Donald Trump, the US president, has identified The New York Times as “A true enemy of the people”. (The New York Times, “Trump Attacks The Times, in a Week of Unease for the American Press”, February 20, 2019, by Michael M. Grynbaum and Eileen Sullivan; an article on the issue also appeared in print on February 21, 2019, on page A14 of the New York edition of the NYT with the headline: “In Attack, Trump Aims ‘Enemy of the People’ Directly at The Times”.)
President Trump branded the world-famous bourgeois daily recently, on a Wednesday morning, in the following way:
“a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.”
The US president regularly targets the mainstream media (MSM) outlets as the “fake news media”. However, singling out one particular outlet by the US president is rare, but not nil.
It’s widely assumed that Trump’s response – “ENEMY … PEOPLE” – is to a NYT article published a day ago. The article detailed Trump’s alleged “two-year war on the investigations encircling him”.
Trump, in an earlier tweet, claimed journalists “don’t even call asking for verification” about stories they were planning to publish about his administration.
This post is also interpreted as an attack on the NYT reporters.
However, Maggie Haberman, a reporter of the NYT, dismissed the claim during an interview with CNN. (HuffPost, “Donald Trump Calls New York Times ‘A True Enemy Of The People’”, February 20, 2019, by Lee Moran) Maggie Haberman told several emails to the White House about the planned story were sent. But, those “went unanswered until yesterday.” She said: “We certainly followed normal reporting practices and went over it at length with both the White House and the Department of Justice.” (ibid.)
Maggie Haberman’s further claims were more serious as she confirmed that Trump’s claim about writers not calling for verification was “not true.” “That’s a lie,” she said. “And I don’t know if he knows it’s a lie or whether he is telling himself ‘this is true,’ whether his staff doesn’t tell him we are reaching out, but I find it hard to believe that his staff didn’t brief him once again that this kind of a report was coming.” (ibid.)
“Not true” and “that’s a lie” are serious allegations or claims irrespective of any person; and, in case of a head of a state, the claim is unimaginable within normal norm of bourgeois states or of its class enemies.
The US president’s comments/observations on media are not a new development. Media-audience is well aware of these as these created news. Even, such observations have been blamed for at least one untoward incident affecting a BBC cameraperson.
A BBC cameraperson at a rally Trump held in El Paso, Texas, came under attack in early-February. (BBC, “Trump supporter attacks BBC cameraman at El Paso rally”, February 12, 2019) For the attack Trump’s observation has been blamed as, media reports said, he had whipped the crowd up “into a frenzy against the media” ahead of the incident.
Media-audience also knows: The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column was targeted by Trump. The US president claimed it a “Fake Fact Checker”.
However, Glenn Kessler, the journalist running the Washington Post (WaPo) column, contradicted with the president, and cited examples in support of his claims.
The column in January informed the number of misleading or false statements the president had told during his two years in office: 8158. (HuffPost, “Donald Trump Bashes Washington Post Fact Checker, Gets Fact-Checked Back”, February 20, 2019, by Lee Moran, also, “Trump Topped 8,000 Falsehoods Or Distortions In 2 Years, Fact-Checker Says”, January 22, 2019, by Amy Russo)
Is it easy to imagine that a claim has been publicly made: A head of a state made misleading or false statements; and, the number of such statements is more than eight thousand?!!!
Similar incidents – point blank attack/criticism on the MSM by the US president – are neither new nor small in number. Do these show increase in factional fight within the ruling classes?
Factional fights within the US ruling system were always there. But, such surfacing of the bickering, and in such crude way, is almost rare.
The wrangling is taking an astounding proportion. Michael Cohen’s withering testimony (HuffPost, “Michael Cohen Delivers Withering Testimony: Trump A ‘Racist,’ ‘Conman,’ ‘Cheat’”, February 27, 2019, by Nick Visar; and, also by other MSM) and following incidents, among many examples of this development within the US ruling classes, are mention-worthy. The former personal attorney to president Trump began his testimony at the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 27, 2019: “I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility.” (Testimony of Michael D. Cohen, Committee on Oversight and Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, February 27, 2019, https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000169-2d31-dc75-affd-bfb99a790001) [Readers shouldn’t laugh.] He also said: “I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man.” (HuffPost, “Michael Cohen Delivers …”, February 27, 2019, op. cit.) [Readers shouldn’t laugh.] And, the committee went on with the testimony business after this confession.]
Then, the political figure of today, and Mr. Trump’s longtime personal attorney of the past, went on [excerpts from the testimony]:
“He [Mr. Trump] is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”
“He [Mr. Trump] once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.”
