The year was 1910. Pro labor union and anti union sentiment were riding high. Union leaders and politicians began spewing incendiary but false allegations. They called for uprisings, just as some today have in Michigan, in Washington DC and Pennsylvania.
That earlier era did not end well. There was a series of bombings. The worst was at the Los Angeles Times, then as now known as a conservative, not-union-friendly newspaper. That one killed seven people in the building and set off a trial that split our country worse than today.
I’m reminded of GOP President Warren Harding, who endorsed his Indian Affair Bureau order that since whites were smarter and better for the country, every Osage Indian on Oklahoma oil land had to have their money handled by a white”guardian.” That led to whites murdering Indians as land usurpers.
So while it’s perfectly okay and justified for President Trump to take issue with some of the recent city riots and press coverage of his 4 years, it’s something else to fuel his nearly half of the adult population to hate all protestors, most newspapers and TV, stopping just short of saying “why don’t you go out and battle these rowdies and burn down these news fakers?”
It’s what Richard Nixon did in ’68 and ’69 and resulted in that joke of a “trial” for The Chicago 7. Things did not end well for Nixon. When things finally settle down, Trump, too, be damned in history for bad-mouthing protest, trying to bring a free press to heel and discarding two of our most precious pieces of a democracy.
Remember, it’s a “free press,” not one expected to be in lockstep with government, subservient to a current political leadership, or even totally accurate and impartial. Our Founders okayed a free press in a time when no press was fair or impartial. It was vitriolic. But their wisdom said that was better than a toady press with the coverage approved as we see today in autocratic countries. We get some crappy, unlearned coverage of some events along with some spectacularly good and learned coverage of others. Note the good stuff appearing in the Star-Advertiser as a result of its alignment with Pro Publica, which subsidizes the salaries of top-flight investigative reporters.
Here’s the danger Trump has unleashed. It’s not just diminishment of the press. It’s fertilizing anti-press, anti-democratic elements who’ve grown stronger the past four years and almost see themselves as ready to challenge an elected government and arouse from the “deplorables” (Hillary Clinton’s term for some voters) what Hitler made out of “die Vergessenen” (the forgotten) in 1919, when he formed his Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the workers’ party, to disrupt government via the Beer Hall Putsch and bring him to power.
We are loaded with groups these days proud to be called deplorables. A badge of honor. Anti-abortion extremists, eco-terrorists, the Animal Liberation Front, the Army of God, Aryan Nations, Earth Liberation Front, Jewish Defense League, Ku Klux Klan, May 19 Communist Organization, Phineas Prieshood — you name it and we’ve got it, mainly in small numbers. Always hoping for a spark to catch hold.
That spark is Donald J. Trump. While the antifa and other left groups have done damage to our civility, the others have long waited for a Trump to signal them to take back America to a time of whiteness, religiosity, original marriage, 1800s family values, segregation, unfettered wealth accumulation, execution of criminals and a shut-the-door, build-the-wall immigration policy.
Now Trump is on his way out (Wikipedia lists Joe Biden as President-Elect) and and his most radical fans see their dream dissipating as people wake up. They get more desperate and deplorable. It again reminds me of Hitler, in the last days when he knew he was defeated but threw Germany’s youth into hopeless last-ditch battles; or Japan’s emperor Hirohito telling his people victorious enemies would slaughter them all and ordering defense unto death, training villagers in swordsmanship for hand-to-hand engagement.
They had very bad endings. So will Donald J. Trump.