White House tactics straight from the communist handbook
The Short Version
White House tactics, from choosing who gets a seat in the Press Room to gag orders for various government agencies, not only attempts to circumvent the first amendment but employs tactics suspiciously like those used in communist countries in an effort to control information. The White House wants the press to drink the president’s kool-aid or shut up. Dissent from within federal agencies is not allowed.
Looking At The Whole Picture
There are a lot of little parts to this issue, not all of which have received a great deal of play on social media. So, let’s see if we can piece everything together a little bit.
The whole kerfluffle with the press started the week before the inauguration, as rumors spread that the White House Press Corp might be removed from the White House. Given that the press has had a permanent place there since Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, that information didn’t set very well and reporters seemed to be taking out their suspicion on White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who doesn’t take criticism or pointed questions very well. As a result, the then-president-elect went on Fox News and said:
“So we said we’re going to move it to a larger room in a nearby area, but not the same area, and the press went crazy. So I said, ‘Let’s not move it.’ But some people in the press will not be able to get in because there’s just too many. We’ll make sure you get a seat, but there’s too many people for this small room.”
There’s one significant problem with that statement. The president doesn’t choose who has access to the White House briefing room. That is the responsibility of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA).
The president of the WHCA said over the weekend that the press room “is open to all journalists who seek access now” and that the WHCA will be ” standing up for the rights of a free press to report vigorously on the new administration.”
Consider that the first round of shots fired.
The whole concept of reporters having access to people and the ability for information to be released through various sources isn’t something the new president seems to like, however. He wants to control the entire message to make sure no dissenting opinions are released to the public. This is the same strategy we see employed by communist countries such as China, where state media is strictly under the control of Beijing and dissent is a one-way ticket to prison, or worse.
Then, more shit hit the fan yesterday as the president signed orders effectively gagging various federal agencies. The first one to catch popular attention on social media was against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Washington Post reported that, “Employees of the scientific research arm at the Agriculture Department were ordered Monday to cease publication of “outward facing” documents and news releases, raising concerns that the Trump administration was seeking to influence distribution of their findings.”
That article hit social media and was immediately shared nearly 25,000 times on Facebook alone. Such an overwhelming amount of attention managed to wake up someone over at the Department of Agriculture, which immediately went into damage control mode. The USDA then released a new memo stating:
“This internal email was released without Departmental direction, and prior to Departmental guidance being issued. ARS will be providing updated direction to its staff. … ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public.” (via Reuters)
Problem solved, right? It was all just a misunderstanding.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you know, the folks who make sure our air isn’t as unbreathable as Beijing’s, is not only under a full media blackout, but is prohibited from awarding any new contracts or grants that had already been approved. How bad is this clampdown? So bad that the agency can’t even order janitorial supplies because they’re provided by an outside contractor.
According to the Associated Press, Doug Ericksen, the communications director for the president’s transition team at EPA, said he expects the communications ban to be lifted by the end of this week.
“We’re just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration,” Ericksen said.
No, that doesn’t sound like communist-styled control at all, does it? Yeah, we’re totally being sarcastic with that question.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said in regard to the EPA blackout: “This decision could have damaging implications for communities across New York state and the country, from delaying testing for lead in schools to restricting efforts to keep drinking water clean to holding up much-needed funding to revitalize toxic brownfield sites.”
Oh, by the way, the levels of lead in the water in Flint, Michigan are just now below federal limits. The EPA probably had something to do with that.
Employees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received gag orders similar to those given the USDA. All the agencies affected have something to do with environmental concerns, including effects on natural resources and human health. Given that the 45th president denies the scientific evidence for climate change, the appearance is that the new administration is attempting to stamp out any information that might foster dissent with the president’s grossly uninformed position.
Not everyone is necessarily acquiescing to the White House’s demands. In the face of the gag orders, someone at the Badland’s National Park took to Twitter with some strong environmental facts. The tweets have since been removed, but we managed to snag a screenshot while they were still there.
We don’t expect to see too much of this type of defiance from federal agencies in the future. While the new administration does not yet have secretaries approved for every department, the general fear is that all information, including social media, will have to undergo strict adherence to the administration’s guidelines before it is released.
As I said on Facebook yesterday, conservatives spent the eight years of the Obama administration fearing a socialism that never happened. With these new gag orders and crackdowns on the press, the new administration has brought us communism in less than a week.
If you’ve not yet contacted your members of Congress, we suggest you do so now. Silencing media, in any way, shape or form, is not making America great.