A.J. Liebling, the great New Yorker magazine wit of the mid-20th century, is usually credited (justly, so far as I know) with the wisecrack/observation that “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” But, nowadays, not so much.
It was a lot more powerful observation back then, before TV, then cable TV, then the 24-hour news channels, and then the internet/social media/texting revolutions greatly reduced the degree to which printed products (especially newspapers and therefore those rich enough to own a printing press) controlled the news megaphone.
The portion of the public that nowadays gets its news from something that just rolled off a printing press is quite small, now, by comparison. And the ranks of those who may reach an audience larger than their friends and family is expanded to anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account.
I’m sure there are both good and bad aspects to those changes. And I’m pretty sure the Cult of Trump, which relies heavily on all those new forms of media and hardly at all on the printing press, would not have thrived under the old system, when the big media organizations were sometimes described as “gatekeepers” between possible news and the mass audience. The gates are open and the keepers are gone.
But poor, pitiful, persecuted President Trump can use and does all those new media to whine directly to his millions of followers that that mean shrew Nancy Pelosi will not let him speak. And yet, speak he will, about the state of our union. By some miracle, or act of surrender, or perhaps some brilliant act of very-big-brain strength that he showed by caving in on the showdown, the current incumbent will, on Tuesday, at the invitation of the shrew herself — and broadcast by the very mainstream media who won’t let him speak — he will, like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” do what?
SPEAK. Yes. The POTUS has found a way to express himself, in prime time Tuesday night, to the assembled leaders of all three branches of the federal government PLUS a national broadcast audience, on TV and radio. And, unfiltered and unchained, he will give his take on State of the Union!
OK. Forgive me. I got a little sarcastic there. But if you are not a recipient of the emails that Trump has been sending to his followers, you may not be aware of how hard he has been pushing the line that no one, especially Nancy, will let him speak.
A friend of mine, for reasons not clear to him, receives the emails, often more than one a day, that go out to the mass membership of the “Trump Make America Great Again Committee.” And said friend passes some of the good ones on to me. They run the gamut from hilarious to scary, often at the same time, but without passing through sane or logical. And recently, this effort to silence him has been the big theme. Here a sample:
“On February 5th, I will stand before YOU, the citizens of this great nation, and give my second Official State of the Union Address as President.
Nancy & Chuck don’t want me to speak, Mainstream Media outlets don’t want me to speak. The Hollywood Elites don’t want me to speak. But I know, [Your Name Here] wants me to speak.”
Yes, that’s right. Donald Trump, who has been so effectively silenced over recent history, is finally going to get to tell us what’s on his mind, his version of who shut down the government, explain clearly why it was worth it, advocate for a border wall (although if you prefer to call it a barrier, he’s OK with that) and otherwise elucidate upon the state of his, and their, and our union.
In addition to sharing his doleful, one might say self-pitiful feelings over how Chuck and Nancy have treated him, the POTUS asked his followers to help him prepare for the speech by answering a few questions so he can take their thoughts and feelings into account in preparing his remarks.
There were 30 questions, so I won’t copy the whole survey, but here are a few from what the email called the “official State of the Union Prep Survey.” I list them out of order to put some of my favorite questions at the top:
“Do you think the media did a proper job of blaming Democrats for the Shutdown?
“Are you pleased that under President Trump, the U.S. is no longer shipping pallets of cash to the Iranian regime?
“Do you approve of the job done by President Donald J. Trump?
“Do you feel the mainstream media is actively working against the Trump Administration?
“Do you agree with President Trump that the U.S. must renegotiate trade deals that hurt Americans?
“In regards to the Shutdown, do you believe Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer care about the safety of you and your family?”