Editorial: Mr. Trump, Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free

If Allen Dulles can hear President-elect Donald Trump, he is surely turning in his grave. Dulles was the longest-serving director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the son of a Presbyterian minister.

When Dulles was overseeing the building of the CIA headquarters in the late 1950s he insisted a quote from The Bible be inscribed on the lobby’s marble walls. Dulles settled on a passage from John 8:32: “And Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Set You Free.” That passage remains on the marble wall of the old CIA headquarters building. It is also the official motto of the agency.

In “Truth and Politics,” 20th Century political theorist Hannah Arendt posited, “No one has ever doubted that truth and politics are on rather bad terms with each other, and no one, as far as I know, has ever counted truthfulness among the political virtues.”

Regrettably, Donald Trump is at war with the truth and those who purvey it—the media. The Press. Journalists. Us.

On Dec. 1, during a “victory rally” in Ohio, Trump referred to us and our colleagues as “the extremely dishonest press” and “very dishonest people.” During this rally Trump also claimed, “We won in a landslide!”

Actually, we in the media hold Trump to a greater reality called the truth. For example: winning the electoral college victory and yet losing the election by more 2,500,000 popular votes is nothing near “a landslide;” hence, Trump is either delusional or lying. Neither are attributes we hold in great esteem. 

During the presidential campaign Trump called his opponent Secretary Hillary Clinton “crooked.” A little over a week after being elected, Trump settled a class action suite brought against his crooked and phony Trump University. Rather than suffer the humiliation of taking the stand (where, presumably, he would be asked to tell the truth), Trump paid $25 million to over 6,000 individuals he ripped off at his “university.” Included in the settlement was a $1 million payment to New York state for claiming his unaccredited school was actually a university, which is a violation of state law.

Unlike Trump, we’ve never been sued. Unlike Trump, we’ve never been sued by a class action of over 6,000 individuals. Unlike Trump, we’ve never paid out $25 million to people we ripped off for far more money. And he calls us dishonest? Shame on him.

Deciding which Trump to believe is maddening. Earlier this year he said, “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” And the wall will be “big and beautiful.” Sounds unequivocal enough.

Then, shortly after the election, Trump said the border wall “may be a fence” in certain areas. Wait, what? Quite an about-face.

Flip-flopping is also an attribute we’re not fond of.

Our bet is that Russian leader Vladimir Putin considers a flip-flopper weak and easily manipulated. Funny, except President Trump will have the nuclear codes. Let’s hope his staff keeps him preoccupied with Twitter. 

Trump and his apparatchiks are very clever. Rather than change the Constitution and abolish the freedom of the press, Trump wants people to simply stop believing the press and believe him instead.

Which sounds eerily similar to this infamous statement: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

That,from Joseph Goebbels, who served as Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, under Adolf Hitler.

Trump doesn’t want you to listen to people who fact check, search for the truth, and stand by their work.

Back in March, Mitt Romney opined to a group at the University of Utah, “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud…. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: he gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.”

Frankly, we don’t want the hat, the unhinged Tweets at 3 am, nor being called dishonest.

We also don’t want the misogyny, the racism, the xenophobia, the hatred.

We don’t want the bile, the ignorance.

Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote that a free press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The press upsetting the governors has a long tradition in America, back to colonial days.

In the 1730s, a brazen publisher of the New York Weekly named John Peter Zenger had the audacity to print a realistic and unflattering portrait of the colony’s Governor Cosby, who then promptly had him jailed for the offense. Zenger prevailed in his case—because he printed the truth, and his lawyer had adequately convinced the jury that the press and its ability to print the truth was “the best cause; it is the cause of liberty.”

As one political observer said at the time of the Zenger trial, it was “the germ of American freedom, the morning star of that liberty which subsequently revolutionized America!”

Mr. Trump, we shall know the truth, and the truth will set us free.

– John Waters, Publisher, and Marlys Hersey, Editor

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