©W. Eugene Smith – Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath – 1971
Birds fell from the sky, fish floated dead in the sea and Tomoko floated in her mother’s womb when she was poisoned by the highly toxic chemical methylmercury released into the Minamata Bay by the Japanese Corporation, Chisso. The attempt at covering up the factory’s fouling of the waters went all the way up to The Ministry of International Trade and Industry and The Japan Chemical Industry Asociation.
The photojournalist Eugene Smith, in covering the story, was beaten so brutally by several factory workers hired by Chisso that he lost some sight in one eye, and never fully recovered. His heart breaking photograph of Tomoko and her mother helped bring worldwide awareness to the plight of victims of industrial waste pollution and helped save thousands of unborn children from short lives wracked with physical and mental deformities.
My father was a journalist. He typed his stories on a Remington Typewriter, always making a carbon copy. He would often advise me, “Consider the source.” when I came home from school with fantastical stories. Historically, journalists have stood for the truth. Honor bound to get news that governments, corporations, or individuals do not want revealed, they often risk savage assaults, kidnapping, prison, or death.
As of late they have been at risk of another, more insidious, peril. Being labeled as “the enemy” by the President of the United States of America. Every authoritarian regime has silenced the press and taken over broadcasting, turning it into a vehicle for propaganda. It is a standard fascist maneuver.
Journalists have always worked hard to earn the right to write for an established and reputable news agency. Any falsehoods could jeopardize not only their job, but their reputation and entire career. Now, anyone with access to the internet can spread outlandish rumors with the push of a button. We are all familiar with these at best silly, and at worst grotesquely racist and sexist stories. From the never ending gossip about celebrities, to the deadly serious lies spewed from the alt-right press corps, people can choose what they wish to read from an exhaustive list of sources.
It is now more important than ever to “consider the source”. Journalists, such as those that work for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, NBC, CNN, and the BBC have all been harangued by our current president and his staff, while outlets such as Breitbart, Fox News, and The Gateway Pundit are lauded. http://tinyurl.com/jcvokve
We must ask ourselves why.
The most important move a dictatorship must make is to control the news. This is not easily done. One cannot storm into their offices in Manhattan and throw everyone out. Another tactic needs to be taken which makes force unnecessary, a tactic well understood by those closest to Trump. To stir up havoc and distrust, to demonize and belittle the press at every opportunity, and to create confusion about what is truth and what is not. Using words such as “rigged,” calling press members “the opposition party,” citing the phrase “fake news” frequently to discredit any coverage not agreeable to them. Each time Trump mentions The New York Times, arguably one of the greatest news outlets in the world, he tags them “the failing” New York Times. Why does he do that?
Hitler said, “If you tell a big enough lie often enough, it will be believed.”
The bullying manner toward the press that was bantered about during the Republican campaign for presidency served the current administration well. Emboldened, they do not worry about making snide and demeaning remarks about journalists. Stephen Bannon, White House chief strategist and member of Trump’s National Security Council stated recently that, “The press should keep its mouth shut.”
Our right to hear the truth and speak the truth without fear is fundamental to our freedom, and we cannot and will not accept anything less. We owe our children this noble legacy. Be aware, call and send emails to the White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call march, sign petitions – do whatever you can do to lift your singular voice. There is an encroaching shadow over our land that we must neither ignore nor fear. Hope is a courageous emotion. It is also one that increases incrementally when shared. So, be hopeful. Speak out. Resist. Fight for the freedom that has been so dearly earned over the generations.
“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”
Edward R. Murrow
Acclaimed journalist who faced up to McCarthyism
Over 1,200 journalists were killed in the last 25 years, less than half covering wars, the rest covering politics or corruption.
Not The Enemy