THE BLOG

The Most Terrifying Words

24/01/2017 12:40
Bloomberg via Getty Images

What's the most worrying thing about the Trump Presidency so far? Not so long ago I assumed it would be watching the inauguration of a man that had publicly championed a ban on all Muslims entering the USA. Then I thought it might be that a man who bragged about sexual assault would soon be the most powerful man on earth. But this week something happened that blew all of my other worries out of the water. This week Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, informed the worlds media that Donald Trump's inauguration was the most attended inauguration ever. And that is about the most terrifying public statement that I have ever witnessed, ever.

Really? You may be asking. That concerns you more than the President denying climate change? That's a bigger worry that watching a former government minister refer to a 'dignified African American servant' in a bid to suck up to a racist? This frightens you more than watching a generation of politicians - all of whom will have studied appeasement in high school history class and agreed it was both dangerous and immoral - doing just that?

Yes. Because as soon as the White House Press Secretary starts telling the media, and the world, a lie that better favours the president, it means America has a propaganda machine. That puts America, and by extension the world, into a different game entirely.

There is literally no difference between what Spicer did and what North Korea does, what China has done, what Soviet Russia did. Part of what makes this whole thing so worrying is that this comparison isn't the first line of every news report on the debacle. So far the statement has been reported as a bit of an 'and finally...', an amusing anecdote, fodder for an SNL Sketch. No one seems to appreciate the importance of knowing, seeing, that an elected representative and his entire team will tell the press a version of events that favours them - even when it is a provable lie.

Perhaps it's easier to laugh it off when it's just an old man trying to big up a speech he made. But what happens when Trump is telling the world that 'the war is going well'? When he tells the world 'Unemployment has fallen again this year'? When he's assuring us 'the Press are lying about the number of Muslims killed in custody this year'? Is anyone able to assure me he wouldn't lie to the world to protect his image just 48 hours after he did literally just that? What about when we don't have a wealth of first-hand experience, video footage and official data to refute the next false claim? What about when we're having to ask ourselves whether his lies seem likely?

As hundreds of thousands of people march against Trump's election, one of the first rebuttals from Trump supporters is that the president was democratically elected, and there is no basis for protesting a democratic result. There's no point in debating that point anymore, if the president is no longer going to be democratically accountable - and you can't be, if you're dispensing false information. The cornerstone of a true democracy is a free press; a people can't be asked to make a true democratic choice on the basis of false news.

You will notice all of the examples of state propaganda above were dictatorships. If America became a dictatorship this week, yes, I think that's the most concerning thing.

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