Category Archives: Blogs

Trump’s attack on black athletes in light of St. Louis’ civil rights protests


by William H. Freivogel

President Trump says his insistence NFL players stand for the national anthem brings Americans together. He claims race has nothing to do with his criticism of the black athletes.

Yet Trump’s Twitter tirade has divided Americans on what the flag and national anthem represent and what constitutes true patriotism. Moreover, race has everything to do with the president’s singling out black athletes and his insistence that team owners fire them for their uppity behavior.

Trump is not the first president to use the American flag or race as wedge issues. But he is the first president to regularly use his bully pulpit to bully American citizens who displease him.

Trump’s “Twitter War” on black athletes is occurring at a time when St. Louisans are protesting police brutality, when the nation is celebrating the Little Rock 9 and when PBS is broadcasting a definitive history of the Vietnam War. Echoes of strife and racial injustice from half a century ago reverberate through today’s events.

Today’s civil rights protests are reminders of protests and police abuse during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when most Americans approved of police beating demonstrators with nightsticks.

They’re reminders of a time when veteran white journalists and politicians admonished Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. against the March on Washington, predicting mayhem in the streets would damage prospects for the Civil Rights Act.

They’re reminders of times when journalists and politicians failed to differentiate between violent and non-violent protests.

They’re reminders of a time when a white woman with a kindly face could spit in the face of a young black student seeking an education in Little Rock.

They’re reminders of a time when another president used patriotism and flag-waving to mobilize his Hard Hat supporters in the Silent Majority against young anti-war protesters.

They’re reminders of a time when those who opposed the Vietnam War were viewed as unpatriotic, even though they thought patriotism required them to challenge their country when it was wrong.

Who owns the flag and patriotism?

Trump says a football player taking a knee during the national anthem makes that athlete a “son of a bitch,” unpatriotic and disrespectful of the military.

But since when do the flag and the National Anthem belong only to flag-wavers and the military? Since when do they represent only those Americans who salute? Don’t these national symbols also represent the dissenters, the protesters, the war critics, and, yes, even those who burn the flag in protest?

Bob Costas, the sports broadcaster who got a start in St. Louis, put it well.

“This is no disrespect to the military,” he said. “Martin Luther King was a patriot. Susan B. Anthony was a patriot. Dissidents are patriots. School teachers and social workers are patriots. Patriotism comes in many forms and what has happened is that it’s been conflated with a bumper sticker-style kind of flag-waving and with the military only, so that people cannot see that in his own way Colin Kaepernick, however imperfectly, is doing a patriotic thing. And so too are some of these other players.”

Nothing to do with race?

Despite the White House claim the president’s tweets have nothing to do with race, Kaepernick has explicitly said he is protesting the mistreatment of African-Americans and people of color by predominantly white police forces.

Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions may think there is no problem with the way police treat minority communities, but events in St. Louis show otherwise.

For almost two weeks protesters have demonstrated against a judge’s decision to acquit former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley of murder in the death of African-American suspect Anthony Lamar Smith. They also have demonstrated against the larger issues of racial injustice that have long persisted in this land of Dred Scott.

The judge may have been legally justified in concluding there was “reasonable doubt” of Stockley’s guilt on the murder charge, just as a grand jury may have been legally correct in deciding not to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson for the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. After all, it is a victory for civil rights when the judicial system protects the liberty of someone scorned in the streets.

Still, both police killings and the way the militarized police violated the First Amendment rights of citizens and journalists during the ensuing protests show there are much bigger civil rights issues at stake — that St. Louis and the nation have a long way before achieving equality.

Too many times police escalate confrontations with suspects as Stockley did during the high-speed chase through St. Louis streets, as Wilson did in stopping Brown for jaywalking, as New York police did with the deadly choke-hold on Eric Garner for selling illegal cigarettes and as Cleveland police did when they killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice as he held a starter pistol in a park.

And too many times police, in responding to mostly peaceful civil-rights protests, ignore the rights of people to protest in public places. The “kettling,” or herding of protesters in downtown St. Louis on the Sunday after the not-guilty verdict, was a blatant example of St. Louis police officers defiantly violating the constitutional rights of protesters. Police failed to warn non-violent demonstrators they were involved in an illegal assembly, instead surrounding them, refusing to let them leave the area and then using chemical agents while arresting them.

If the Justice Department were doing its job — as it did during the Obama administration — it would have launched a “pattern or practice” investigation of St. Louis police practices. The Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Ferguson police and municipal courts found long-standing and egregiously unconstitutional practices.

