Margaret Sullivan writes: At the northeast corner of the National Archives building sits Robert Aitken’s sculpture “The Future,” inscribed with some famous words from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”: “What is past is prologue.”
If you buy that, it’s possible to have a solid idea of what Donald Trump’s presidency will be like for the American media and for citizens who depend on that flawed but essential institution.
The short form: hellish.
Consider, for example, the saga of Serge Kovaleski, the highly regarded New York Times reporter whose disability limits the use of his arms.
Yes, this is the reporter whom Trump mocked during the campaign — waving his arms in a crude but unmistakable imitation of Kovaleski’s movements. When criticized for doing so, Trump vehemently denied that mocking Kovaleski was even possible because he didn’t know him. (Which was also a lie.) All this, because Trump wanted to promote a myth — talk about “fake news” — that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated 9/11, which he falsely claimed Kovaleski reported while working at The Washington Post. Any reasonable person looking back at the facts would find that absurd.
What can this small chapter tell us about what’s to come?
That Trump will be what columnist Frida Ghitis of the Miami Herald calls “the gaslighter in chief” — that he will pull out all the stops to make people think that they should believe him, not their own eyes. (“Gaslighting” is a reference to the 1940s movie in which a manipulative husband psychologically abuses his wife by denying the reality that the gaslights in their home are growing dimmer and dimmer.)
“The techniques,” Ghitis wrote, “include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth.”
But that’s just part of what experience teaches us to expect from Trump. [Continue reading…]