Jeb Bladine: Most wars begin with demonization

President Donald Trump recently stood on so-called hallowed ground in front of the CIA Memorial Wall — there, presumably, to soothe wounds he inflicted by comparing the U.S. intelligence community to Nazi Germany.

First, however, the president put his tender ego on display by telling an unnecessary lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. Ironically, he preceded that falsehood with this piece of venom:

“As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

In that instant, I realized a war on freedom of the press is underway at the highest level of our federal government.

Demonization is the opening gambit for launching any kind of war, and our new president knows how to stir the cauldrons of fear and hatred in ways reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy. When he has sufficiently weakened public support for protection of press rights, it will become easier to purge some of those freedoms.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Last week, we witnessed a local skirmish in the war against media when a letter-writer asserted that not only should we muzzle our opinions, but we should censor the views of others. It was one of those other opinions, not our own, that prompted this writer to proclaim:

“This is the second attempt by the Fourth Estate to make policy which is reserved to those elected by the people … and which once again demonstrates the News-Register’s patent lack of judgment, responsibility and honesty in reporting.”

Classic McCarthyism. And now, almost 65 years later, classic Trumpism.

Unfortunately, to the great detriment of our country and our world, it works. Republicans demonize Democrats, and vice versa, to win elections; candidates demonize each other; tyrants around the world demonize the United States; interest groups demonize people with different opinions; and inexorably, that language filters naturally into our daily conversations and debates.

Some people will say I’m guilty of the same offense by trying to demonize President Trump, which is not my intent. He became president in a fair Electoral College election, and his views are shared by 46 percent of Americans who voted. He has the right to exercise all the powers we provide to a sitting president, and I hope he uses those powers to benefit our country, our people and the world we inhabit.

But the strategy of demonization and lies must end. It’s as un-American as Joe McCarthy.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.


Horse with no name

Not only a local letter writer thinks you should fall in line with whatever Trump says, but Trump's chief White House strategist, Stephen K. Bannon stated in an interview with the NYT this past Wednesday "“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,”

“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

I think if you understand where Bannon is coming from you will understand why they think Trump was elected. While looking into Bannon, I would also suggest a read or re-read of "Faces of the Enemy" by Sam Keen.

This is exactly the kind of thing the press should be shining a light on as it's duty under the 1st Amendment. Thanks for bring up the subject and thanks for understanding our local community.


Amen, Mr. Bladine, and thank you for this clear-eyed perspective. I note that there is an old Orwell title topping Amazon's best seller list today, a revealing reflection of our times.

"The Party told you to reject all evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."
~George Orwell, 1984

We need to beware those "alternate facts" and remember why our Founders felt so strongly about a free press that they enshrined it into our Constitution.

Mr. Mac

Long live the freedom of the press!


Well said, Mr. Mac.

E.J. Farrar

War on drugs, war on terror, war on the media. Haven't we had enough of these phantom wars? Fear and hate is no way to run a country. I'm glad to see the News-Register calling that out.

Don Dix

E.J.Farrar wrote -- "Fear and hate is no way to run a country".

And yet since the 50s (the beginning of my personal memory) this country has employed many fears mixed with an assortment of hate to keep the citizens on the 'proper track' (the government track, that is).

Late 1950s - 60s -- The communist threat of invasion
Late 60s early 70s -- global cooling
Late 70s -- Jimmy Carter warned of 'peak oil' (gone by 2000)
1980s -- millions will die of cancer -- hole in the ozone
1990s -- Y2K computer scare
2000s -- Global warming
2010s -- Climate change (morphed from GW)

These are only the leading 'threats' that our government has attempted to convince us that we need to heed and prepare to encounter, under government guidance, of course. Which of these actually occurred? -- exactly zero!

H.L Menken once said, "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it".

It seems Menken had a pretty good handle on the workings and dealings of government and wanna-be decision-makers. And his statement fits quite well across the entire spectrum of 'scary scenarios' put forth by the many who desire to rule or be relevant.

Above all, in my opinion, to question such scare tactics must be the first and foremost action. Without careful and informed scrutiny, the fear mongers will run amok!


