I am seriously worried about America now. None of us was taken by surprise by what kind of a person Trump is — it was apparent all through his campaigning. But the sheer speed with which he’s set about dismantling all the elements of civilisation has taken me by surprise. A quick recap:
- Normalising lying, both by Trump himself and by his staff: about the size of the inauguration crowd, about the election result itself, and more generally about everything.
- Press briefings that are used to disseminate propaganda and criticise the press, with no questions taken.
- A self-obsessed focus on the president as a personality, ahead of all policy issues, whatever the setting or circumstances.
- Removal of civil rights, climate change, health care, disabilities, LGBT rights and much more from the administration’s website (and the complete removal of the Spanish-language version of the site).
- Freezing grants for the Environmental Protection Agency, and banning staff from saying anything about it (on indeed about anything) — see Appendix below.
- Gagging essentially all government agencies from public communication.
- A national park forced to remove tweets that contained nothing but scientific facts that are inconvenient to Trump.
- Banning the National Institutes for Health from communicating with policy-makers.
- Unilaterally giving the go-ahead for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, in which he has a financial interest, in the face of both social and environmental opposition.
- Maybe most worrying, a clampdown on free reporting, with six journalists facing 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine for covering inauguration protests.
These are unambiguously the actions of a dictator.
It seems like a joke, doesn’t it? A ludicrously over-the-top alternative history sci-fi series; or maybe a tragic account of a failed state somewhere in central America or Africa.
It’s not a joke. These are things that have happened in the USA, self-appointed leader of the free world, in the first five days of the Trump administration.
America, you’d better do something pretty damned radical, and do it now. Where are the grown-ups among the Republicans in Congress and Senate? Will they stand up and do their jobs? They know what they have to do.
Appendix. Here is the message that was circulated to employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (from here).
I just returned from a briefing for Communication Directors where the following information was provided. These restrictions are effective immediately and will remain in place until further direction is received from the new Administration’s Beach Team. Please review this material and share with all appropriate individuals in your organization. If anyone on your staff receives a press inquiry of any kind, it must be referred to me so I can coordinate with the appropriate individuals in OPA.
- No press releases will be going out to external audiences.
- No social media will be going out. A Digital Strategist will be coming on board to oversee social media. Existing, individually controlled, social media accounts may become more centrally controlled.
- No blog messages.
- The Beach Team will review the list of upcoming webinars and decide which ones will go forward.
- Please send me a list of any external speaking engagements that are currently scheduled among any of your staff from today through February.
- Incoming media requests will be carefully screened.
- No new content can be placed on any website. Only do clean up where essential.
- List servers will be reviewed. Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.
I will provide updates to this information as soon as I receive it.
”Beach team” refers to staffers for the new administration working at the various agencies while new leadership is put in place; “OPA” most likely refers to the “Office of Public Affairs.”)