Yesterday, I picked up the Washington Post and read the headline on the top left of the front page:
As an American who believes that a free and unfettered press is essential to the continuation of our democracy, I was shaken by the first three paragraphs in Craig Timburg’s article…
“The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.
“Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.
“Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.”
The Russians have set us up for a lose/lose. If we question the validity of this election, the depth of our division goes farther to the bottom. If we don’t we have a president who is out to destroy the credibility of the press in the nation that has been its beacon since our founding 240 years ago. Losing that, we become like them, another strong-man government. The strength we have achieved through our values is gone and we enter a period of moral equivalence.
So, given the choice between two negatives, what’s to be done?
Some years ago, I had a difficult choice. While building a non-profit organization, I learned that a business who made significant money from our community had launched a $3,00,000 web site program. I compared that to my $5,000 annual web budget at the time and moved quickly to establish a partnership. The company assured me their interest was giving back to the community and not using the site for product sales.
When it didn’t turn out that way, I had a difficult choice. My board chair, a physician who treated, many of the patients in our organization, said, “Just do the right thing. They may have the money but you have the credibility with the community.” Those were true words. We severed the relationship and continued to grow rapidly while their site declined.
To not do the right thing, to allow ourselves to be silenced is the worse option.
During the past week president-elect Trump said..
…the law is totally on my side. The President can’t have a conflict of interest.
This came after post-election reporting that…
- three days after the election, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia announced that a long-delayed Trump Tower there was now moving forward.
- a Buenos Aires Trump Tower that had been stalled had been approved…three days after he spoke with Argentina’s President, Mauricio Macri.
- Trump told the NY Times that he “might have” encouraged Nigel Farage, the head of the UK Independence Party, to oppose offshore windmill farms. Trump has been fighting a windmill farm off the Scottish Coast which he believes will mar the view from his golf resort there.
Early this week, he tweeted…
“Prior to the election, it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal.”
So Trump tweets about his properties and his hatred of the press.
He is silent on the corruption of our democracy, the Russians rigging the election to his benefit.
A man like Donald Trump cannot afford a free press.
The United States and the world cannot afford not to have a free press.
As Trump enters his presidency, the question for Congress is whether our government is rigged for him to do anything he wants or will they investigate the things he is already doing as aggressively as they investigated Hillary Clinton.
After all, it may also be that a man like Trump can’t afford the separation of powers that made America great.