It used to be that the nation's press was instrumental in getting the President's message out to the public, a situation that called on the Commander-in-Chief to at least behave in a quasi-cordial manner to the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate. Good relations with the press could make the President - as it did with Reagan, and an antagonistic press had the ability to destroy - as it did with Nixon.
With the advent of social media, however, the role and strength of the press began to show signs of diminishing. President Obama was the nation's first chief executive to see the power of connecting directly with the people through venues like Twitter. But it was Obama's successor, Donald Trump, who turned "tweeting" into his personal discourse with America. FDR had his "fireside chats," Reagan (and subsequent Presidents) had their Saturday radio addresses, and Trump has his Twitter tantrums.
But Trump, who benefited politically from a raft of fake news that swamped social media in the months preceding the election, quickly adapted and began labeling any story that put him in a bad light as "fake news." He also came to the realization that he could attack segments of the press and override any negative effects with reliance on right-wing media and his own formidable presence on social media.
CNN was the first news outlet to suffer the ire of the tempestuous Trump for stories that the organization did regarding Trump's ties to Russia. The blustery politician was roaring that CNN was "fake news" weeks before his inauguration. Trump's press strategy seemed to quickly become based on selectivity. Breitbart News, a right-wing sludge-pot, gained what many see as an almost insurmountable advantage when its CEO, Steve Bannon, became Trump's most trusted advisor - and now even has a seat on the National Security Council, while others began suffering indignities - not being called on for questions, and the recurring threat of petulant reprisals like changing the correspondent's seating chart in the press room.
The past week the conflict between the Executive Branch and the White House Press Corps flared up a couple of times. First, Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press "gaggle," something more informal that a daily press briefing. Spicer held the event in his office, which was limited in space. He invited in the press pool which insured that all outlets would have access to what was said, but then he added a few other news outlets to the gaggle - an action which seemed to show a preference for some while excluding others.
Those excluded from Spicer's special briefing included the BBC, Politico, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, and, of course, CNN - among others. A sense of solidarity quickly developed between the "haves" and the "have nots" when the Associated Press and Time declined their invitations to join Spicer and his select group in support of those who were excluded - and the Wall Street Journal, a Rupert Murdoch publication, said it would not attend any of the exclusive type of events in the future.
The Trump administration was going to pick and choose who to grace with their news.
The following day Trump suddenly announced that he would not be attending the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, a black-tie event that raises money for charity and also provides a platform where the press and the President take turns roasting and making fun of each other. Trump, the big narcissist, apparently can't take a joke - even if its for charity.
So the President of the United States is trying to drive a wedge through the press by dividing it - and also by ignoring it - and by calling its product "fake." He seems to think that in this day and age he can make that work. News will become whatever Donald Trump says it is, and any criticism of him personally is not only "fake," it is a crime against America. The press, in Trump's world view, is the enemy of the people.
It's almost surreal.
No, it is surreal. It would have even shocked Orwell!
Back in the day the axiom was "the man who buys his ink by the barrel always wins." Donald Trump is betting that those days are over. If they are, he will have won and America will have lost far more than we ever imagined.
First he came for CNN, next he came for the major dailies, and soon he will come for your Facebook!