to destroy their careers and silence them. Even “outing” the malfeasance of a well-connected small business or property owner can lead to detrimental outcomes for these journalists.

Speaking truth to their small-scale power leads to exposé subjects launching personal vendettas using their access to or outright participation in the “Surveillance-Industrial Subcomplex” of the military industrial complex. They’ll use taxpayer funds obtain speciously through government contracts as well as military and other resources to get revenge against journalists who expose them in the press to prevent them from harming even more people.

Those story subjects may strive to make certain those writers never work again, whether in investigative or hard news journalism or any other revenue-generating activity. As they do with other activists, they may use or collude with personnel in hospitals, courts, law enforcement agencies and even people in neighborhood watch groups to stalk and surveil, harass, assault, defame, discredit, and undermine activist journalists to prevent them from revealing these story subjects’ fraud.

Often, media outlets collude in those campaigns by refusing to hire these reporters once members of these government surveillance groups inform them that they shouldn’t. Female journalists, bloggers, and commentators of color are most likely to be targeted in this manner, especially those at high-profile media outlets.

That’s not exclusively the case, though, since individual independent journalists are easier targets and are less likely to be believed when they reveal targeting activity against them. In fact, these targeted reporters risk further damaging their credibility by telling the story of their targeting because it sounds “so crazy” to the listener.

Trump’s Lifelong War Against A Free Press

There other reasons that some journalists have balked at responding to Trump’s CIA head, including Trump’s lengthy history of litigation. As a private citizen, he was involved in over 3500 lawsuits. His most frequent targets have been establishment media outlets. 

While those major cable and network news outlets also profited substantially from Trump coverage, especially in recent months, they also recognize that Trump is now president. Now, he has the power of the government–including its law enforcement and military–to back his media repression campaign to end his war with the press definitively.

While other US presidents have attacked press freedoms, few are known to have started their assaults long before swearing into the Oval Office. Trump, however, has harassed and tried to silence critics in the media for most of his adult life to control his image and what truths about him became public.

While much of the focus of Trump’s war declaration against the American media focus on his February 2017 comments, Trump’s war on America’s free press started when he was still in his 30s. Always a thin-skinned attention seeker, the plutocrat has threatened to sue media at least 43 times and only sued five times since 1973.

He has used his power and money to bully many members of the press into obeisance, and he got at least one fired. Naturally, hostilities between Trump and journalists and their employers escalated when he began his presidential campaign in mid-2015. At that time, Trump was a source of high ratings for the news organizations who latched onto his entertainment value early in his campaign. He wasn’t taken seriously by the press except as a way to increase audience share.

Though few thought he’d win, mainstream media helped create conditions for him to prevail in the election. That’s because even his attacks against the press drove media ratings and revenues higher. He leveraged all that media attention to win the White House. Trump got $2 billion of free media coverage by averaging 327 minutes of air time on major cable and network television. That time doesn’t include the coverage he got in non-broadcast media.

Trump levied 43 attacks against the media in the first 3 1/2 months of the presidential campaign alone, and he threatened to sue 11 times during his run for the White House. In fact, he repeatedly asserted he would “open up libel laws” to make it easier to sue journalists who write truthful stories their subjects don’t like.

He also routinely encouraged his supporters to hate and distrust the media during his campaign calling journalists “disgusting” and assuring them they were media targets as the “silent majority.” In fact, by targeting him, he asserted, mainstream media were targeting them directly. He got “boos” from crowds at the mere mention of the supposed “liberal media.” His comments encouraged supporter violence against the press trying to cover his rallies.

First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Then, last summer, apparently certain he’d win the election, he began establishing the relationship he’d have with the press once he became president. Trump threatened freedom of press like America doesn’t have a Constitution with a First Amendment that expressly prohibits press repression.

In August 2016, after appointing former Breitbart Executive Chairman Steve Bannon to Trump campaign CEO, Trump escalated combat against the media.

Between August and the election night, decried press freedom asserting it “has too much protection” under the First Amendment  Because he detests reporters being able to say whatever they want, he promised to dismantle media monopolies for telling stories critical of him.

