The incoming administration is taking away the James S. Brady press briefing room. My guess is it will become a Trump-branded Chipotle.
If it wasn’t clear before last week’s fake press conference filled with fake reporters, a fake peanut gallery cheering fake cheers and a fake stack of papers to garnish the fake answers, soon-to-be president Donald J. Trump has no intentions of being transparent or even cooperative with the media.
This, of course, is yet another page from the Aspirational Dictator’s Handbook that he has brazenly torn out and shown to the land. And yet, we are still scrambling and still acting defenseless against it, against him.
A man who treats the media with such contempt and scorn, routinely sticking one of his three known adjectives in front of it, “dishonest, crooked, lying” has no business taking office as leader of the once-free world, yet there he is and there he will be.
Public institutions, including the fourth estate which has a long-standing tradition of cooperation even in contentious times with government institutions and officials, will now have to scrap their own playbook and start fresh.
For their effort, the Trump transition team has made their intentions known from before day one. They will start by literally locking out the press full-stop.
Earlier this week, administration officials said the James S. Brady press briefing room, which has 49 seats for journalists, will not be utilized for daily press briefings. If that doesn’t scare the shit out of you immediately, it should. That’s like saying Taco Bell is taking away its sauce packets which mask the taste of its food or NFL games will now be played with imaginary footballs, score to be determined prior to the games.
Taking away that small room and the prospect of a daily briefing is more than symbolic, it’s how we run checks and balances on a regime. It’s how citizens, in effect, are kept abreast of current events both small and large that can change they way they go about their daily lives.
Imagine we are threatened with an attack and suddenly there are ten fold the number of militarized blank faces staring at you as you shuffle through airport security. With no explanation. What’s going on? Why is this happening? Am I safe? Should I board the plane? What about my family? Should I start calling, texting? Will this be my last Pizza Hut Express at 10 a.m.?
In the event of a stock market crash or a financial collapse, what is the response from the land’s highest office? Should I panic and pull out everything now and move to Cozumel? Should I call my broker and listen to his lies? Should I have invested in gold and buried it in the Nevada desert like I thought I should have in 2016 when things started going this way?
Make no mistake, taking away the press room is as big a fuck you to its citizenry and a total dismissal of any attempt to run an honest ship that this so far ethics-free administration, just hours before its dawn, has given us… and that’s saying a lot.
The media has lived in that press room for decades, and now the incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus as well as incoming press secretary Sean Spicer are trying to use the go-to device of this administration, lies and distraction, as justification for its dismantling. They maintain shutting the press room down could portend a potential move to a BIGGER space to accommodate more media… pfft. What they really mean is, “We’re moving to an ever-changing locale that we will only disclose to Breitbart, Fox News and whatever White Supremacist blog or Moldavian Bot Farm that the president happens to be disseminating his information from that particular day.”
The press room, in other words, will now be the world’s most notorious rotating head shop/check cashier/Mexican market space.
“[The media] are the opposition party,” one senior Trump official told Esquire this week. “I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”
Taking it back! What the mother-loving-fuck is that? Again, why must this situation be hostile? Except for the fact that, well, the free press is going to be seen as dissenters and going to be portrayed as liars the. Entire. Fucking. Time.
No longer will information and intelligence be disseminated in an orderly and productive manner. Gone are the days when when the media can sit around in lanyards sipping room temperature coffee and anticipating a jokey, friendly repartee with some little nugget to file before the 5 p.m. talking heads start up. It’s going to be straight Woodward and Bernstein 24/7, an opposition press and one that will likely face sanctions (legal and beyond) from the administration. The best and most persistent of the press corps, like CNN reporter Jim Acosta, will likely be singled out and vilified by the president’s surrogates, or in worse cases as we witnessed last week, the POTUS himself.
This, of course, can lead to only bad things. Freedom of the press is so important it headlined the Constitutional amendments. To have an administration that isn’t trying to keep the veneer of those standards alive prior to its taking power is scary enough but add in this little tidbit: Incoming first lady Melania Trump has already hired Los Angeles–based attorney Charles Harder, the lawyer who represented Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel in his successful crusade to bankrupt Gawker, to represent her against the U.K.’s Daily Mail for publishing a story (later retracted) claiming she worked as a high-end escort nearly two decades ago. I mean, it is a great story. Like her Lifetime biopic could be called Pretty Slovenian Woman.
So, the Trump family already is actively suing the free press outside the confines of the White House, setting a dangerous tone for anyone who will attempt to dig and uncover.
For its part, the press is going to have to stick and move like a bantamweight and perhaps team up and organize in a way that is meaningful enough to stand up to absolute power. The dress rehearsal was, of course, a lackluster performance by a media divided. Instead of banding together and walking out — or hammering the president-elect with more of the same questions in solidarity when Trump started calling BuzzFeed “garbage” and berating Acosta and CNN as “fake news”— the press corps instead went every man for himself ignoring what was happening to their colleagues and the collapse of the free press as we know it that was going on in front of their very eyes.
The press now, more than any other time in this nation’s history, has to play angry and has to strike fear into this opponent. If they say we lie, we have to present the truth over and over…and over. If they dismiss credible information as false, we repeat till they submit. If they are going to use hacks against us, we use hacks against them. The Trump administration is not playing by the rules and they are not being civil. Theirs is a gotcha game of the highest order. Power this authoritative will be awash in corruption and lies. And they will have 24/7 staff to cover up and distract. It is time then for the press to declare itself the opposition…band together, and start going on the offensive.