“While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he [Mr. Trump] commented that only black people could live that way.”
“And, he [Mr. Trump] told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”
To the U.S. ruling system, its Vietnam War was a “holy” job. This “sane” claim leads it to claim that not joining the war is a crime to the system. So, on Mr. Trump’s circumventing service in Vietnam, Mr. Cohen said:
“Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment.
“He finished the conversation with the following comment. ‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.’”
The friend-turned-teller of misdoings raised the question of patriotism of the president as he told in the testimony:
“The sad fact is that I never heard Mr. Trump say anything in private that led
me to believe he loved our nation or wanted to make it better. In fact, he did the opposite.
“When telling me in 2008 that he was cutting employees’ salaries in half ― including mine ― he showed me what he claimed was a $10 million IRS tax refund, and he said that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving ‘someone like him’ that much money back.”
The testimony touched the issue of Mr. Trump’s refusal to pay his bills:
“One of my more common responsibilities was that Mr. Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.”
And, there were hush money and violation of law! The witness said:
“The President of the United States [Mr. Trump] thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws.”
Two other incidents preceded the testimony:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) obliquely threatened to reveal damaging information about Mr. Cohen. Mr. Gaetz wrote on Twitter:
“Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot.”
It was not only a threat, but a not-proper expression also.
This expression found a reaction:
Within hours after the tweet by Mr. Gaetz, Richard Painter, former White House ethics lawyer, called for the immediate arrest of Mr. Gaetz, accusing him of witness tampering.
Gaetz later deleted the tweet, saying he did not intend to threaten the witness. “I should have chosen words that better showed my intent,” Gaetz wrote. “I’m sorry.”
But before Gaetz deleted the tweet, Painter also called for the congressman’s arrest.
“Witness intimidation is a federal crime,” tweeted Painter, who was chief ethics attorney under President George W. Bush. “Lock him up.”
Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under president Barack Obama and for six months under Trump, also accused Gaetz of witness intimidation and cited the relevant statutes.
It’s not a fight or difference of opinion between two opposite factions. There are differences within a single faction, which is faction within faction, or sub-faction within a faction. The following report by Amy Russo in HuffPost (“Ann Coulter: Trump Trying ‘To Scam The Stupidest People In His Base’”, February 15, 2019, by Amy Russo) tells the sub-faction within faction reality:
Mr. Trump’s former hard line supporter Ms. Ann Coulter turned on him. Ms. Ann Coulter slammed Mr. Trump’s national emergency declaration as a way to “scam the stupidest people in his base.” Ms. Coulter, who, as is speculated, influenced Trump’s decision to stand firm in his demands for border wall funding last December, was furious with the president ever since he backed down. In two posts on Twitter, the right-winger claimed Trump’s latest move was all for show. A number of Mr. Trump’s Fox News allies initially expressed frustration with the congressional deal on border security. Sean Hannity trashed it as a “garbage compromise” and Laura Ingraham called it “pathetic.” Lou Dobbs echoed the disapproval, tweeting that it was “an insult to @POTUS and the American people.”
Comments from Ann Coulter, the far-conservative, speak about the situation:
Coulter called US president Trump “lazy and incompetent” and a “lunatic”, and warned that he could face a Republican primary challenger from the right if he doesn’t fulfill his promise to build a wall across the Mexican border. “We put this lunatic in the White House for one reason,” said Coulter in an interview on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.” (Yahoo News, “Ann Coulter: ‘Lunatic’ Trump could be challenged in 2020 — from the right”, by Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent, February 1, 2019)
Coulter’s comments, said the report, were “her latest attempt to pressure the president to stand by his promise to build the border wall, a campaign she has conducted largely on Twitter, where she called Trump a ‘wimp’ for caving in to Democrats by allowing the government to reopen after a five-week shutdown. [….] wasn’t shy in discussing it in her interview with Yahoo News’ Dan Klaidman and Michael Isikoff.”
The desperate conservative position is further unveiled as Coulter, according to the report, claimed:
Mr. Trump “can simply use his inherent authority as commander in chief to direct that the wall be built […]
“‘He doesn’t need to declare an emergency’ to build the wall, Coulter said, claiming the president can simply order the Department of Defense and Homeland Security to begin construction.”
But, the report said:
“Coulter did not have an answer when challenged to name a constitutional scholar who would support such an extreme view of unilateral executive power. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe ridiculed the idea in a Twitter response to Coulter’s comments Friday morning.