He pledged to change libel and other laws to make suing journalists for writing such stories easier. Despite Trump always telling outrageous lies he accuses media of, he shocked America and the world by prevailing in the election. But, between election night and the inauguration, his apparent hatred of the press only ramped up.

By his behavior in the weeks after the election, he proved the seriousness of his anti-media tirades, abuse and vows to crackdown on press freedoms. He launched a full-blown war on all media but in particular against the press. His first post-election major media event, a press gaggle at Trump Tower, was called by some a “firing squad.”  

The off-the-record meeting of nearly 40 journalists, including major network anchors, turned into a blistering barrage of personal insults by Trump. He reportedly repeatedly raged, “We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’”

He continued preventing journalist access to media events and his aircraft. He bypassed the traditional media for social media forcing reporters to go to Twitter for information and made reporters’ jobs covering the then-president-elect all but impossible.   

While media organizations debated whether he actually could change libel laws, Trump, always a step ahead of the press, seemed to recognize he’ll continue his losing streak in libel suits. He knows he’ll need to use strategies that suppress reporters and sources without exposing him through court discovery, which he can’t easily keep quiet as president.

Unfortunately, his predecessor left him some dangerous tools and precedents that allow the former reality TV star to use state power to destroy those he considers media enemies. 

Obama Leaves Trump an Anti-Media War Chest

One of the most notorious aspects of his predecessor, Barack Obama’s, legacy is the Constitutional scholar’s seeming disdain of press freedoms. He fortified an already robust foundation left for him by his predecessors, like the USA PATRIOT Act, which then Senator Obama criticized in 2005, and National Defense Authorization Act.

Both acts have rapacious sections that allow virtually unfettered surveillance and prosecution of American citizens labeled “terrorists.” Using this arsenal, Trump can escalate assaults on press freedom, particularly using Obama’s anti-press battle plans as guidance.

Obama’s aggressively used those existing laws, especially the Espionage Act, a heavy-handed WWI law meant to prosecute spies, to prosecute more whistleblowers in his administration than all others combined. Those prosecutions were selective with government insiders who leaked state secrets never facing charges. The ACLU challenged the Constitutionality of one case.

Simultaneous to prosecuting whistleblowers outside the Obama administration, the government attempted to criminalize Wikileaks and Julian Assange as part of what Salon called “its pernicious war on whistleblowing.” The president vilified Thomas Drake for reporting huge waste, corruption at NSA and used the Espionage Act to prosecute him. While that campaign ultimately failed in court, Drake’s life got destroyed in the process.

His conducting surveillance on and willingness prosecute reporters for doing their jobs, and sources for providing information to them also are legion. He put some journalists on “kill lists” for assassination by US drone strike.

He virtually obliterated transparency, including setting a record for preventing FOIA access and he feuded with Fox News, attempting to ban them from the White House.

Obama also enhanced the government’s media targeting ability. As one of the final acts of his administration, Obama gave the incoming administration a powerful parting holiday gift. On December 8, 2016, Congress quietly slipped into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act,” which Obama then signed on Christmas Eve.

The NDAA alone represents a significant danger to American dissenters and journalists, especially after being greatly expanded during Obama’s administration in 2012.

Section 1021 and 1022 allows American citizens deemed “belligerent” or terrorists to be seized wherever they’re located on the globe and detained indefinitely in military prisons. Though Obama asserted this would not happen to US citizens without trial, the act, as written, provides full authorization to military personnel to broadly interpret the actions related to the indefinite detention of Americans.

These provisions allow Americans to be detained on “suspicion of providing substantial support” to groups engaged in hostilities against the U.S. That makes it possible for those interpreting this legislation to hold journalists who investigate or cover these groups indefinitely based on vague allegations of their providing such support through coverage.

As written, military personnel can hold detainees with no right of habeas corpus, may get no trial or outside contact, including with attorneys, family members or loved ones. As interpreted the law allows withholding of information about detainee whereabouts from family members, who may not know why their loved one has gone missing. Other people with taxpayer funded roles in the military “arrest” them, usually for spurious reasons.

