Charities must fight the war on truth
Susan Smith believes Trump's battle with the US media is a symptom of a global war against truth and oppostion that is affecting Scottish charities
White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s debut weekend catapulted him to international fame in a way not seen since CJ Cregg of the West Wing.
Why? Because he launched his career with a petty tirade against the media for misreporting on the number of people who attended or watched President Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony. This was backed up with facts that were later found not to be true.
The next day his collegue Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s campaign managers, became an internet meme after telling an NBC reporter that Spicer was using “alternative facts”, something the reporter was quick to point means lies.
The whole incident has been likened to Comical Ali, Sadam Hussein’s information minister who shot to fame for ridiculously false propaganda statements, and Newspeak from the novel 1984.
Trump versus the US media is part of the same war as the right-wing political establishment versus the third sector in the UK
On the same weekene, Trump himself visited the CIA headquarters and described journalists at “the most dishonest people on the earth” - while the media is a flawed institution, this statement undermines the notion of a free press, an essential component of democracy.
The whole debacle begs questions about why Trump has launched his presidential career in the spirit of a totalitarian regime. The answer is simple: he is launching a war against opposition. Combating criticism with lies and “alternative truth” leaves the public at a loss as to who to believe, resulting in less power for both the media and the public.
From a UK point of view this is not just an amusing tale of bizarre foreign antics. We saw very similar tactics used throughout the Brexit campaign to great success – remember Michael Gove saying “The British public is fed up of experts”?
Last week, a mainstream tabloid newspaper launched a three-day attack on Scottish charities with a series of stories that amounted to nothing not easily available from public record. It went on to use innuendo and speculation to undermine the role of charities and individual staff members. In the same week, Oxfam received widespread criticism for highlighting that eight of the world’s richest people, one of whom is Bill Gates, have as much wealth as half of the population of the globe.
Those who exist in our society to hold the status quo to account are being undermined globally. Trump versus the US media is part of the same war as the right-wing political establishment versus the third sector in the UK.
This is a global phenomena involving big businesses as powerful as states, and political and media supporters of a status quo that sees a handful of people dominate. They really are employing newspeak to turn the public against their natural champions.
Scottish charities need to remember this and face the onslaught with confidence and armed with the knowledge that our well-run, effective third sector is a massive force for good. If charities allow themselves to be bullied from speaking the truth about injustices they see right in front of their eyes they will concede the war.