There is a reason why the First Amendment to the Constitution includes freedom of the press, a notion that aside from being an intimate part of the democratic experiment, helps to guarantee the Constitution that delineates our form of government and the freedoms afforded our citizens. The press in its elementary form has no enemies except those that seek to do wrong.
When Jamal Khasohoggi was murdered at the hands of his Saudi tormentors and the President of the United States moved to downgrade the character of the murdered journalist in favor of his business friends in the Gulf Kingdom, the value of American constitutional democracy was also diminished. The narrative that identifies the press as the enemy creates a counter narrative about how an organized criminal element can seek to hide and darken the light on the truth
During graduate school, I spent some of my best time reading and discussing the works of Benito Perez Galdos (1843-1920), Spain’s premier 19th Century novelist and second only to Cervantes in the genre. It is said that he would take his place as an unobtrusive observer to record events, behaviors and circumstances of normal people in their everyday lives and then include those situations in his fictional narratives.
Influenced by other greats like Dickens of Great Britain and Balzac of France, Galdos was an important contributor to the age of Realism and the faithful rendition of life. His form of truth was what the fives senses could detect and what the pen could describe.
Journalism goes further than that as its purpose is to “provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their societies and their governments.” It does this by using “a systematic process – a discipline of verification that journalism uses to find not just the facts, but also the ‘truth about the facts.”
Therefore, journalism depends not on the point of view of the journalist, but on the objectivity of the method of gathering and processing information. Unlike the novels of Galdos, the art of writing is subservient to the science of gathering and analyzing of facts.
The acts of gathering, analyzing and publishing of facts strikes fear in the minds of corrupt leaders especially in a democratic society where transparency needs to be the political basis for effective government. Unfortunately, America is enduring a period of serious corruption that finds leaders seeking darkness to cover their deeds.
President Trump is going even further by openly celebrating the assault on journalist Ben Jacobs by Montana Representative Greg Gianforte. He has become the sworn enemy of the press as investigations get closer and closer to his checkered past and that of his family.
The ultimate tragedy in this regard is what appears to be the torture, death and even dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. It took over two weeks for Saudi Arabia to come with the story of an altercation between Khashoggi and his 15 captors that ended in his death.
President Trump has supported the changing Saudi version of events from a denial of the death at their hands to a current grudging declaration that the journalist caused his own demise. This is in line with his continued and consistent anti-press narrative.
This also includes the fact that in the middle of the Khashoggi scandal, Trump decided to publicly congratulate a perpetrator of an assault on a journalist for that assault. I wonder if he is thinking of doing something similar on his next trip to the Gulf.