In a speech delivered on Monday, February 6, to personnel at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the U.S. President stated that U.S. media has been consciously suppressing reports about terrorist attacks in recent years.
“You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.” The U.S. President concluded, “They have their reasons, and you understand that.”
The claim that the press “does not want to report” on terrorism, when combined with the baleful, “They have their reasons,” is a plain assertion that the media is complicit with terrorists or is at least pro-terrorism.
Autocrats in our current era will not march into newspaper offices and destroy printing presses, as they did once upon a time; they will simply shame and harass them into silence. They will cajole their credulous supporters into not believing credible evidence and into a resistance of critical independent thinking.
Witness Egypt, a nation whose government (and its jurisprudential system) has made it clear that it considers journalism to be a criminal enterprise. Not officially, of course. The nation extols its free press, although the press that is “free” is not. Several dozen journalists are in jail in that nation right now. (Egypt is the example mentioned as I have been covering a story of a journalist imprisoned for years for the act of covering a brutal government crackdown on a protest.)
When asked about the U.S. President’s assertions, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said last night, “We’ll provide a list later. There’s several instances … There’s a lot of instances that have occurred where I don’t think they’ve gotten the coverage it deserved.”
Spicer’s office provided the list on Tuesday morning. The typo-filled document (“Attacker” is spelled “Attaker” in twenty-four places, which, not for nothing, is how a person whose language of origin employs Cyrillic would spell “attacker”) lists seventy-eight attacks (or “attaks”) that it claims were “under reported,” a distinction that can neither be proved not disproved. (“Unreported” can be proved. But “under reported?” By whose standard?)
The claim that terrorism is “under reported” by the media is the story that is dominating the news programs today. Which is most likely what the U.S. President wanted to accomplish: a debate, not about the merits or lack of merits about any anti-terrorism plans that he and his administration may want to propose or pursue, but about whether or not the navel-gazing media can ever notice terrorism. A debate about whether the media pays enough attention to terrorism proves the U.S. President’s point, but in a backhanded fashion.
Absent from the list: Dylann Roof, the Quebec City murders last week, other acts of terrorism that do not fit the U.S. President’s narrow definition of terrorism but which were terrorizing for those who survived them.
Many U.S. media publications have published replies to the U.S. President that detail how many articles each publication generated for each of the seventy-eight attacks (or “attaks”) on the White House’s list. An article in Think Progress explains that its reporter found more than 17,000 stories in a simple Nexis search on the White House’s list.
Does the U.S. President have a plan that he wishes to propose as far as terrorism is concerned? None that he has alluded to. But if something transpires while he is in the White House, he will be sure to remind his viewers (sorry, voters) that it is the independent press and independent judiciary’s fault, not his, for having hindered him in his pursuit of an absolute power to protect us.
He need look no further than the actions of Egypt’s President al-Sisi for guidance. And which international leader offered a compliment this morning to the U.S. President for publishing his list of seventy-eight unreported and under reported terrorist attacks? Egypt.
Daily News Egypt reported:
“We praise the stance of US President Donald Trump regarding how western media ignored terror attacks around the world, as well as the White house’s [sic] list of 78 terror attacks western media has disregarded—including nine attacks in Egypt,” the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson read.
[Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid] noted that the White House list and the criticism of Trump towards western media’s biased coverage is consistent with recurring calls from Egypt, stipulating the necessity of adopting a comprehensive strategy by the international community to fight terrorism.
This comprehensive strategy should be consistent and unbiased in all of its components, including political and cultural ones, as well as in its security aspect and media coverage, the statement added.
Moreover, it highlighted the prejudice and selective policy of some western media channels that have been faced by criticism from Trump and said that it was sorrowful that these outlets not only neglected media coverage of some terror attacks, but that they covered them with subjectivity.
“The prejudice of some western media outlets criticised by Trump is not only restricted to ignoring the attacks, but it rather extends to the biased media coverage of these outlets to these assaults,” the statement read.
U.S. aid to Egypt was suspended after President Morsi was deposed in a coup led by then-general al-Sisi, but the aid was restored recently. Egypt receives $1.3 billion in military aid each year from the United States government. The first world leader to travel to New York City and Trump Tower to meet with the new President-elect last fall was Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt. The new President-elect called the former general and now President of Egypt, “a fantastic guy” who is “really taking control of Egypt.”
“Really taking control” is one way of putting it. The U.S. President “has his reasons” for thinking President al-Sisi’s incipient autocracy is praise-worthy, of that I am certain.
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