Unfortunately, it’s not only military personnel using this strategy. Whatever behavior the taxpayer-supported employees in the federal government engage in, local law enforcement agents tend to adopt, as we see with the militarization of our police forces. Chicago police got caught creating their black sites for this purpose, and their system furnishes insight into how dangerous this type of legislation is.

The ACLU questioned these sections’ Constitutionality and journalist, Chris Hedges, filed a lawsuit against the government attempting to get the provisions struck down, which he ultimately lost in appeal. Attempts by Congress members and activists to repeal that section of the act since then have failed.

Nonetheless, holding individual journalists under NDAA might not be sufficient to stop coverage that criticizes government policy or its expanding and powerful military-industrial complex.

This part of Obama’s legacy may have harmed the news media irreparably.

While it had the government introduced it in June 2016, Obama’s signing the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act into law as part of NDAA will help Trump further quell adversarial journalism. This newest addition to an already draconian law focuses on both journalists and their news organizations. It could lead to widespread suppression of all, but those news organizations deemed acceptable by the US government.

The legislation essentially, creates America’s own (anti)propaganda ministry, the “Global Engagement Center.” This State Department unit which will direct efforts to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation.”

Its purported intention is to monitor and eviscerate supposedly fake foreign news that allegedly harms US interests. The legislation bankrolls a system not unlike the government-supported “see something, say something” programs now pervasive across America.

The government will fund its watchdogs, non-governmental organizations or NGOs, to identify and store such foreign propaganda. But many are confident that military or private contracting personnel operating under complete government authority, and immunity from prosecution will use it aggressively against independent US journalists, bloggers, and small media organizations. Many of these non-traditional outlets aren’t supported by the corporate media and not publishing ‘agreeable’ messages to readers about the government.

A Media Giant and J-School Become Anti-Free Press Agents

The corporate or establishment mediawhich includes both formal news organizations and journalism school professorsno longer challenge the government the way it once did. Moreover, many j-schools are supported by mainstream media outlets. Those corporate controlled media organizations are part of a highly-concentrated ownership structure controlled by mostly wealthy white men focused on keeping and expanding their wealth. J-schools need the endowment and other money provided by those corporations and wealthy donors who may own interest in those corporations.

These rich men sit at the helm of major corporations like Comcast, Time Warner, NewsCorp, Disney, CBS and Viacom within which most media ownership and control is concentrated. However, media control also is represented by a complex labyrinth of other corporations from cable companies to large management consulting firms that own radio networks. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos owns Washington Post, for example.

According to PBS, 80 percent the top 20 online news sites are owned by the 100 largest media companies. AOL owns Huffington Post but Time Warner, which also owns CNN, owns AOL. Gannett owns as well as 1,000 newspapers and 600 print publications. Behind those corporations are advertisers who make demands about what gets published or broadcast.

While not all of these news organizations and their journalists and editors do, more often than not, these major news media behave as a pseudo-government agency that supports federal government objectives. But, because they’re no longer real bulwarks between government and the people, they’re battling low public trust. They face obsolescence as readers look for new sources of accurate information, not just distracting infotainment.

It’s unsurprising that the establishment media would boost government efforts to discredit non-traditional or alternative media. In many cases, these are media properties that aren’t legitimately identifiable as “fake news.” Rather, they’re deliberately classified using multiple other disparaging terms to make them appear questionable to audiences.

Perhaps that’s why one of them ran an article The Intercept said in its piece about the story, “the article is rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations, and fundamentally shaped by shoddy, slothful journalistic tactics.” In other words, it was like fake news.

The piece, published by Washington Post in November 2016, featured a deceptive “fake news list” that included multiple of these digital-only platforms whose writers are experts and otherwise highly-ranked. Exceptionally bright, well-educated, critically and independent-thinking people, many of them other journalists widely respect most of the sites listed.

The article was identified as an “explosive exposé” that these readers were supposed to believe and decide never to read content on these websites again, choosing only sites like Washington Post instead. The now widely discredited McCarthyist list based its “story” on one posted on an unverifiable internet site.

