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Alternative Facts and Media Control: Bush and Obama laid the groundwork for Trump's White House

Gerry Bello

Day Two of reign of Orange Frankenstein brought us a double down on Kelleyanne Conway's alternative facts and Spicer's reality splice. The Trump Administration will now select who attends press briefings rather than the White House press corps being selected from prime media outlets based essentially on audience size. Overlooking the problematic issues in the prior arrangement, the Trump administration has taken another step down the road to an authoritarian and government controlled media. That road was laid out under the administration of GW Bush and paved by Obama's Departments of Justice and State. Trump is merely goosestepping down it towards the inevitable logical destination in boots polished by AT&T and Verizon.

Until somebody in the Trump tower let Sean Spicer near a microphone there was no better way for a chief executive to damage their own credibility than to let Ari Fleischer speak on their behalf. On September 26 2001, soon after the 9-11 attacks Fleischer took it upon himself to deride Bill Maher's comments with “ they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.” This was a direct threat to citizens in general and the press in particular.

Despite consensus building facade of the previous Administration’s attempt to portray itself as the “most transparent administration ever” the Obama White House prosecuted more leakers than all other administrations combined. Ask Chelsea Manning about transparency when she gets out of the military prison in Leavenworth. Some of the moves by Eric Holder as Attorney General took the former Administration’s style of presentation, but the current Administration’s outlook. On May 31st, 2013 Eric Holder met with heads of most major news organizations under a gag order, to explain to them under what circumstances reporters would be prosecuted for reporting on human rights abuses. The key provision was if that reporting would be “harmful to national security.”

The current administration’s move is not as draconian, as it protects the president, and thus is not a move to protect human rights, merely the miniscule and shredded dignity of an Oompa-Loompa as he dupity-dos across the stage of history. It does however reinforce moves by the national security state under Obama towards a government controlled corporate press. The first was a redefinition of press to include print but not “bloggers” or other new media. The other was to allow CIA and State Department operated media outlets to broadcast and print in the United States, thus making domestic media a function of foreign policy. In the twilight hours of the last presidency, the State Department, now a fully owned subsidiary of Exxon Mobile under Rex Tillerson, was given $160 million to fight “fake news.” Democrats lauded this as some sort of anti-Russian proposal, but in practice the money could well be used to cover up human rights abuses like the massive ones happening at Standing Rock.

The interlinking of Government media, government control over media and corporate interest can lead down a path to censorship as it turns through the coming death of Net Neutrality. Trump has made the immediate appointment of Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, to chair the FCC. Combining Pai's disdain for the very concept of net neutrality, the looming merger of AT&T and Time Warner, and a White House that is hostile to journalists who like facts and you have the recipe for a press that is even less free than it was under Obama. Sprinkle in $160 million of official State Department Funding and you have a society where nobody can reach the facts that are not government sponsored alt-facts fed through compliant media lapdogs over channels wholly controlled by a small number of corporate cronies.