Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Robert Reich : Tyranny Detective


Tyrant Detective Robert Reich always gets his tyrant; mostly because he lowers the bar so everyone qualifies.

Robert Reich, has come up with a little video where he explains 
"Historically, tyrants have tried to control the press using 4 techniques that, worryingly, Donald Trump is already using."
1. Berate the media and turn the public against it. Trump refers to journalists as “dishonest,” “disgusting” and “scum.” When Trump lies—claiming, for example, “massive voter fraud” in the election, and that he “won in a landslide”—and the media call him on those lies, Trump claims the media is lying. Even televised satires he labels “unfunny, one-sided, and pathetic.” 
2. Limit media access. Trump hasn’t had a news conference since July. (His two predecessors had news conferences within days of being declared president.) He’s blocked the media from traveling with him, and even from knowing with whom he’s meeting. His phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which occurred shortly after the election, was first reported by the Kremlin. 
3. Threaten the media. During the campaign, Trump threatened to sue the New York Times for libel in response to an article about two women who accused him of touching them inappropriately years ago, and then another that revealed part of his 1995 tax returns. He says he plans to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” 
4. Bypass the media and communicate with the public directly. Trump tweets incessantly, issues videos, and holds large rallies—all of which further enable him to lie directly to the public with impunity. The word “media” comes from “intermediate” between the powerful and the public. The media hold the powerful accountable by correcting their misstatements, asking them hard questions, and reporting on what they do. Apparently Trump wants to eliminate such intermediaries. 
Historically, these 4 techniques have been used by demagogues to erode the freedom and independence of the press. Donald Trump seems intent on doing exactly this.



Let's look at his 4 criteria and see of Robert Reich thinks Obama is a tyrant: 
1) berate the media - The Obama admin called Fox News illegitimate. I recall Obama on the Daily Show bashing the media for being focused on shiny objects. (as an aside, why should the media be free from criticism? They often truly deserve it.) I'm not sure if he ever committed the unforgivable sin (and the hallmark of all the worst tyrants) of calling a televised satire "unfunny." 

2) Limit media access - Obama kicked some reporters from less fawning newspapers off his plane during the campaign while claiming a lack of room. There wasn't room on the plane for a NY Post reporter but Glamour magazine? Sure. The Obama admin tried to exclude Fox from pool interviews and when the other news orgs balked everyone's interview time was reduced (see link above). Obama's EPA head Lisa Jackson used the nom-de-plume "Richard Windsor" to evade FOIA requests.

3) Threaten the media.  The Obama admin referred to reporter James Rosen as a co-conspirator to get a warrant to monitor his email over time because he had written an article based on a source in the State Dept. and then they tried to keep the warrant a secret. Note the selective prosecution of leaks. Obama's appointment Ann Ravel of the FEC wants posting of a video to youtube with a political point of view to be subject to FEC regulations. Obama has said the Citizen's United case was wrongly decided. Keep in mind that when asked "It's a 500-page book, and at the end it says, so vote for X, the government could ban that?" the response from the Obama administration was "Yes"

4) Bypass the media and communicate directly with the public. Yeah Obama has held rallys, TV speeches, radio addresses, TV infomercials * and posted to twitter.



Following is my attempt at being a tyrant in a single sentence :
Because some reporters are awful, lying incompetent hacks (#1 berate the media) I think the law should be changed by Congress so there should be one standard for libel for everyone instead of a separate standard for a "public figure" (#3 Threaten the media) and I'm going to exercise my free speech rights to post this on my blog (#4 Bypass the media and communicate directly with the public) but I will refuse to do a press conference (#2 Limit media access).

(I'd like to point out that while I support having a single standard for libel I am opposed to changing the standard to where the defendant has to prove something is true instead of the complainant having to prove the truth is on their side. I think the value of free speech tends to outweigh the burden of having to present the truth. Also there is the very real idea that something can be true without having proof right at hand. Technically, this puts me at odds with the UK and France where the defendant has to offer proof that what the published is true. Does this mean they are as big a tyrant as me?

* at the TV infomercial link above to the NY Times is headlined "Infomercial for Obama Is Big Success in Ratings" and, while I could have sworn the NYT was interested in the corrosive effect of money in politics, there is absolutely zero mention of it – not even a mention of how much was spent.

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Update Feb 10, 2017 : I forgot this important evidence as to why Reich thinks Obama is a tyrant. Back in 2008, during the campaign, a reporter was asking him a question and he responded with "Why Can't I Just Eat My Waffle?"  (#2 limiting media access)


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