According to President Donald Trump, a great wave of change is blowing over the huge landmass of America. Indeed so! It is a change that has seen a huge spike in the number of hate crimes in the US. Synagogues and mosques have been targeted, Muslim women have been subjected to harassment, so far several Indians, including a Sikh, have been shot and one of them has died as a consequence. Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic rhetoric is on the rise to a level that in one instance recently several Muslims in Oklahoma who wanted to meet their Congress representative were given a questionnaire to fill which included the question, “Do you beat your wife?”
The first travel ban, perhaps the most ill-considered and shabbily drafted document to emerge from the White House ever, did not pass muster with the courts. One of the seven countries from which entry into the US was temporarily halted is under virtual US occupation, its soldiers laying down their lives fighting alongside the US forces to see the end of a violent un-Islamic phenomenon that has done immense harm to Islam as never before.
Notwithstanding the shift one noticed in the State of the Union address of President Trump on February 28, many expect significant lack of sync between what he tried to convey to the American people that day, and his articulated intention that manifested into action through the plethora of presidential decrees since he assumed office less than fifty days ago. The one hour of his sweet words in the Congress, many feel, will not compensate the one month of his inflammatory and abrasive comments.
America is unique. Only in America can a billionaire populist businessman, and a TV talk show host to boot, with very little between the ears insofar as governance and political leadership is concerned, can occupy the White House. And the world can only hope, as it watches in wonder, that many of the Trump voters would by now have realised that they have let loose a bull in the china shop who will not stop until every bit of the china in the shop, finely crafted painstakingly over the years, has been destroyed. And it seems he will use every day of the four years he has at his disposal to destroy the existing world order, which one must admit is not without its shortcomings though, that will very likely be replaced, at best, by a state of total disorder. And the first signs of that is the government, in a country that prides itself on its Bill of Rights, is moving in haste and inexorably towards an autocratic dispensation by trying to pit the media as anti-people.
Trump has been carrying on with his electoral narratives, in election mode. And many apprehend that generally those that gain office through promises of fascism tend to follow through, as Trump is doing. His is the tone that rings in the utterances of dictators or would-be dictators and autocrats -- equating the government with the state and the people. That makes it easier for the administration to go after anybody with anti-government proclivity to be portrayed as anti-state or anti-people. It may be an odious comparison, but we need to be reminded of the unpalatable truths from time to time, that many autocrats were popularly elected to start with. Only difference is Trump does not have the majority of the voters in his side.
The American media, the non-pliant ones, is now the main foe of the new administration, replacing the age old foe, the Big Bear. And for those of us who live in this part of the world may find similarities in the way Trump and his administration is treating the media in the US and the way media in some of our countries in South Asia is treated. President Trump has employed the "divide and rule" policy by dividing the media, and there is now the "friendly" media which, among other things, throws only friendly questions at him. And the rest of the media, which exposes the follies and the lies of the administration, which some of the White House staff, including its main occupant, so nonchalantly dispense, is depicted as the "enemy of the people". And we now have a new euphemism for a lie -- alternative facts, that Trump and his principal advisors are making the Americans swallow. The "unfriendly" media is being considered by the new US administration as the main opposition in the US. Isn't that the natural disposition of autocrats towards the fourth estate?
When frustrations and desperation drive the President to bar some members of the print and electronic media from the White House, it doubly validates the apprehension that the Trump administration may well be on the slippery slope to fascism.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.