The executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalism compared President Donald Trump to the late Venezuelan leftist dictator Hugo Chavez in a column Friday.
“What does Trump have in common with Hugo Chavez? A media strategy,” Joel Simon wrote in a column for the Columbia Journalism Review. The piece was published the same day President Trump labeled several news outlets the “enemy of the American people.” (RELATED: CNN Anchor Compares Trump To Hitler While Her Boss Buys Obama Photos)
Simon wrote, “Trump’s unrelenting attacks on the media and attempts to undermine its credibility and paint it as an opposition force are straight out the Latin American populists’ playbook.” While these Latin American populist leaders are “leftist-oriented there are remarkable similarities between the two in the rhetoric they employ to mobilize supporters,” the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalism wrote.
Simon went on to write that Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Nicragua’s Daniel Ortega, among others, “all rose to power in campaigns that targeted the media.”
“Hugo Chávez frequently called the media opposition coup plotters and fascists. More mildly, Argentine President Néstor Kirchner and Uruguayan President Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas refer to the press as the ‘unelected political opposition.’ Sound familiar?,” Simon added.
He wrote that these leaders used a divided society to advance their agenda and that the first step to accomplishing this is stopping the press from having the “ability to provide a shared, unifying narrative.”
“In Latin America, this process was aided by the fact that the traditional media has been allied with oligarchic interests,” Simon added.
President Trump said Thursday that “much of the media speaks not for the people but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system.”
Simon went on to write that Chavez, as Trump does now, lashed out at the media, vilified individual journalists, expelled reporters, blocked access, threatened lawsuits, and insisted on their “own version of reality.”
“These systematic attacks on the media accomplish two things,” Simon said. “First, they fire up the base, which believe that traditional media do not represent their interests or concerns. Second, they provoke the media itself, which feeling threatened, adopts a more oppositional posture. This in turn further fuels the polarization on which the leaders depend and paves the way for the government to introduce legal restrictions.”
He added that, “Trump’s intent is clear. Through his relentless attacks, he seeks to create an environment in which critical media is marginalized and the truth is unknowable.” The executive director of the journalism organization said that American journalists should not “take the bait” and act like the “opposition.”