The list named websites and blogs like Truthout, Naked Capitalism, Truthdig, and Black Agenda Report as fake news sites. It was widely circulated and intentionally destructive as the site asserted those New Fourth Estate outlets listed were subject to federal prosecution under the Espionage Act of being Russian spies–for criticizing U.S. foreign policy.

A journalism professor put together a similar list that went viral on the internet and, while its construction was questionable, multiple other journalism schools and professional organizations are using the list along with some unsourced infographics that purport to tell readers how to determine if a news site is “credible.”

Naturally, the mainstream media got identified as reliable in nearly every case while some other sites worthy of that designation, like Truthout and Truthdig, got criticized as lacking similar credibility. Most of these assessments were opinion-based and biased by these professors who maintain roles as educators training journalists to work in mainstream media. Those mainstream media fund many journalism programs thereby paying these faculty members’ salaries.

New Media Journalists A Credible Threat to Corporate Media

Some define the New Fourth Estate “unintended citizen journalists” who capture major news events one time like police homicides or provide raw breaking news for a short period like Standing Rock protesters did. They get categorized with “users generating content” or “fake news purveyors” known for creating click bait they hope goes viral and generates revenue but serves little public interest. It’s also not simply “the internet,” which makes it far easier to disseminate any content, not all of it valuable or truthful.

Most New Fourth Estate journalists are typically full-time, experienced journalists. Many others are professional bloggers who rise to the level of the legitimate reporter based on their news gathering and distribution standards and ethics. These independent journalists and bloggers don’t maintain permanent roles with mainstream news outlets.

Instead, they and their news outlets are primarily digital, and many are nonprofits. Many, however, have worked in those establishment newsrooms in the past either as staff or freelancers, and some still write for those outlets.

Multiple of these professionals or their news outlets have won journalism awards. A number of these news writing experts have advanced journalism or other graduate degrees. Numerous bloggers without formal journalism backgrounds come from other professions like art, music, law, or social activism. In most cases, their work is both adversarial and intellectually rigorous, avoiding frivolity and surviving challenges from similar news organizations.

Most combine old school news-gathering or analysis methods with new technology to write content in the public interest, not just infotainment, outright entertainment or click bait. Instead, they usually write hard news, investigative pieces or commentary that mainstream outlets forego. Their news content often is highly critical of the US government and corporations, including those that own most mainstream news outlets.

So, even before Obama signed this “anti-propaganda” Act, establishment media used disinformation in efforts to censor US journalists or bloggers who are part of the alternative media or New Fourth Estate.

Though a handful of the major corporations control the internet as well as own establishment news organizations, it’s the digital nature of these New Fourth Estate journalists that also represent an ongoing challenge to their existence. Digital news has eviscerated has its traditional print news predecessor.

That’s in part because New Fourth Estate media will cover social ills and institutional inequities, doing well-researched in-depth stories or commentary on domestic and global events and issues not covered the same way by most establishment private news organizations. Far from “fake news,” their work means to inform, not deliberately deceive or misdirect. Even if they appear to have a specific ideology or world view, they assert that worldview honestly without apology, and most still provide credible content from voices excluded from the mainstream media.

Many speak truth to and about power taking to task industrial or government players driven by clear maleficent objectives to attain or further consolidate wealth or power. That’s threatening to the establishment media who want to undermine dissent and challenges to their goals and power.

Journalism’s More Uncertain Future Under Trump

Media focused on providing infotainment and distraction to keep audiences from becoming bored or challenging the status quo is likely to survive, especially backed by powerful corporate and government interests. But, Obama’s parting shot, this new act, coupled with all of his other salvos against American journalism have been chilling to investigative journalism.

Granted, Obama’s Act was part of an onslaught against modern media that began with the Eisenhower administration. Since then, presidential policies have allowed government personnel to consistently use the media as its propaganda tool while controlling its access to the truth with disingenuous messaging. The McCarran Internal Security Act, an anti-subversive law enacted in 1950 as part of McCarthyism bolstered Eisenhower’s strategies. It was one of many foundational acts that gave way to NDAA in 1961

But, Obama’s war on the media, by his escalating use of the current legal scheme and implementing new policies, has been damaging to news media influence, particularly adversarial journalism. His actions made many news organizations shy in their hard news coverage and left independent journalists ducking for cover.