Mr. Dix – great post! If we thought having Congress squander our tax dollars was painful, well, we ain’t seen nuthin yet. The casino is under new management. The Menken quote is indeed timely and appropriate, but your personal observation is more succinct. You nailed it. My only small suggestion would be to modify the choice of tense. It appears that the tactics went unquestioned and the fear mongers ARE running amok.


treefarmer, I think that it will be difficult to control government spending regardless which party is in control. It seems to be human nature to "want" more than a person is willing to pay and this extends to government services. You can see it any time there is the remotest talk of cutting or controlling any entitlements. In Oregon it is "hitting home" in Oregon as we let PERS payments control public sector budgets.

Don Dix

treefarmer -- thankx for the props.

But, concerning the media, there are some outlets that will not vet the info. It's more of a race to be first to file a report, break the news, if you will. The Chicago Daily Tribune of Nov, 3. 1948 would be the prime example when the headline read 'Dewey Defeats Truman'.

Personally, I have learned to do my own research, which is why I was skeptical of media reports of Hillary's eventual landslide victory (as well as other claims fact). Simply, I just looked at the areas where Hillary focused her campaign -- both coasts, no middle. And the middle was where the victory (or loss) presided. Somehow, the mainstream media never considered this.

The reporting (during the election) was 'alternate facts', which leads back to being first to make the claim.

My advice, for what it is worth, is be skeptical, personally find the truth (it's readily available), and question sketchy details. Menken produced the formula, all anyone has to do use it as a guideline to find accuracy.

Jeb Bladine

Nice collection of posts ... Here's a line I wish I had added as additional advice:

If you're a regular CNN viewer, trying spending a full week watching nothing but FOX news; if FOX is your thing, vice versa; if you have the time, watch them both every day for a week. This is just one example of temporary media switcharoo. It can be real enlightening to watch your own thought process during that kind of experiment, and to think about the thought processes among people who focus primarily on one or the other of the mainstream-media-extremes -- not to mention, the truly extreme versions of different non-mainstream media.


Jeb, your comment is exceptional. When watching these networks for politics, I watch CNN, CNBC and MSNBC almost exclusively. I very seldom, if ever watch the Fox stations. I do this puposely to try understanding these perspectives. It would be interesting for me to see/hear the "behind the scenes" activity of these stations. Who directs the direction of the programming? Who decides the guest commentators? What ratio of "left" or "right" commentators on each panel? Who decides which news clips to focus? Why are the "flash mobs" given so much attention on CNN and MSNBC?The answers to these questions and similar questions have a significant political impact in the United States. It is disappointing that people in the U.S. can be swayed by the presentations and not realizing they are being spoon fed ideologies.


The view from the other side is a great bridge-building approach, I re-express my appreciation for this article, and wholeheartedly recommend the practice of expanding one’s sources. I used to observe the world from my own comfortable bubble - with the exception of PBS which I have watched for many years and consider moderate, “un-spun,” and outside either ideological bubble. I decided to cast a wider net. I wanted to learn how news outlets managed to take a set of facts and craft them for consumption through a targeted red or blue lens. In an ongoing attempt to consider alternate points of view, I do watch at least 6 hours of Fox each week. (OReilly daily and Chris Wallace’s Sunday show.) To be candid, sometimes this feels like torture, but I usually learn something of value. I also read several conservative columnists on a regular basis (Ross Douthat is my favorite) and value those perspectives as well. When trying to understand different positions/ideologies, it is VERY helpful to study what informs the beliefs. The main problem my “opposition research” has revealed is that the “sides” cannot agree on the basic facts of a given issue. “Alternative facts” are poisoning our discourse, dumbing down our citizens, and deepening the divide.

The divisions in America are approaching critical mass. Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves who is benefiting from the calculated efforts to foment fear and pit us against each other? Several of my fellow bloggers here at the N/R forum have made common sense suggestions about finding middle ground. The recommendation to vary our news sources is surely an excellent way to explore that elusive real estate. We need to keep trying to communicate with each other. We must find a way to reunite as Americans who share core values and the desire for a stable democracy. The stakes have never been higher.

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