This baby boomer journalist is NOT an enemy of the people!

This is a milestone day in the world of journalism. Namely because, about 350 news organizations across America are printing op-ed pieces today in response to President Trump’s unabated charge that journalists are “an enemy of the people.” Since BoomerCafé itself was founded by two journalists, we are jumping on that bandwagon, as lifelong journalist Greg Dobbs provides a personal response to the president’s impeachment of his profession.

I am an enemy of the people.

Greg covered the 1979 Islamic revolution in Tehran, Iran.

I guess I always was, even when covering the violent revolution in Iran for ABC News. It was dangerous reporting from Iran but it was important. It was the only way Americans would know what was going on in that critical country. A mob with machetes chased my camera crew and me, I was beaten at an Islamic cemetery, I had a colleague killed right next to me; Joe Alex Morris of the Los Angeles Times. He must have been an enemy of the people too.

I also apparently was an enemy of the people when I barely made it over a shard-encrusted wall fleeing from a firefight that entrapped us between murderous militias in Beirut, while another colleague climbing the wall wasn’t so lucky and died scrawling the names of his children in his own blood. That was Canadian correspondent Clark Todd. Another enemy of the people, no doubt.

I must have been an enemy of the people when I waded through dioxin-laced mud to report on the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam, and when my crew and I, embedded with the Colombian anti-narcotics army fighting in the U.S.-funded drug war, had to hotfoot it from gunmen in a steamy jungle during a raid-gone-bad.

There I was, reporting to the people, even though I was their enemy.

Greg in Colombia.

Obviously I was an enemy of the people when I got death threats from an American arms dealer I tracked down in Libya, and when I lived in a room running with rats and cockroaches during the war to oust tyrant Idi Amin from Uganda, and when I laid for hours in a swamp aside a runway at Bagram Airport measuring Soviet air power during their invasion of Afghanistan, and when I slept on the desert floor with scorpions popping out of the sand all around me during the Gulf War.

All so the American people would know what was going on.

Greg reported on the decades-old damage done by Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Then there’s Daniel Pearl, beheaded in Pakistan. And James Foley, who lost his head in Syria. And Marie Colvin, blown apart by Syrian shells. More enemies in our midst.

Apparently by the lights of President Trump, we who leave our families and deal with despicable despots and risk our lives to bring America news about the nature of its enemies and the threats to our security are now the enemies ourselves.

Greg Dobbs

Trump has complained that when he attacks journalists, “They always bring up the First Amendment.” How frustrating that must be for someone who can’t stomach criticism but, because of the Constitution, can’t abolish it. The fact is, this is part of the media’s role: to expose anything, from a public official’s incurious ignorance to his malicious misrepresentations to his polarizing polemics to his flat-out lies.

Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue. He has the most easily offended ego on Earth, but he doesn’t have a clue. No surprise, perhaps, for a guy who pathetically professed during his presidential campaign that he got his information — on military issues, foreign affairs, etc. — “from the shows.” We do know though from his tweets that he follows the news; it keeps him up at night.

Alarmingly, Trump does have weapons to use against the enemy. Like barring his least favorite news organizations (and thus their audiences) from White House briefings. And “opening up our libel laws so we can sue them and win lots of money.” And inhibiting an indispensable tool: the use of “confidential” sources that has in the past exposed everything from the crimes of Watergate to the false premises of the Iraq War. Trump demands of journalists, “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.” Ironic, coming from the guy who perpetuated the Obama “birther” myth and pinned it on “an extremely credible source.”

The world is watching how America protects First Amendment rights to free speech. This editorial cartoon by Arend van Dam in The Netherlands.

Disliking journalists who aren’t his sycophants is one thing. Discrediting them is another. But as he has with judges, intelligence officials, and political critics of any color (especially, it seems these days, when their color is black), President Trump is doing his best to make the media into an enemy of the people. “A great danger to our country” is how he has described us. Or more recently, “Dangerous and sick.” The media, he even tweeted earlier this month, “can also cause war.” As if, in matters of war, he has been a paragon of prudence.

What really scares me and ought to scare you is not just the president’s perverted perception of journalists, but his aspirations to subdue them: “We’re going to do something about it,” he once threatened. That is the language you hear from leaders in dictatorships, not democracies.

If Donald Trump called us the enemy of the people only once, that would be Trump being Trump. But it hasn’t been just once; it has become almost incessant. If this thin-skinned president succeeds in stifling a free press, then he is the enemy of the people. Not us.

Greg’s book about the wacky ways of a foreign correspondent, Life in the Wrong Lane, is available from Amazon.

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10 Comments

  1. Thank you Greg for you service and reminding us how important our Freedom of Speech is. I give thanks for your courage and tenacity . AND thanks for Boomer Cafe waking up to read a fresh story makes my day!

  2. The danger is that people are becoming increasingly numbed to his childish, ill informed rants so that it is ever more difficult to be shocked by what he says and does. The other day I actually found myself applauding Erdogan for telling Trump precisely what he thought of him while other world leaders continue with diplomatic speak, something that Trump neither understands nor cares to understand.

  3. Your piece made me think where is the soul of America in the age of devalued truth? President Trump’s use of harmful rhetoric such as calling the press “the enemy of the people” in an attempt to discredit the press is, in fact, putting journalists in harms way in their own country. Without the free press, empowered by the First Amendment, our democracy is in peril. This president emboldens other dictators with his talk of the press being the enemy. It is particularly frightening in the aftermath of the killing of five people at the Capital Gazette in Maryland. Thank you for reminding us what lengths journalists go to and sacrifice of themselves in the name of truth.

  4. I’ve given up on expecting anything reasonable from this character in the White House but hold Republican politicians as much, if not more so responsible for being complicit in accepting anything and everything that this crazed man does and says instead of standing up to him and demanding civility and integrity. This is not the America that was held in high regard before Trump! Thank you for reporting the truth rather than what comes out of this man’s mouth!

  5. Greg, your story brought tears to my eyes, and made me want to cry. The cartoon in your piece made me chuckle, and then want to cry when I realized how close to truth it was. Once again, thank you for bravely standing up for what’s right, and thank you also for speaking what is nothing but the truth. I continue to grieve for my country, and continue to wonder why so many people cannot see the dangerous road we are being led down. There is no garden path on this road; only sticks and stones that will break the bones and back of everything this country has ever stood for. In the ‘war to end all wars’ it was proven how easy it was to lead an entire country onto the path of evil. Americans, including my late husband, fought and died to end that evil. I am glad that he didn’t live to see what is going on in our own wonderful country right now. As has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt before, if we lose the freedom of expression and a free press, we and our way of life are truly doomed.

    Again Greg, thank you.

  6. Wow! I missed this one. This is a slam dunk of Trump-hate. And all the boomers are all down with it, based on the comments (have others moved on?) . Some even having to comment twice. Always nice to know I can log on to boomers(democrat)cafe for a weekly fix of democrat agitprop. Are the pre-2016 ‘opinion’ pieces archived? I want to read the hard hitting critical pieces about Obama.

    1. I’m not “down with it” but asking the press not to go “tit-for-tat” with the President would be useless. The press would be better served if they simply reported the news objectively (without their personal political opinions) and ignored all tweets trying to provoke them. If they did that, it would speak for itself.

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