The Justice Department has the power and responsibility to conduct this kind of police investigation as a result of a law passed because of the police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991. But Sessions and Trump are not enforcing the law.

The pattern and practice of the Trump presidency is undeniable: From the Obama birther claim, to branding illegal immigrants as rapists, to pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, to equivocation in the face of Nazis and white supremacists, to a demand that ESPN fire a black commentator, to the weekend war on black athletes.

Perhaps Colin Kaepernick has a patriotic point to make when he kneels on the field to bring attention to America’s unfulfilled promise.

The view from China

By Lu Fan

Chinese media think that U.S. and South Korean media are inaccurately framing relations between China and North Korea as China acting as big brother to the North. This inaccurate framing results in an expectation that China will take an important role in controlling North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s called “China’s responsibility theory.”

The basis for reasons for the theory is:

  • Korea even pledged allegiance to some feudal dynasties in China in history
  • In 1950s, China sent troops to the Korean peninsula to support Pyongyang against the United States Army.
  • China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner. According to Observatory of Economic Complexity, 85 percent of North Korea’s imported commodities come from China.

However, this is not what Chinese government or its official media think. A commentary in Global Times on Sept. 7, a newspaper launched and published by People’s Daily, the official newspaper of Chinese Communist Party, said the influence China has on North Korea has been mistakenly exaggerated, and that playing a leading role in the Korean Peninsula issues is beyond China’s capability.

“North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapon is the result of the abnormal politics of the whole Northeastern Asian. North Korea itself and the U.S. are responsible for this result. Some Chinese overestimate the power of China…” However, a reader commented below the article: “Since China has chosen to let North Korea be independent on how to develop, then China has to accept the consequence of doing so.”

Another commentary in this newspaper published in July said “the U.S. and South Korea always try to frame the complicated situation based on their own logic, ” so “China’s responsibility theory” prevails. The commentary also called for official guidance on public opinions to eliminate “China’s responsibility theory” as Chinese government usually guide and shape public opinion by publishing information and reporting on official media.

A program called Chinese Perspective (Shendu Guoji) of CCTV, the state-run TV station in China, also made a similar point in March when South Korea and the U.S. were conducting joint military exercises. The program blamed the U.S. for forcing North Korea to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and later prepare for war.   The editor of the program said, “The more pressure the U.S. puts on North Korea, the more North Korea develops nuclear weapons. The Korean nuclear crisis has entered a vicious cycle,” and cited Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The cause and crux of the North Korean nuclear issue lies not with China, but with America. The nature of the North Korean nuclear issue is a North Korea/U.S. conflict… and the one who caused the problem should solve it.”

The editor of Chinese Perspective also says the current situation is a result of “extreme mutual distrust between the U.S. and North Korea.” The initiative to solve the problems is in the hand of the U.S., according to Teng Jianqun, director of the Institute of U.S. Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.   According to Teng, the U.S. wouldn’t sign the peace treaty because “it would not have the excuse to cause chaos, stir up trouble and create tensions” on the Korean peninsula.

There were a few dissents to this consensus view. Qiu Zhenhai, an analyst of Hong Kong Phoenix TV Station, said on Sept. 7 that the U.S. and China need to take responsibility for solving the nuclear issue as they are the two largest economic powers in the world.

To respond to North Korea’s possessing and launching nuclear weapons, South Korea deployed its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system. China has opposed deployment of Thadd in South Korea from the very beginning, saying it threatened the safety of China and Chinese people. China News Live, a program of Hong Kong Phoenix TV Station, reported that China regards North Korea developing nuclear weapons as extreme, but the deployment of Thaad is as extreme as North Korea because it threatens the peace of Korean Peninsula. Yang Xiyu, a member of China Institute of International Studies, said in an interview in China New Live that Thaad gives North Korea an excuse to launch missiles, which is a security threat to China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. as well as the Sino-U.S. cooperation on North Korea nuclear issue.

A commentary of Global Times in August refers the action of South Korea deploying Thaad as reckless and stupid because Thaad isn’t going to solve nuclear problem. It also says that Western countries always bear moral arrogance towards non-Western world, which needs to be restrained because the situation is not as simple as only NK did something wrong.

Social media in—entertainment, fear and censorship

Before North Korea’s missile launch Sept. 3, Chinese social media users considered Kim Jung-un’s missile launch a threat only in words. Many social media users had joked that such news about Trump and Kim fighting in words should be moved to entertainment section.

