Band together, put in the mouthpiece, take a sip and spit in the bucket, remove the gloves and get ready to scrap like there’s no tomorrow — because there isn’t.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

The media cannot continue to cover Donald Trump’s reign as it would a normal president. If regular presidential protocol continues to be followed and observed, they will continue to be crushed and what’s left of our democracy will be flushed away with them.

In the run up to the election, in the purgatory after the vote was cast and before inauguration and in the interminable two weeks since he has taken office, the mainstream American media at large have continued to silo themselves and their efforts, speak in platitudes about his policies and his cabinet picks — even if they do not agree — and have reacted with predictable unreadiness to brazen and untrue statement after statement with dismissive if not altogether unconvincing tones.

The result: He continues to have his way with them. Not only does he insert one of his three adjectives in front of the word “media” (lying, dishonest, fake) at every turn, drawing from the tin-pot dictator playbook of destabilizing the general public’s trust in the media in order to better peddle their lies, but he has also reserved praise for and co-opted the conspiracy theories of the real fake news along with highly partisan outlets like Fox News.

Monday afternoon, he did the (heretofore) unthinkable and lumped the media in with terrorists. That’s right, terrorists.

“It’s gotten to a point where [acts of terror are] not even being reported,” he said to military leaders at U.S. Central Command. “And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

Yeah, that just happened. Two verys even.

Many feel Monday’s comments are a response to Kellyanne Conway’s recent citation of her own made up terror attack in Bowling Green, Ky., in recent days. But Trump’s baseless and most dangerous statement can be traced back to conspiracy theorist and right wing talk show host Alex Jones’ supposition that the media ignores terrorist attacks.

Jones for his part is a fabulist, a sensationalist and batshit AF. He believes the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting was staged by the Obama White House to bring on gun control legislation, he accused the US government of involvement in the Oklahoma City Bombing and 9/11. He believes Hillary Clinton is a witch and a murderer. He believes Justice Antonin Scalia was killed (possibly by a Clinton), he thinks the Orlando nightclub shootings were orchestrated by Obama and that the government has a weather weapon that creates and steers tornadoes.

His “alternative facts” news site InfoWars espouses and reinforces all of the above, and it would be funny, were it not for the fact that the leader of the free world is an avid follower and adopts the dangerous nonsense folding it into his limited daily discourse.

Along with annoying ALL-CAPS (ALL THE TIME!!!) headlines, the notion that mainstream media overlooks or covers up terrorist attacks is another one of Jones’s pillars. Here are a sampling of his most recent headlines on the subject matter.

  • “FAKE NEWS: MAINSTREAM MEDIA WHITEWASHES ISLAMIC TERROR IN BERLIN: Propagandists desperate to hide the obvious” — Dec. 20
  • “VIDEO: TERROR IN GERMANY – THE TRUTH THEY HIDE: Mass media deception to conceal what’s really happening” — July 25

Since the 2012 attacks on an American embassy in Benghazi that left four dead, right wing outlets and some elected officials have accused the mainstream media of undercovering terrorist attacks, but Jones and now Trump put media in direct collusion with terrorists.

Just as he has never given them the benefit of the doubt — while ironically his rise to political prominence was based on one of the biggest lies, the Birther Movement, of this century — Trump has refused to grant the media the same type of courtesies given to him. The media’s tireless benefit-of-the-doubt efforts to portray him as a legitimate candidate and now leader has certainly created a monster, for the sake of…ratings?

He is our first knock-off president. A cardboard box filled with rocks that the guy off Craigslist you meet in the in the Wal-Mart parking lot says is flat screen TV. From his fake veneer of hair, teeth, skin, suits and ties to his rotten core, he is a con, a phony, a walking facsimile, nothing pure or true about him but for the evil that seeps from his tangerine pores.

The media needs to stop being cordial (cancelling the White House Correspondents’ Dinner would be a start), they need to stop trying to add context or background or re-framing to his lies and they need to stop portraying him as someone who may come around.

He struck first and vilified them, unrelentingly, and yet when he boldly tells untruths or covers up or simply blunders his way around a job he has no business undertaking and no qualifications or stamina with which to undergo its daily rigors…there is no accountability.

Fortunately, thus far, there has not been a tragedy. But this much incompetence at the helm makes one inevitable. When we are attacked or attack, blood will specifically be on his hands. And yet he is already cheerleading an act of war as justification for wanting to rid our country of checks and balances, starting with the judicial branch of government.

As long as these deferential media outlets view one another as competition, not working together across agencies and platforms to release accurate and consequential information all the way down to refusing to let individual reporters be bullied or ridiculed by Trump, Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway into submission — then they have already lost. We have already lost.

Unfortunately for us, a working Democracy relies on a working and trusted media. There is no substitute, period. Regular citizens have jobs to go to and families to raise and they have to understand implicitly what they’re being fed is the truth. The Nazis had a name for it: Lügenpresse which literally translates to “lying press,” so this is not a new tactic. Destabilize what people believe or feed them untruths as fact and you can run the table.

For their part, Trump and his team are plagued by their own stupidity, ignorance or slow-firing synapses. Not to mention the White House right now has more leaks than a colander. The New York Times reported Sunday Trump and his team have yet to figure out how to turn light switches on and off and his head advisor, white nationalist Steve Bannon, spends up to 16 hours a day making up draconian and downright evil policy regs in the relative seclusion of the mostly dark and empty West Wing.

“Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room,” the Times story said. “Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit.”

It is up then for the media to turn on the lights, as a collective and as one voice, to uncover every misstep and misdeed, to stay undistracted by the dozens of sensational screw ups that happen every day, to report on the big picture: the Trump family’s taking hostage of the state and using it to profit. They must begin by calling lies what they are: lies….and replacing them with fact. No grace period. No honeymoon. No wait-and-see. The time to act is now. The media needs to stand up and fight — scrap harder than a back alley brawl and swing through the bell — for themselves, their contemporaries and most importantly, for the rest of us.

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author of the novella “Burgundy Upholstery Sky”. His first full-length novel will be released in late-2017.