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Shooting the Watchdog

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Utahns should be shaking in their boots, but instead, they're forcing their heads deeper into the sand.

Lulled by the illusion that their president is a flag-bearer for the Christian Right, they seem to have an unalterable penchant to ignore Donald Trump's bad behavior and irrationality, hoping that the ongoing nightmare will end. That mindset might well reflect Utah's powerful religious teachings, which virtually make it a sin to question leadership.

There has been no time during the history of our country when its most precious institutions were in greater danger. While waiting with bated breath for a productive Robert Mueller probe, the election interference by Russia is just one issue of many. Certainly, any verified collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign would constitute a treasonable act. Unfortunately, that year-long investigation has also become a major distraction from other critical issues. The reality is, that Trump's actions strike at the very core of our democracy.

For the eyes of a trained journalist, there is one threat to democracy I fear most: Trump's ongoing muzzling of the press and his blatant blockade of reliable information.

Utahns, along with the 35 percent of other Americans, might rationalize that Trump's bull-in-the-China-shop leadership is harmless (as long as he doesn't start pushing buttons). While terrorists strike fear into our hearts, the most serious threats to our nation's security come from within. Trump has shown a frightening disrespect of the law and for the constitutional provisions which were designed to safeguard our freedoms. Among them, is the Constitution's guarantee of a free and unrestrained press.

Not surprisingly, all dictators in modern times have employed two important measures, and Trump, being a keen observer of history (joke), has been no exception: While George Washington is squirming in his grave, our President is becoming crude-but-adept at his use of propaganda and censorship. Recently, he has begun to exclude legitimate news sources—including the AP and CNN—from observing the workings of government, while creating an endless stream of the same type of fakery he so vocally condemns.

The constitutional guarantee of a free press is one of our most cherished possessions—and one of our gravest concerns. That freedom was the first one to fall in Hitler's Third Reich, Stalin's "Reign of Terror," and, more recently, the regimes of Saddam Hussein, Putin and Kim Jong-un. These ruthless tyrants squelched truth, keeping the populace immersed in a sea of propaganda.

There seems to be only one factor that threatens Trump's brassy bravado; one single thing that really scares him: Trump fears nothing more than the truth. The plentiful supply of unsavory disclosures about him—one repugnant revelation after another—has given him a reason to attack all credible news sources. While Trump's assault on the press has intensified over time, it is certainly nothing new.

His anti-press railing began long before he was elected. Early in his campaign he coined a new moniker for any reports that held him in a dim light: "fake news." During that period, Trump did everything possible to destroy the credibility of the press and limit its right to publish the truth. He publically roasted print, web and TV journalists for reporting his misbehavior, and advocated that press credentials should be revoked for those who opposed him. This, of course, should have been no surprise to those who knew the man for what he is. It seems there's a consensus among mental healthcare professionals: a toxic narcissist, perhaps, with a borderline personality disorder. Some have dared call him a sociopath.

Typical of people with his type of character defect, Trump considers all critics to be his enemies. That's tragic. To the normal person, criticism spawns self-discovery; self-discovery leads to personal introspection; introspection helps to create a better human being. Were Trump capable of using criticism constructively, he might actually be able to rise above his faults.

Despite outcries, Trump seems more committed than ever to restrain and muzzle the press. He listens only to those who applaud him and vilifies those who question his wisdom. Many Utahns might applaud Trump for his blurring of the boundary between religion and government. They might also rally around his decision to defund Planned Parenthood. While the rah-rah rises to a deafening din, it serves only to smoke-screen Trump's insidious attack on our constitutional freedoms. His proclamation of his own Christianity is merely a hollow masquerade.

Very much an echo of the most ruthless demagogues of our world, Trump is systematically destroying the institutions that have ensured democracy's survival. I was taught that a free press is the "watchdog of society," but, with gun-in-hand, Trump seeks to kill that great safeguard of our political system.

Attributed to Joseph Smith, Mormonism's first prophet, the White Horse Prophecy was quoted, in part, by a long series of church leaders. Its substance was that "the Constitution of the United States would hang by a thread" and that it would be the Mormon elders who would save it from "utter destruction." Well, Utahns, Joseph Smith seems to have been right about the Constitution being in trouble, but it can only be saved one vote at a time.


A retired business owner, Riverton-based
Robinson, was an Army assistant information officer during the Vietnam War. Send feedback to comments@cityweekly.net

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