Noth­ing’s sa­cred in ‘post-truth’ Amer­ica

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Ann McFeat­ters

— Did you hap­pen to no­tice the di­a­mond-and-gold bracelet Ivanka Trump was wear­ing Sun­day dur­ing CBS’ big in­ter­view with her fa­ther, the pres­i­dent-elect?

The next day, press releases went out that said you — yes, you — can buy a bracelet just like it from Ivanka’s jewelry line for about $10,800.

Also, Don­ald Trump’s long list of golf cour­ses and ho­tels was briefly touted on a govern­ment getto-know-your-new-pres­i­dent web­site be­fore some­body re­al­ized the promo was to­tally in­ap­pro­pri­ate. Wel­come to the new re­al­ity, folks. The pres­i­dent of the United States and his fam­ily — sales­peo­ple ex­traor­di­naire, backed by the full weight and ex­ten­sive reach of the fed­eral govern­ment.

With Trump’s tran­si­tion team fall­ing into chaos be­cause those in charge were fired, three of the bil­lion­aire’s chil­dren — a group that will be run­ning his sprawl­ing, in­ter­na­tional busi­ness em­pire — were brought aboard. Thus, the peo­ple who will be over­see­ing Trump’s busi­nesses are now vet­ting the peo­ple who will be reg­u­lat­ing them.

The fed­eral Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion owns the old post of­fice in Wash­ing­ton where Trump just opened a new ho­tel. The Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board will rule on his dis­putes with ho­tel em­ploy­ees. There is an up­com­ing trial on the now-de­funct Trump Univer­sity with a num­ber of for­mer stu­dents claim­ing they were de­frauded. There is a long list of po­ten­tial con­flicts.

Trump wants his chil­dren to have full se­cu­rity clear­ances, with ac­cess to the govern­ment’s top se­crets. That may not hap­pen this year. But when Trump is pres­i­dent, he can or­der that they be given full ac­cess to clas­si­fied ma­te­ri­als.

Ah, such an old-fash­ioned term: con­flict of in­ter­est.

But who will know what’s re­ally go­ing on? Trump loathes the press and al­ready has sim­ply re­fused to let them have much of the ac­cess the me­dia has tra­di­tion­ally had to the pres­i­dent. The pro­tec­tive press pool has sim­ply been left be­hind.

Be­sides, there are fewer and fewer re­porters as me­dia em­pires col­lapse. Mil­lions of Americans don’t read news­pa­pers or watch TV news. And Trump has in­fused mil­lions of his sup­port­ers with true ha­tred of “the dis­hon­est me­dia.” (Never mind that the dis­hon­est me­dia gave him a bil­lion dol­lars’ worth of free me­dia at­ten­tion, help­ing him quash a dozen and a half GOP ri­vals and, later, Hil­lary Clin­ton.)

Oh, by the way, we have a new phe­nom­e­non spring­ing up: fake news.

Did you know that ac­tor Den­zel Wash­ing­ton and Pope Fran­cis en­dorsed Trump? No? Well, they didn’t. That was to­tally fab­ri­cated.

Did you know that an FBI agent in­ves­ti­gat­ing Clin­ton’s emails was killed? No? Well, it didn’t hap­pen. It wasn’t true. But it was all over the in­ter­net, and hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple be­lieved it. And still do. So, we have a bad sit­u­a­tion here. A pres­i­dent who hates the press and will at­tempt to thwart it at ev­ery turn, do­ing his best to deny the pub­lic its right to know what he is do­ing, while fake news is be­ing spewed all over the globe. A pres­i­dent who has never held pub­lic of­fice, is proud of his abil­ity to make money, vows to make a lot more of it, who in­tends to do what­ever he wants and will have more power than ever to achieve that goal.

It gets worse. Trump has named as his chief White House ad­viser Steve Ban­non, the head of Bre­it­bart “News,” a white su­prem­a­cist-sup­port­ing out­fit that is mainly known for spew­ing hate and in­tol­er­ance. It’s a post of in­cred­i­ble power, and Ban­non doesn’t need con­gres­sional ap­proval.

Ox­ford Dic­tionar­ies has se­lected its word of the year. It’s “post-truth.” As in, we live in a post-truth world where the pres­i­dent of the United States has lied re­peat­edly, patho­log­i­cally and, ap­par­ently, with­out con­se­quence. And, un­doubt­edly, will con­tinue to do so.

Long live a free press. Peaks and val­leys, friends. But here’s a bet the main­stream me­dia will prove to be more im­por­tant than ever in the next four years.

And when you get that cushy new job Trump is promis­ing, you can af­ford to buy that gold bracelet just like Ivanka’s. Or one of Me­la­nia’s watches once sold on QVC, to mark the pas­sage of time.

Ann McFeat­ters is a colum­nist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice. Read­ers may send her email at am­cfeat­ters@na­tion­al­press.com.

WASH­ING­TON

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