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Trump May Be Rude, but That Doesn't Make Him a Tyrant

March 10, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Donald Trump’s critics, both here and abroad, increasingly
compare his treatment of journalistic critics with that of
Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or even
Joseph Stalin. Writing in the Financial Times, Gideon
Rachman contends that “it is the similarities in
the Trump and Erdogan approaches to the media and the courts that
should be most chilling for Americans.” A Der Spiegel
editorial likewise asserts that “Donald Trump and Recep
Tayyip Erdogan demand reverence rather than truthfulness, and both
are mounting dangerous attacks on the free press.”

Those inflammatory takes are mild, though, compared to the
allegations that Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake made during
a January 17, 2018, floor speech. Flake accused the Trump White
House of conducting “an unrelenting daily assault on the
constitutionally protected free press.” He added:
“‘The enemy of the people’ was what the president
of the United States called the free press in 2017. [I]t is a
testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president
uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his
enemies.” An October 2017 editorial by CNN’s editor-at-large Chris
Cillizza also embraced the rationale that by labeling his
journalistic opponents the enemy of the people, Trump had
“issued a direct threat to the free and independent

Such over-the-top rhetoric borders on hysteria. Trump certainly
has a thin skin when it comes to criticism and has made ugly,
sometimes personally insulting, comments toward his critics in the
press. But there is a vast difference between denigrating the media
and displaying abrasive, even boorish, behavior and trampling a
free press. Comparing Trump’s actions to those of a genocidal
psychopath like Stalin is especially preposterous and disgusting.
Even equating the president’s behavior toward the media with
Erdogan’s mounting repression is inappropriate.

Even before the abortive July 2016 coup attempt (which may well
have been a false-flag operation to justify already planned
additional repressive measures), Erdogan’s actions posed a
clear and present danger to freedom of the press in Turkey. His
government routinely harassed and imprisoned journalists and other
critics. In the week leading up to the country’s crucial
national elections in November 2015, authorities seized television stations operated by
opponents of the regime. The government then transferred ownership
to Erdogan allies, who spent the final days before the election
inundating the airwaves with “news”
stories and editorials praising the president and his political

Erdogan’s treatment of the press has become even worse
since the July 2016 incident. In October of that year, he closed
fifteen opposition media outlets. Human Rights
Watch issued a December 2016 …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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