In a speech on the Senate floor this Wednesday, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) gave what may arguably become the cumulating speech of his political career, as he is set to retire from office at the end of his current term in 2019.
The central focus of the speech was President Trump and his hostile relationship with a vast majority of the media. Arguably his most controversial statement in the speech was his reference to Stalin when he criticized the President’s use of the term “enemy of the people” to describe the media:
“It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies.”
Yet, he did not stop there, he continued by elaborating:
“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”
Disgraceful; there are no other words for Flake’s outlandish comparison of Trump’s words and actions to those of Josef Stalin.
To be extremely clear, I do not say this to minimize the President’s concerning stances in regard to press freedom. His penchant for beefing up libel laws for public figures is among his most notable faults as are his administration’s use of verbiage such as “alternative facts” and “fake news,” often applied inappropriately by the administration when trying to fend off bad news cycles, which is both wrong and counterproductive.
With that being said, pushing for a legal change in libel law and going on rage-filled rants about unflattering press coverage, pales in comparison to the Stalinist era Soviet Union.
Freedom of the press was nowhere to be seen under that oppressive regime; political dissenters were killed by squads of secret police or swept off to labor camps in Siberia never to be seen again. They were not guaranteed the right to stand before the nation as an elected representative in a legislative chamber of republican democracy to criticize their executive, as Senator Flake is privileged to.
Flake’s hypocrisy is only the beginning, though. His paternalism is equally stifling. He stands before the American people seeming to believe he will wake up Americans from the supposed stupor they have fallen into (apparently mesmerized and indoctrinated into believing every word coming out of the Trump administration).
The senator is ignorant of the fact that we, the American people, are not stupid idiots who must be lead and herded. A vast majority of us are able to discern lies from truth without need of guidance by his outstretched showboating hands.
Others, like Flake’s colleague, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), have suggested that Trump’s unpolished rhetoric regarding the press acts as a means of justification for real modern tyrants in other parts of the world today to crack down on their own nations press and dissent.
However, that is like blaming a woman in a short dress for getting raped because of her style choices.
Senators Flake and McCain do not seem to understand that we are not idiots; because we are not propagandized parrots under Stalin’s reign in the 1950s or Kim Jong-un’s reign today.
We are people of a free nation with an assuredly free (but flawed) press, led by a sometimes short-tempered president who from time to time sounds like a blundering buffoon. Yet, at the end of the day, that is all we are.
Do not allude to dark days and tyrants of the past to try and cloud our nation’s collective minds with fear. That is what Trump’s detractors accused him of doing during his campaign for the presidency. How ironic now it is that you are the peddlers of unfounded fear, your message amplified and broadcasted out to the world by the strong and flourishing press you seem so worried is shrinking into irrelevance.
Featured image: Gage Skidmore
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