“‘No! Inherent presidential power as C-in-Chief doesn’t give Trump the power of the purse. We fought a revolution to end such power,’ he wrote.” (ibid.)
The following information also discloses intense factional fight:
“Coulter even suggested a possible ‘terrific’ primary challenger to the president — Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who recently charged that Democratic leaders in Congress have ‘American blood’ on their hands for refusing to fund the wall.” (ibid.) Yes, the two words are “American blood”, and those are on the hands of a certain number of US political leaders, not any dictator from some other country, and the accusation has been made, according to the report, by a political leader of the country. The language may sound like factional fight within ruling elites of some under-developed “democracy” in under-developed hemisphere.
Many similar incidents are cropping up. These, in total, tell:
 Inter- and intra-factional fights within the ruling classes are turning acute, open, and bitter, at least for now.
The Financial Times observed:
“Mr. Trump’s statements are the most extreme evidence yet that he is in more or less open conflict with all of the institutions of the US government save the military — from the intelligence services, to the state department and much of the rest of the civil service. Whether a system designed to require co-operation can work under these conditions remains to be seen.” (“Trump is straining the system of government”, March 7, 2017)
The FT added:
“[T]he claims can only have a corrosive effect on trust in the institutions of government, without which the country cannot function.” (ibid.)
It’s a show of internal fight, which is coming out in public in crude form and language affecting the ruling machine.
The MSM is a part of the ruling system, as dominant capital owns the MSM. The MSM has no freedom/power/liberty/authority to go beyond the limit allowed by the capital that owns it, and the MSM, in essence serves the dominant capital irrespective of its ties to one faction or other. Thence, what’s surfacing regarding the MSM, and what the MSM is telling are basically related to the dominant capital, one or other faction of it, one or other competing part of it. Persons related to these have no personal role, no personal choice other than leaving the palace of deception if they dislike it. Persons become impersonal in this mammoth machine of exploitation and suppression.
Therefore, a president’s direct charge on the MSM, especially on the best part of the best part of it, which very faithfully and efficiently secure the dominant system, says somewhere a disjoint has developed. The disjoint, quarrel or conflict of interest, is yet to get a repair job. It’s not immaturity of the system as the entire system is over-matured. Anyone can find its level of maturity – over-maturity – if its age, formation and formulation processes, political conflicts it has gone through within its camp and with other classes, arrangements it has made at different areas and levels, age of and circumstances leading to the arrangements, evolution of the arrangements, and overt/formal/legal and informal/invisible connections the arrangements have are examined.
Therefore, it – the bickering in public – is a show of a failure in a part of the arrangement, which is essentially a failure in handling of inner contradictions of the dominant capital/ruling classes/ruling system. It’s a serious sign of the condition of the ruling system.
Thus, one hears the following statement:
James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence of the US, said he agreed with assessment by Andrew McCabe, former acting FBI Director, that president Trump could be a Russian asset.
McCabe told CNN’s Anderson Cooper recently, on a Tuesday, that the possibility of Trump being a Russian asset was why the FBI signed off on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion.
Clapper told Tuesday’s “CNN Tonight”: “I completely agree with the way Andy characterized it, you know, that it is a possibility”.
Clapper said it was “a really painful thing to say,” but that he believed the FBI “was institutionally obligated to do what it did to initiate an investigation”.
Consumers of this news-commodity should not get astonished with the words: Russian asset. Moreover, the post the “asset”, as has been told, is holding is not only of a president, but also of a commander-in-chief!
How many times in how many countries has a president been in this way identified/colored? How many times a country practicing bourgeois- or comprador-democracy has heard this language in its political circle? Even, in the state, which is subject of this discussion? In such cases of identification/coloring within ruling system, what developments preceded and followed? The claims made are related to one of the most complex and powerful political systems in the world; and, the system is bourgeois and imperialist.
 If, it’s assumed that all these – comments from both of the camps/factions: “enemy …”, “Russian …” – are for public consumption, or part of election tact, or political maneuvering, then the question comes: Why such products are required, and what’s the condition of the market that trades with such products? Certainly, it’s not a, in bourgeois way of expression, fair and competitive market.
It’s not the commoners, but leadership of responsible parts of the ruling system is making the comments. This makes the comments/expressions significant.
The commoners are making gains from these incidents – factional fights within the ruling classes. Factions within the system are exposing them. These are divulging their style and precinct of political fight. The factions shift respective position with shift in power connected to interests, essentially economic; and, consequently power relations between the factions change. The mainstream, in this case, is exposing its obedient servant, the MSM, and the incredible revelation is being done in front of the commoners.