So, it would be easy to argue that Trump isn’t worse than Obama. Except he is. Trump is uncannily reminiscent of Nixon in word and deed, except without Nixon’s intellect and political experience. Obama at least waited until he was sworn into the Oval Office to begin his press war. Like Nixon, Trump did not.

Moreover, Trump has shown he’s much more willing to escalate Obama’s war on the press using tools left by Obama and predecessors. He’s already begun using this ammunition to execute his strategy to silence journalists, thereby suppressing all dissent.

Trump Builds His Press Suppression Apparatus

Before taking his oath of office in January 2017, Trump began showing proof he was willing to use government power to control journalists and get media to tell only the stories that he wanted to get told about him. Trump began a grooming process with state actors in law enforcement and intelligence to build his press suppression apparatus.

He tested his limitations with statements that indicated he intended to use the media repression tactics available to him as well as other tools and legal schemes at his disposal to achieve his press control objectives. He deployed a team of supporters, from audience members to White House nominees and appointees, to act as reinforcements or enforcers of his negative cover suppression campaign. 

Trump levied more demonizing attacks against the press, insisting they represent a danger to America by failing to support him and his regime. In the first full week of January, referring to escalating investigations into the Trump campaign’s Russian connections and Russia’s alleged interference with US elections, he went on the defensive calling the inquiry a “witch hunt.” Angry about NBC’s reporting, he tweeted, “I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.”

Trump’s then-nominees also were showing their willingness to repress media using government power. Among those was Jeff Sessions who would not commit to not jail journalists for doing their jobs. Sessions has long opposed press protections for reporters, including the opposition to federal shield laws that protected journalists refusing to reveal sources. He also opposed FOIA reform and has said media organizations can act as a “mechanism through which unlawful intelligence is obtained.”

Both Trump and Sessions expressed support for the restoration of the “rule of law” in America and for supporting law enforcement agencies at all levels to meet administration objectives. That includes policing dissenters hostile to American interests like Trump believes journalists are.

Trump begins his grooming process of state actors in law enforcement and intelligence with more attacks on the press and insistence about their danger to America.

The day after his January 21 inauguration, Trump gave a speech to the CIA after slamming its former director several days earlier over his assertions about Russia, to whom Trump shows allegiance, is a global threat. In the speech before the CIA’s Memorial Wall, Trump denied his much-documented criticism about as well as his intent to “reform” the intelligence community.  

During his largely self-aggrandizing address during which he announced he’d been on the cover of Time magazine over 15 times, he also launched into a diatribe blaming press misrepresentation of his statements about its agents for a rift between him and the intelligence community. 

Insisting he was making his charges because “I love honesty,” he told CIA agents, “I have a running war with the media; they are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” Referring to a story about the removal of the MLK bust from his office, which turned out to be untrue, he then stated, “We caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.”

Reports are these declarations received thunderous applause, though it’s unclear if the ovation was from Trump’s 40 or so invited supporters in the front row or included CIA agents. Senior officials supposedly did not clap. 

Despite most of the speech not being directed toward the agency, CIA officials expressed feeling positive about Trump’s then-nominee for CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, who was among Trump’s guests that day. The former Army Infantryman, they believe, is knowledgeable about and supports intelligence community objectives.

Pompeo is a vocal advocate of aggressive expansion of the government’s mass surveillance capabilities and powers. He associates the use of encryption to protect personal data, online activity and other privacy with possible criminality. These proposed policies align with Trump’s own stated national security objectives, which he certainly applies to journalists.

His other appointees added further to Trump’s controversial media relationship. Kellyanne Conway decided that that Trump and administration officials like Press Secretary, Sean Spicer have a right to their version of facts that journalists should accept. In a Meet the Press interview that made her notorious, she told Mike Todd about Spicer’s first statement of the Press Corps that Spicer wasn’t lying He was just presenting “alternative facts.”

During that press conference, Spicer attempted to support Trump’s falsehoods about inauguration attendance numbers. He told the press what the administration expected it to publish and that new administration would “hold the press accountable” for what they did publish.

