The Los Angeles Times is publishing an extraordinary series of editorials this week examining the Trump administration and the threats the paper’s editors believe it poses to our democracy.
The essays, which began on Sunday with “Our Dishonest President,” have so far cast a critical eye on the president’s relationship with the truth, his “authoritarian vision” and his “war on journalism.” Two installments remain, but the daily pieces already are landing the intellectual equivalent of a flurry of left jabs from Muhammed Ali in his prime. A few excerpts:
From “Our Dishonest President:” “Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.”
From “Why Trump Lies:” “He is not merely amusing. He is dangerous. His choice of falsehoods and his method of spewing them — often in tweets, as if he spent his days and nights glued to his bedside radio and was periodically set off by some drivel uttered by a talk show host who repeated something he’d read on some fringe blog — are a clue to Trump’s thought processes and perhaps his lack of agency. He gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.”
From “Trump’s Authoritarian Vision:” What’s uniquely threatening about Trump’s approach… is how many fronts he’s opened in [the] struggle for power and the vehemence with which he seeks to undermine the institutions that don’t go along.
It’s one thing to complain about a judicial decision or to argue for less regulation, but to the extent that Trump weakens public trust in essential institutions like the courts and the media, he undermines faith in democracy and in the system and processes that make it work.”
From “Trump’s War on Journalism:” “Trump’s strategy is pretty clear: By branding reporters as liars, he apparently hopes to discredit, disrupt or bully into silence anyone who challenges his version of reality. By undermining trust in news organizations and delegitimizing journalism and muddling the facts so that Americans no longer know who to believe, he can deny and distract and help push his administration’s far-fetched storyline.”
I’ve excerpted and linked to the pieces here in hopes of persuading you to check out the series in its entirety. For anyone concerned about our democracy’s health and future, The Times is delivering a powerful call to action.
The concluding lines of “Why Trump Lies,” say it well.
“Our civilization is defined in part by the disciplines — science, law, journalism — that have developed systematic methods to arrive at the truth,” the editors write. “Citizenship brings with it the obligation to engage in a similar process. Good citizens test assumptions, question leaders, argue details, research claims.
“Investigate. Read. Write. Listen. Speak. Think. Be wary of those who disparage the investigators, the readers, the writers, the listeners, the speakers and the thinkers. Be suspicious of those who confuse reality with reality TV, and those who repeat falsehoods while insisting, against all evidence, that they are true. To defend freedom, demand fact.”