He’s fighting the media with his own Orwellian news broadcast.
Lacking a nuanced understanding of how the U.S. government functions and the role of president, Donald Trump has often acted like an amateur authoritarian. He attacks the institutions that stand in the way of implementing his agenda and humiliates his enemies and himself on Twitter. While those behaviors suggest a man wading blindly into authoritarian waters, he shouldn’t be taken lightly. His enthusiastic embrace of totalitarian world leaders and distaste for civil liberties show him to be a man with more than a passing fascination with autocracy.
While Trump supporters may criticize those who fear his authoritarian tendencies as hyperbolic, they need look no further than his war on the press for a legitimate reason to worry. Trump has labeled the press the “enemy of the people” and day after day brands unfavorable stories and organizations who criticize him as “fake news.” Now, he’s taken a page from the authoritarian handbook by creating his own news channel, Trump TV.
On Sunday, Trump TV debuted “The Real News,” hosted by former CNN pundit Kayleigh McEnany. In the 90-second clip, McEnany praises Trump, saying he “has created over 1 million jobs” since taking office and “clearly has steered the economy in the right direction” — although with any scrutiny, it’s clear the positive economic news is more the result of Obama-era policies than changes orchestrated by Trump. The news clip also praised the RAISE Act, which operates on the myth that immigrants are depressing American wages.
Throughout history, totalitarian leaders have worked to curtail free speech and a free press by implementing state-run media to keep the ruling regime in power. Currently, Russia, China, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, Zimbabwe, Cuba, and Turkmenistan all use various forms of state-run media to squelch political speech, dominate mass communication, and keep pro-government narratives front-and-center. Although Trump’s using a private channel to combat negative media narratives, Trump TV eerily echoes the propaganda techniques used by authoritarian regimes.
The vision for Trump TV goes back to 2016, when it looked as though Trump would lose the election to Hillary Clinton. Toward the end of the campaign, Trump began plans to leverage his newfound populist support to build a right-wing media empire to rival Fox News. Things obviously changed after the election, and now Trump TV works as a propaganda wing of the administration. According to The Daily Beast, former “Inside Edition” producer and wife of Eric Trump, Lara Trump, is now running the show at Trump TV and uses campaign funds to finance the effort.