Yesterday, we came one step closer to becoming Putin’s America. It wasn’t just the attempt by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to influence the FBI, it was the horrifying exclusion of certain media outlets by Press Secretary Sean Spicer at a daily press briefing that should chill the hearts of Americans.
Both of these incidents are reminiscent of Putin’s strategy to morph a democracy into an autocracy in full daylight.
Russian President Vladimir Putin succeeded by instilling fear in those who would dare to challenge him—from members of the Russian press to political opponents, Putin paved his path with corpses.
Anna Politkovskaya, a world-renown journalist, was murdered by forces within Putin’s government. They had first attempted to kill her by poisoning her but she recovered. Undeterred, she kept writing until she was shot in the lobby of her apartment building on October 7th, 2006, on Putin’s birthday. Politkovskaya knew what she was up against and understood the risk she was taking.
“We are hurtling back into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death from our own ignorance. All we have left is the internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it’s total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial—whatever our special services, Putin’s guard dogs, see fit.”
― Anna Politkovskaya
It is not hyperbole to suggest that we are not far from a day when journalists will fear for their lives within the borders of the U.S. The President of the United States reiterated his claim that the press was “the enemy of the people.” He actually said that “fake news” was the enemy of the people. His version of “fake news” includes legitimate sources of U.S. news, such as the New York Times and CNN. Even before the election, Trump’s sycophants were wearing tee-shirts suggesting that journalists should be hung.
The Trump administration, including White House Chief Strategist and white supremacist Steve Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Press Secretary Sean Spicer are all attempting to create their own version of a “legitimate press.” They all want the press to serve the president. In other words, they should be allowed to lie without consequence as they call legitimate news outlets “fake news” and encourage Americans to disbelieve the media. Their go-to-sites not only include the ever-lying Fox News but now Breitbart News, which is an ugly alt-right propaganda machine.
To suggest that this is an over-the-top reaction to a small affair means that you are not paying attention. It means that you are doing and thinking exactly what Putin/Trump want you to think.
Subtlety and small actions are exactly the game. Distraction is also part of the strategy. The White House would like to keep us confused as to what the biggest threat to democracy is when the reality is that everything is a threat.
Every single day we must remind each other that we cannot fall asleep, that we cannot fatigue, that our protests must continue and our courage found. We must also demand that the Republicans wake up to the monster in our midst. We may be able to forgive their participation in his creation but we will never forgive their abandoning this nation in what has become its greatest hour of need.