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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > March 2017 > Shooting the messengers

Shooting the messengers

Trump rages at serious journalists who gave up on him before he began—reflecting a divided America whose two tribes have given up listening to each other

Taking liberties

The new American revolution, which began on 8th November 2016, when 63m people voted for Donald Trump, has been gaining momentum, as the Republican Party rallies round him, with even diehard sceptics falling in line. But there are also growing signs of resistance—from the Democratic Party, from many among the 66m who voted for his rival and, most strikingly, from the “mainstream media,” or MSM.

This last development is the most remarkable. For nearly a century, American journalism has prided itself, however fancifully, on its Olympian neutrality. No longer. A week before Trump’s inauguration, the Washington Post’s respected media columnist Margaret Sullivan warned that “A hellscape of lies and distorted reality awaits journalists covering President Trump.” She went on: “Trump will punish journalists for doing their jobs… Journalists are in for the fight of their lives. And they are going to have to be better than ever before, just to do their jobs.”

She wasn’t exaggerating. As President-Elect, Trump had waited a full two months after the election to hold his first press conference, a raw spume of blurtings. He dismissed intelligence findings that Vladimir Putin meddled in the election as “fake news… phoney stuff. It didn’t happen.” All the evidence suggests it did happen, and there is pressure on the Senate to investigate. Trump also urged Congressional Republicans to promote the new and better healthcare coverage he has insisted his administration will deliver in place of “Obamacare.” In fact, no such new plan exists. Congress’s non-partisan Budget Office has estimated that 18m people stand to lose insurance within a year if the programme is repealed. He refused to take a question from a CNN reporter Jim Acosta, instead berating him (“Your organisation is terrible… you are fake news.”) The canards and inventions were instantly exposed, as one publication after another—the Post, the New York Times and others posted fact-checking reports.

That was just the foretaste. Since then, Trump has been sworn in, and immediately flew into a tantrum over photos of his sparsely attended inauguration—cable television contrasted the sea of white space with Barack Obama’s densely-packed crowd in 2009. Trump then forced his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to go before journalists and claim that the cameras had lied.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s March issue: Sam Tanenhaus, George Magnus and Dahlia Lithwick examine the state of America after Donald Trump’s first couple of weeks. Tanenhaus looks at the situation faced by the American press, Magnus looks at the state of global trade and Lithwick inspects the diminishing right to choice women face over abortion. Anne Perkins explores the rise of Theresa May through the political ranks and David Edmonds looks at how empathy affects our decision making. Also in this issue: Jay Elwes on Trump’s relationship with America’s intelligence agencies, Anita Charlesworth on the state of the NHS and Nick Cohen on what is done in the name of “the people” by politicians