Today, the MSM irrespective of title, inclination and posture its parts holds/shows, i.e., liberal, “progressive”, anti-Trump, don’t carry that credibility and prestige it carried half a century ago. Because it is constantly getting exposed. The MSM’s golden days of unquestionable “credibility”, “neutrality”, and acceptability are gone.
“Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media”, Gallup found in 2016, “has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year.” (Gallup, “Americans’ trust in mass media sinks to new low”, by Art Swift, September 14, 2016) It’s only 32 percent!
“Americans’ [US citizens’] trust in the media has fallen slowly and steadily. It has consistently been below a majority level since 2007.” (ibid.)
“[T]he slide in media trust has been happening for the past decade. [….] Now, only about a third of the US has any trust in the Fourth Estate […]” (ibid.)
However, Gallup informed a recovery of the situation in October 2018:
“Forty-five percent of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the mass media […] representing a continued recovery from the all-time low of 32% in 2016. Media trust is now the highest it has been since 2009 but remains below what it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.” (Gallup, “U.S. media trust continues to recover from 2016 low”, by Jeffrey M. Jones, October 12, 2018)
It informed: “[O]verall trust remains below where it was around the turn of the century. Trust in the media may be affected by the larger trends affecting confidence in many major U.S. institutions, which began to decline in 2005.” (ibid.) “Affecting confidence in many major U.S. institutions”, cited above, tells “something” significant.
In the broader world, outside of the US, the MSM-trust-situation is no better. Rather, it is assumed that people in countries know, based on their experience, that the MSM upholds imperialist interests. This fact is evident in countries, whether it’s Indonesia or the Philippines, Nepal or Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria, Zimbabwe or Mozambique or Libya, Greece or Ukraine, Brazil or Bolivia or Nicaragua or Venezuela. The MSM-audience regularly comes across repeatedly presented over-blown reports and photographs depicting negatively countries and people that try to get out of imperialist sphere. The audience, on the other hand, finds reports on poverty, inequality, financial and political corruption, autocratic governance in the imperial world are presented scarcely or in a sketchy way. This fact is increasingly coming to notice of the world audience. Therefore, the MSM is gradually losing trust of its audience.
Citizens, now-a-days, regularly ask motives and style of the stories, even photographs, the MSM present as its connections including ownership are much known to many among its audience. The mainstream’s charges and counter-charges, or factional fights are widening this exposure. The more the MSM get exposed the more the commoners gain. This also is applicable in the area of the mainstream politics.
Thence, the commoners laugh while the system unfolds its character/type with the charges and counter-charges made during factional fight within the US-ruling classes.
And, it’s neither a Trump-anti-Trump factions nor a NYT/WaPo-anti-NYT/WaPo issue. A regular practice by a part of political circles is to see all the incidents along a Trump-anti-Trump line, which is a narrower than narrower approach to comprehend the politics/conflict of related classes, and problems being faced by these classes. A part of the anti-Trump camp is moored in medieval ideology and practice, a complete anti-labor/anti-exploited position as no medieval ideology stands against exploitative property relations. This position is not at all progressive although it tries to takes a progressive posture through its anti-Trump rhetoric. This part, moreover, nourishes all reactionaries – philosophy, ideas, concepts, practices, and at times, alliances – at heart, and at opportune moment, these turn most faithful servants/storm troopers of capital. Labor, the exploited, the broader section of society should stay away from this rhetoric and “friendship”; because the questions of class and class conflict, and capital’s and labor’s interests never wither away within socio-political reality and political struggles.
Further biting news is there. Spiegel from Germany said: US is losing global leadership role to Russia and China. Spiegel Online was making comment on claims US Vice President Mike Pence made in his speech delivered at the Munich Security Conference in February 2019. The US leader boasted about “renewed American leadership on the world stage”. Mr. Pence also boasted: The US was “stronger than ever before, and […] leading on the world stage once again.”
On these claims by the US leadership, Spiegel Online said, Washington is losing ground to Russia, China, and even to Iran. It said: “America is not leading; it is retreating. Other powers are moving into the vacuum […] — China, Russia, […] Iran. And the US is not leading, but giving instructions.”
Under this circumstance, a question hovers in front of hirelings/proxies/would-be-proxies of the imperialist power: How far reliable and dependable is their master/would-be-master in its present condition, which is coming up through claims and counter-claims of the master class? The question may appear as flummox to the lackeys of imperialism. But, they should think over, even if they don’t have any other option.
Note: All the leading MSM in the US covered all the incidents cited in this article.
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.