It’s clear that lying, bullying and gaslighting will be consistent themes in this administration’s attempts to manipulate the media narrative. That, coupled with the chaos of multiple news events happening at once and distraction with outrageous statements and behaviors, are important aspects of Trump’s abusive press control apparatus. With the imminent confirmations of his two key enforcers, Trump was now ready to strike.

Trump Positions for His War’s Ramp Up

With the press sufficiently flustered and on the defensive, Trump started using his most valuable weapon to ramp up his campaign–his message of the victimized plutocrat new on the job who ‘just needs a chance.’ After all, he’s only trying to do what’s best for the people who got him elected, he asserts.

In late January, commenting on how unfairly the press treats him, Trump rebukes the media again, calling it the opposition party. He was parroting his chief advisor, Steve Bannon’s words from the day before. Bannon was reasserting the Trump administration’s war on the media is a defensive act.

In that New York Times interview, Bannon angrily berated the media for failing to accept that Trump won the election. Demanding its submission to Trump, he insisted they “keep their mouth shut” and listen for awhile. “The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work,” he ranted, “You’re the opposition party,” Bannon reiterated, “Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.” He stated pointedly of the media, “They don’t understand this country.”

Bannon, the former Executive Chairman of the white nationalist blog, Breitbart, has been a key strategist in Trump’s shock and awe campaign to subvert Trump’s “liberal” media nemesis. ‘Trump as media victim fighting for survival, who must act first or be destroyed by this vicious assailant’ is the message Bannon wants to disseminate. Trump is not the aggressor; the press is.

Bannon knows this can be effective with some audiences. He built the Breitbart brand on the concept of aggrieved persecution, by coupling broad themes like white supremacy with strong narratives around values relevant to that audience. Immigration, a changing culture, terrorism, liberalism, homosexuality, abortion are all tools of the liberal coastal elite to victimize and eliminate these poor white people.

A Georgetown alumnus, Bannon implied in a 2014 Bloomberg Politics interview that his Breitbart audience isn’t as smart as he is. He learned quickly from them to exploit their limited interest in deep thought pieces by replacing it with the fodder for which the platform is known. This ‘bread and circus’ audience wants to experience the stories on a visceral level. They want stories that confirm their worldview; that gin up emotion throughout the story.

So, Bannon’s conspiracy-oriented editors repeatedly convince readers they are under attack. Their enemies are political, corporate and media elites representative of Hillary Clinton and her ilk. It’s “these people” who are out to get them, to repress them, to force them to accept the world they don’t want, one controlled by melanated people whom they despise and should fear.

This simple, visceral messaging is a communications strategy he’s mastered, and he’s used it to create the one the entire Trump administration has embraced to eliminate its challengers in any of those realms, particularly the media. It’s true that Bannon has little experience in the political domain. But Bannon, a Harvard MBA. has a strong corporate background that includes Goldman Sachs, so he’s convinced he understands the corporate nobility too.

His experience as a master media manipulator having become a millionaire selling his media holdings, which included Seinfeld rights, helped him make Breitbart a success. That, coupled with a stint in Hollywood producing movies and experience making documentaries, persuades him that he understands the media he’s now working with Trump to suppress. He’s helped Trump to devise and master the aggrieved persecution stance–that because the liberal media elites are victimizing him, he must convert them or get free of them to succeed as president.

Supporting Bannon’s strategy and Trump’s assertion that the press is targeting him, Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, declared reporters were trying to delegitimize Trump with deliberate attacks. He promised to escalate the ongoing press war saying, “We’re going to fight back tooth and nail every day and twice on Sunday.” 

On January 23, 2017, Mike Pompeo got sworn in as CIA Director. Jeff Sessions got sworn in on February 9, 2017. Trump’s two key law enforcers, authorized to leverage government power to achieve administration goals aggressively, were now in place.

Trump has now prepared the foundation for his war on the press using the enhanced state power Obama left him. But, it’s not clear that, by focusing on the personalities and distracting news coming out of the White House, journalists see the danger ahead. And they should.

 (c) 2017. Dahna M. Chandler for New Fourth Estate Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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