I’ve always admired journalists. The good ones far outnumber those paparazzi and in-your-face reporters. They are maligned and persecuted even in democracies, and we all know what can befall them in regions of the world where despots and fanatics know the power of a free press and try to stop it at all costs. Many journalists, real or fiction, were childhood heroes of mine, and in my books the reader will find journalists of all kinds as principal characters (in my first book, Full Medical, ezine reporter Jay Sandoval helps bring down a government conspiracy; in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” Pam Stuart, Castilblanco’s wife, is a TV reporter often involved in her husband’s adventures; and in The Golden Years of Virginia Morgan, an investigative reporter plays a major role in toppling another conspiracy).
A free press is absolutely essential if a country wants to call itself democratic. “Free” means independent of government control. The concept is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Along with the independent executive, legislative, and judicial sections of government (with X systems, some of the first two overlap), one has four strong legs that lift up and provide a solid foundation. The first signs of a democracy coming apart, no matter how the despots spin it, can be found when any of these legs begin to crack. For example, Venezuela no longer has an independent press, legislature, or judiciary—the “president” is becoming yet another South American strong man. We have watched the process in Russia progressively worsen as the despot Putin consolidated his power. Many of Putin’s victims are, in fact, journalists.
It’s therefore no surprise that a despotic-minded Trump is attacking the press. As in 1930’s Germany, Bannon, Conway, Miller, and Spicer help engineer this attack—a formidable and evil quartet. Because a free press is involved with the control and flow of information in order to maintain an informed citizenry, also essential for a democracy, distortion of information and attacks on the free press are par for the course. Narcissus le Grand and his minions spend lots of time battling the press, spinning and manipulating information, and creating false information. As Goebbels well knew, and Putin and other modern despots know, tyrants can often win their despotic battles against the citizenry without guns or violence. A psychological coup d’etat can be just as effective if the citizenry accepts the version of news propagated by the government. This was a major theme in Orwell’s 1984, but that book was fiction—Putin and Trump are real despots, not fictional ones, and their techniques have been considerably by the march of technology, which despots can use as well as anyone else, if not more so.
Because a free press is involved with the flow of information to citizenry, it is just as important as book publishing and other aspects of information dispersal and opinion molding, and all are targets for tyrants. What’s going on in the Trump administration goes far beyond the norm in American society, and it’s probably making the Founding Fathers turn over in their graves. A contentious relationship between a president and the press isn’t new. Nixon is a recent example. The “yellow journalism” associated with “Remember the Maine!” is an example of the other extreme, where McKinley used the press to start a war. But neither McKinley (thank goodness the mountain is now called Denali) nor Nixon (the ultimate paranoid about the press persecuting him) come close to Trump (whose only mountain should be a cow pie in Kansas).
I’m not sure which is worse, Trump’s Nixon-like paranoia and attacks against the press, his McKinley-like attempts to manipulate the journalistic landscape, or his move beyond that to create some kind of alternate reality where only Narcissus le Grand “speaks truth”—all are evidence that shows that we have a paranoid, narcissistic psychopath now in control of the nuclear codes. By achieving this pinnacle of mental illness, Il Duce makes himself into a cartoonish, tyrannical, and modern version of the Wizard of Oz, a pathetic little man who thinks only he can pull the levers that make his Oz work.
Teeter-Totter between Lust and Murder. Detective Chen is framed for the murder of a U.S. senator. As her partner Castilblanco moves to prove her innocence, they uncover a complex plot involving the underbelly of NYC as well as the overbelly corresponding to the rich and powerful. #3 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” this book is now on sale at Smashwords and is available in all ebook formats. Use coupon code XW55G. Coming soon this spring from Penmore Press: Rembrandt’s Angel, an international tour de force involving a Scotland Yard expert on art heists and an Interpol agent. Chasing down some dealers in stolen artworks suddenly becomes very dangerous!
And so it goes…