Nothing’s sacred in ‘post-truth’ America
— 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.