President Donald Trump's latest salvo from the bully pulpit of his office is his charge that the "fake news" media are "the enemy of the people." It would be funny if it weren't so grotesque.
This appallingly sheltered millionaire is either ignorant of the ominous history of the term "enemy of the people," or is ignorant of the responsibility he holds as President, and chief defender of the U.S. Constitution, to differentiate his country from one where the leadership would use dangerously autocratic language.
Let's review Mr. Trump's latest stab at his personal brand of irony. As with many things he says, he is already backtracking by whining that he didn't brand all the media as enemies of the people – only those that publish "fake news."
But since he defines "fake news" as any article or broadcast that raises troubling questions about him – about his financial conflicts of interests, his odd affection for Vladimir Putin, the fact that Russia used hackers to try to influence the outcome of the election in his favour, his loss of the popular vote, the chaos in his administration – we can easily dispense with that weak justification.
For this President, the "enemy of the people" is any media that doesn't report favourably about him. But it's not himself Mr. Trump is worried about (yes, it is). It's "the people," which under the terms of the American Constitution are effectively the state.
In the past, the enemies of the American state have not been those who seek the truth, but those who distort it. Soviet Russia, for instance. Or Nazi Germany, where Americans died fighting an ideology that found it useful to invent an "enemy of the people."
Along with the sacrifice of its soldiers, one of the greatest symbols of American democracy in the past 100 years has been its vigorous and innovative free press. If there is a threat to "We, the People," it will not come from there. It will come from the thing that prompted the American people to fight for their freedoms in the first place – autocratic rulers who try to silence those who speak out against them by branding them as traitors to the state.
Mr. Trump has backed himself into another corner on this one. No one was particularly worried about the existence of such a threat in the U.S. – until now, that is.