However, things changed Sept. 3. At first, most mainstream media reported that an earthquake happened in North Korea. About nine hours later, CCTV published on Weibo, a Twitter-like social networking site in China, that North Koreans were conducting nuclear missile test according to Chinese government’s preliminary judgment.

According to the BBC, the popular social networking site Weibo and mobile APP Wechat (Chinese version of WhatsApp) were highly censored after the launch. Weibo users still cannot see any results if searching for the word “hydrogen bomb” on Weibo until this GJR newsletter is posted. Instead, they see a notice of “according to relative law, regulation and policy, the search results of ‘’ are not shown.”

But Weibo users still find a way to express their feelings. One of the users “Yaoguangxiao_wayne” posted on Sept. 5: “As a Chinese, one of the surviving skills is to sort out the truth from various life-concerning but paradox information from authoritative sources. Since the day before yesterday (Sept 3), (the official media) have been deleting posts and announce that the test has no influence on China while publishing such information via the Weather Bureau…” The information this user refers to is that Chinese Weather Bureau announced they had started an emergency security alert and warned of a burst of nuclear environment pollution, suggesting an emergency plan for members of the public to protect themselves.

Chinese Weather Bureau announced on Sept. 10 they had withdrawn such an alert after they had tested the air and found nothing dangerous.   However, many users left comments below this post that they do not believe the Weather Bureau’s claim that there was nothing dangerous.

South Koreans more worried about U.S. and Trump than North Korean nuclear threat

By Jin Lee

If you Google, South Korea and Seoul are listed as two of the safest countries and cities in the world. That South Korea is the safest country is sharply contrasted with the images of the Korean Peninsula, as described recently by the media in both the United States and around the world. Although North Korea has been a big headache to the U.S. since the Cold War, the nuclear threat of North Korea became more intense lately, especially since President Donald Trump took office.

It is true North Korea’s nuclear testing appears improved enough to threaten the U.S. The missile launched late in August traveled some 1,700 miles and flew over the Japanese territory. Time magazine said, given the distance and type of the missile, the recent test shows North Korea is targeting the U.S. territory of Guam. Indeed, North Korea stated it is “examining a plan” to strike Guam with missiles, hours after Trump warned the North in early August that any threat to the U.S. would face “fire and fury.”

This situation is translated as a “crisis” on the entire Korean Peninsula by both the U.S. and international news media. The frequently appearing news coverage on the Peninsula is heightening the world’s attention and fear as the headlines of major news agencies demonstrate. For instance: “Putin warns of ‘global catastrophe’ over North Korea” (CNN, Sept. 5), “Trump renews threat of force against North Korea over nuclear weapons” (Washington Post, Sept. 8), “Trump: ‘Sad day’ for North Korea if U.S. takes military action” (Reuters, Sept. 8).

However, media in South Korea show the situation in a different light, as “the crisis” is not perceived as provocations of the North and thus fail to draw attention by South Korean citizens. On Aug. 29, when North Korea confirmed the “success” of a ballistic missile test, the most read news stories on South Korean portal websites, Naver and Daum, were “Gangseo District residents (in Seoul) disagreement over a planned special education school for disabled children,” “South Korea spy agency admits attempting to rig 2013 presidential election for the conservative party,” “Hurricane Harvey resulted from global warming,” and weather news. News about the nuclear threat from North Korea’s missile test was located below these and other national news stories and South Koreans saw little news of North Korea’s nuclear tests.

On Twitter on that day, South Korean users massively tweeted about “a clear sky signaled the arrival of the fall in Korea” while sarcastically but rarely mentioning the missile test. South Korea’s fall sky, while clear, is difficult to see due to air pollution from China. One tweet was retweeted more than 41,000 times, saying:

“N.K.: Missile launched! East Sea, passed! Japan, passed!

Japan: OMG, what’s going on? Military provocation? War?

S.K.: Wow, such a fall sky today”

The number of retweets of this tweet demonstrates while South Koreans know about North Korea’s testing, they are not alarmed and see it simply as “old” news.

In U.N. speech on September 19, Trump threatens “to totally destroy North Korea” calling Kim Jong Un as “rocket man.” South Korean newspapers translate it into Korean in their online news articles. One comment on the news article on the Web amounted 1,865 likes within four hours, said, “Is this correct translation? Don’t mistranslate and write news overreacting. I am more scared by journalism that provokes fear and plays on South Koreans than by North Korea’s nuclear threat.”

