Say My Name

This past week CNN’s Jim Acosta got into a somewhat heated (for a press conference) exchange with Sarah Sanders (Trump’s press secretary). This brouhaha centered on President Trump’s recent comments on Twitter (where else?) that cast the press (“Fake News Media”) as the “real enemy of the people.”

Apparently this assertion is something poor Jim Acosta could not abide. He all but demanded that Ms. Sanders retract the claim by proxy by passive-aggressively asking her if that too was her stance. Since those who adhere to “goodthink” would never agree to such a sentiment then Ms. Sanders would have no choice but to contravene her boss. But, if she does what the job requires, that is to only promulgate the President’s position, then she is backed into a corner and can’t contradict the claim, even if personally she does not adhere to it. It’s the classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

After Mr. Acosta’s extended monologue-cum-question she did eventually answer the question as best she could within the constraints of her position. This was not to Jim’s liking. Again he persisted – he simply would not relent until he heard the words “the press is not the enemy of the people” come out of her mouth. But they never did.

Whether Trump’s remarks are a valid or invalid point of view is not the point of this article however. What I found far more interesting was the left’s reaction (in this case embodied by CNN) to Ms. Sander’s refusal to disavow the enemy-of-the-people notion. Later in the day Mr. Acosta had an “interview” with a CNN anchor concerning the events earlier at the press conference. He was approaching apoplexy as the sympathetic anchor nodded in unison to his bewilderment and then anger about such remarks. You see, she just refused to say “radical Islamic terrorism”, oh whoops, sorry, that is, “the press is not the enemy of the people.”

Yes the left too can rival the right in the exercise of elevating inane phrases as the “good American” litmus test. The “Thinkpol” have been alerted, watch out! And of course both sides only ever have the interests of Americans at heart. Trump insisted Obama was putting this country at risk by refusing to say “radical Islamic terrorism” as it failed to address the terrorism problem where it originated. Today the press insists Trump is putting the country at risk by refusing to disavow, “the press is the enemy of the people” because apparently somehow Joe citizen will interpret that phrase as permission to start The Purge™ on all journalists.

Both are patently absurd positions. Those who yearn to create such “loyalty oaths” that must be uttered in order to prove oneself to be a good upstanding American are engaged in a performative contradiction. The very act of expecting or demanding or requiring such utterances annihilates any connection you may be claiming to the putative ideals of America: freedom and liberty. Those words mean the following: I don’t owe you a thing and you don’t owe me a thing, but if we want to mind our business and stop worrying about what other people are doing or thinking or saying then maybe we can all just get down to the business of living together and treating each other with the same level of respect we desire in return.