It’s alarming to see how normalized the term "enemy of the people," popularized by Joseph Stalin used toward anyone who disagreed with his ideology, has become in the U.S.
“It made possible the use of the cruelest repression, against anyone who in any way disagreed with Stalin, against those who were only suspected of hostile intent, against those who had bad reputations,” said Nikita Khrushchev in a 1956 speech to the Congress of the USSR Communist Party.
Even Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union immediately after Stalin, found the phrase "enemy of the people" too radical.
It’s only fitting that President Donald Trump developed an affinity toward using this term to describe the press, whose main responsibility is serving as a watchdog for his administration. Instead of upholding the right to free speech, Trump fires up his supporters at rallies by denouncing the "fake news media" and denies White House press passes to reporters from national outlets.
Nothing exemplifies his disregard for the First Amendment more than his reaction, or lack thereof, to the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a United States resident and Washington Post columnist, who was ambushed and dismembered when lured into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.
In his statement on Tuesday, Trump said the Saudi regime will face no consequences and went a step further and slandered Khashoggi. It’s appalling that an oppressive regime that murdered a U.S. resident and father of four — three of which are U.S. citizens — is not the "enemy of the people." Instead, the resident himself, a highly respected journalist who championed freedom of speech, draws Trump's apathy and disdain in death.
Trump’s crudely-written statement began with "America First!," yet his attitude toward Saudi Arabia is anything but. Putting America first means upholding our democratic ideals, not one’s personal financial interests. Lost revenue and business deals should not take precedent over representing the backbone of our nation’s democracy.
The Saudis lavish Trump with compliments and gifts, and spend tens of millions of dollars on his real estate, as he said in the past. The press holds Trump accountable, which often paints him in a negative light. Trump is not acting for America; he is acting for himself.
Trump’s complacency toward Saudi Arabia is nothing new. Past U.S. administrations and many western countries have remained silent on Saudi Arabia’s many encroachments on human rights, from capital punishment, gender apartheid, to a complete nonexistent religious freedom. But no other administration has so openly attacked the press.
I’m a journalism major, and I think often about what my career will look like after I graduate. It’s a dangerous time to be a journalist, and if our president won’t protect us, who will?
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.