When Trump tweeted “Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad” on September 17, major South Korean news agencies mistranslated: “A long gas pipe line is formed in North Korea now. Regretful.” Then news continues, “This tweet seems to show Trump’s opinion opposed to President Moon’s discussion of an idea to connect gas pipe lines through South Korea, North Korea, and Russia in Moon’s last visit in Russia. The point is made that Trump’s tweet may criticize South Korea attempting to enhance economic cooperation with North Korea through negotiations with Russia, an ally of North Korea. Given that Trump tweet mentions a call with President Moon, there is a chance Trump might have delivered his opinions directly to President Moon.”

Major news agencies in South Korea are undergoing journalists’ protests, being accused of news managers’ interference in news coverage in favor of the previous government (President Lee, President Park) and Korean conservative party (Liberty Korea Party) after the center-left party Democratic Party won 2017 presidential election and became the ruling party.

Reasons for this lack of concern are varied. One might blame political indifference of young generations or one might blame the characteristic of Twitter as one of the new media where “soft news” is more consumed than “hard news” as users are free to say anything at any moment. Too, there are other explanations for indifference or sarcasm toward North Korea’s missile tests, which are found on new media, such as Twitter, Facebook and other online sites.

While some South Korean traditional media talk about a possible scenario of North Korea’s attack on the South, implying a need to strengthen the army, scholars and international news agencies point out that North Korea targets the U.S., not South Korea. The size of the Korean Peninsula, some 87,270 square miles, is about one-half the size of California. Given this, North Korea’s attempt to broaden the range of its missile is not seen by most media here as targeting the South. South Korean citizens acknowledge this, and thus show little interest in do the North’s missile tests.

In addition, North Korea has repeatedly made such threats over the years as there have been a number of such tests since the end of the Korean War. Tests of missiles have often been covered by “old” media when South Korea’s congress or government needs to conceal something. The most recent example is the corruption scandal of the former President Park. When the scandal began to be revealed, the government and conservative party (majority then) played the North Korea card to distract people’s attention by focusing on security.

However, South Koreans no longer seem to buy this idea. Thus, when the political scandal was exposed, on many online sites and new media South Korean users predicted the missile tests of the North would be performed, and thus covered by the government and news. And that’s what happened. The next day, the North’s missile test took place and the South Korean government and congress used a familiar script in addressing its population: “Dear South Korean citizens. The threat of the North Korean nuclear issue becomes more intense. However, this is the time for us to hold our hands together and push through today’s difficulties…” As this script has been repeated so many times in past years, news of the North Korean missile testing was simply dismissed by most South Koreans.

In recent weeks in South Korea there have been critiques of the Trump administration on Facebook, Twitter and the Internet. One Twitter example said “Trump or Bush? They are just same. Terrify people, evoke fear by repeating North Korea. Trump will try to sell weapons, as always.” Similar rhetoric has frequently appeared in many posts on South Korean Facebook, Twitter and in online news.

Predicted on tweets, three days after North Korea’s missile test, Trump tweeted, “I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.” A number of South Korean tweets followed, with people swearing and saying, “I knew it; this was the plan.”

Hong-gul Kim, son of Kim Dae-Jung (the 15th president of South Korea), posted his tweet, “Trump is making every effort to take advantage of this nuclear crisis of North Korea as a chance for selling the weapon.”

Reports from some South Korean news agencies criticized the U.S. Seoul Sinmun, for example, asked in early September, “Trump’s outright pressure on us to buy weapon. Is there a deal going on between South Korea and the U.S.?”

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, South Korea is a major consumer of U.S. weapons, and, the U.S. government sent about $10 billion worth of weapons to foreign countries in 2016. It has long been reported here that the U.S. exerts pressure on South Korea to purchase “high priced but low quality” American weapons.

The view from Taiwan

by Wen-Hung Hsieh and Shu-Ling Wu

The end of WWII led to the split of many regions in Asia. Today, the division between North and South Korea and the complexity of the situation between China and Taiwan remain two of the most pressing issues perplexing countless Asia experts. And with North Korea’s nuclear detonation in early September, the largest such to date, the situation is more tense than ever before.

North Korea and Taiwan, despite their differing political ideologies nevertheless share common ground. They are both being isolated by the international community while also being intricately connected to the United States, China and Japan. The vastly different ideologies of North Korea and Taiwan have resulted in North Korea being grouped with China while Taiwan is constantly seeking U.S. and Japanese involvement. So how does Taiwan look at the escalating tension between the U.S. and North Korea?

U.S. options

On August 29, at roughly 6 a.m. local time, an abrupt missile warning from Japan’s government shocked and frightened the Japanese society. North Korea launched a missile over Japan that crashed into the Pacific Ocean. According to CNN, the launch may have been a strong message in response to the joint South Korean-American military exercises. In the wake of this incident, U.S. President Donald Trump warned North Korea that “all options are on the table.” Due to Taiwan’s unique political situation, the media in Taiwan show diverging opinions with regards to the U.S.’s responses and solutions to the military threats from North Korea.

New Taiwan Refueling, a popular talk show hosted by Liao Xiao-jun of the SET News Channel, reported the U.S. could easily stop any attack should North Korea strike at American territory.  SET has asserted the U.S. is ready to fend off North Korean missiles aimed at Guam, and any attack directed at U.S. soil would justify a full-fledged retaliation, potentially resulting in the end of the current North Korean regime.  Nonetheless, an expert of missile engineering Zhang Cheng, said the U.S. offers an alternative for Pyongyang, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for the stability of the regime.  The talk show emphasized that the U.S. — and the Trump administration —had the power in control of the hostile situation in the Pacific.

On the other hand, another talk show, Deep Throat News, hosted by Ping Xiu-lin of Chung T’ien Television, presented a different perspective on U.S. options in the face of North Korean threats. This talk show strongly questioned America’s role as the protector of its allies in the Pacific by basing its argument on how the U.S. had responded to the new missile-testing over Japan. An invited expert on domestic and international affairs, Lai Yue-qian, said the U.S. apparently had not kept its promise to shoot down North Korean missiles flying across Japan’s territory. He claimed the anti-missile system, Patriot PAC-3, deployed in Japan and the recently deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System in South Korea, might not have the capability to intercept North Korean missiles at altitudes above 500 kilometers, which is beyond the range of interception for both anti-missile systems deployed by America in Japan and South Korea.

The talk show also suggested that had the U.S. attempted to intercept the missile and failed, it would seriously have affected the U.S.’s selling of the anti-missile systems to other nations. Furthermore, Tainan City Councilor Xie Long-jie said that with the Trump administration’s focus on America’s own domestic economy, going head to head with North Korea would not be in the U.S.’s best interests. However, Gao Si-buo, an associate professor of the Department of Law at Shih Hsin University, argued that the only option left for the U.S. is to accept North Korea as a nuclear power in the same way countries as are America, India and Pakistan, and to seek a diplomatic means to keep peace with North Korea.

Taiwan’s stance

At the August Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue in Taipei, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan is committed to its partners on a coordinated response to the instability in the Korean Peninsula through efforts such as economic sanctions on North Korea. Under Tsai’s administration, siding with the U.S. and Japan on issues regarding North Korea is aligned with her attempts in seeking partnerships with other nations to gain global recognition.

Tsai’s response has to do with Taiwan’s politically ambiguous status where Taiwan is neither a country nor controlled by China and therefore has been marginalized from world events. However, Tsai’s inclination to work with the U.S. and Japan is controversial. Storm Media Group in Taiwan, for instance, published a recent article criticizing such an approach to gain global recognition.

According to the article, this is not Taiwan’s first time being actively involved in a global crises in order to be recognized as a nation. Taiwan, for example, volunteered to send troops to assist the U.S. with the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Such attempts were never formally acknowledged by the U.S. The article’s author, Chen Zong-yi, said endangering Taiwan’s own safety in exchange for global recognition is unwise as demonstrated by Taiwan’s being targeted by terrorist groups as a result of supporting the U.S. with logistics in the Iraq War.

While Taiwan enjoys a high degree of freedom in news reporting, both the media and government examine international issues with their own interests and unique international status in mind. And the way they approach the U.S.-North Korea tension is no exception.


Authors’ note:

Wen-Hung Hsieh is a PhD student of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is currently researching topics regarding the relationship between materiality and issues of identity, with the primary focus on China, Taiwan and Japan.

Shu-Ling Wu is Assistant Professor of Chinese at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She enjoys teaching Chinese language and culture courses and aims to cultivate experts who can contribute to the exchanges and dialogues between the East and the West.  

This isn’t funny


by William H. Freivogel

My nephew, a lawyer, said recently that President Trump is hilarious. The press falls right into Trump’s trap by taking him too seriously, he said.

A few days later, my tennis partner, another lawyer, said the same thing. The press takes Trump’s tweets too literally, he said.

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, wrote last week that the press has easily fallen into its assigned role in the Trump reality show by playing the part of the Evil Empire.

And last Friday, the conservative commentator on NPR’s weekly review of the news defended one of the worst weeks of the Trump presidency with peals of laughter. John Phillips of the Orange County Register said cheerfully,  “I love the speeches. And I love the Twitter feed because it’s just this never-ending festivious airing of the grievances. And look…He ran as a disruptor. He ran as a guy who was going to…drain the swamp.”

Maybe Trump would seem funny, in some crude way, if he were still a blowhard TV celebrity rather than a blowhard president occupying the most serious job on the planet — the one that protects nuclear codes and the values of what Reagan called a Shining City upon a Hill.

But last week Trump continued his unfunny war on the press, the rule of law and the principle of equality that American patriots declared as the reason to fight the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

He did all of these things in one stroke by pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been found guilty of criminal contempt after he ignored the Bill of Rights, defied the federal courts, persecuted Latinos and arrested journalists.

Pardoning Arpaio is an apt reminder of Trump’s glaring deficiencies as president.  Arpaio:

  • joined Trump in the racist, untrue birther movement to delegitimize the nation’s first black president.
  • joined Trump in calling for a border wall to keep out Mexicans.
  • ignored the orders of federal courts telling the sheriff to stop violating the Constitution by rounding up Latinos on nothing more than suspicion. Trump saw nothing wrong with the way Sheriff Joe did his job.

Former Sen. John C. Danforth, the founder of the modern Republican Party in Missouri, put Trump in his place in a Washington Post op-ed last week, saying Trump is the antithesis of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln.

Danforth wrote, “We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and our founding principle is our commitment to holding the nation together… Lincoln believed that we were one nation, and he led us in a war to preserve the Union. That founding principle of the party is also a founding principle of the United States.

“Now comes Trump, who is exactly what Republicans are not…. We are the party of the Union, and he is the most divisive president in our history…. It isn’t a matter of occasional asides, or indiscreet slips of the tongue uttered at unguarded moments. Trump is always eager to tell people that that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, ‘You are not one of us,’ the opposite of ‘e pluribus unum.’ And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses…. Our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril.”

Sen. Danforth is a serious man. He doesn’t seem amused.

No, Mr. President

by William H. Freivogel


No, Mr. President, it isn’t true that journalists “don’t like our country.” Our job is to hold our country and our president to the values of freedom, equality and diversity that make America special.

No, it isn’t true journalists are “liars” and “sick people” who write “fake news” and stir up “division” in the country. The news you call fake is real and the sharp divisions since Charlottesville are largely a product of your making. Think about last week’s unhinged press conference in Trump Tower.

No, journalists are not trying to “take back our history and our culture.” And exactly what is it about the culture of the Confederacy and the Old South that you want to celebrate? The treasonous attempt of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee to destroy the United States? The evil and bloody war to preserve the original sin of slavery? The post-war disenfranchisement, segregation and lynchings of African-Americans in carnival-like settings?

No, Mr. President, it isn’t okay to whip up the crowd to get them shouting at the press corps. Journalists have thick skins but it is beneath the office of president to lead your supporters in chants directed at the people who are the eyes and ears of the rest of the nation.

No, you haven’t accomplished more in seven months than any president in history, although your total number of misleading and false claims is a record, now topping 1,000.

In one long, rambling speech to shouting supporters in Phoenix Tuesday night, Trump said all of these things in expanding on what has become a perpetual war against “the enemy of the people.”

CNN’s Sara Murray reported “most of the people at these rallies — even ones booing — treat it as a joke,” but added “there are some who treat Trump’s ‘fake news’ diatribes seriously.

“They believe it when Trump lies about the cameras being turned off. They harass reporters and photographers. Trump knows what he’s saying is false. People close to him know it puts journalists at risk just for doing their jobs. He does it anyway.”

Even though Trump has failed to pass signature legislation on health or tax or infrastructure, the seven months of his failed presidency have been remarkable for scandal and dysfunction.

Who would have guessed that by summer Trump would be attacking Sen. Mitch McConnell or that the Senate majority leader would be wondering out loud whether Trump’s presidency could survive the damage the commander-in-chief already had inflicted?

Who would have thought on Inauguration Day that Flynn, Priebus, Bannon, Spicer and Comey all would be gone?

Who would have thought the leaders of industry would resign from Trump’s White House panels because of the president’s failure of moral leadership after Charlottesville?

Who would have thought Robert Mueller would be special counsel delving deeply into the Russia investigation — an investigation that has upset Trump so much he tried to get the FBI director to drop it, tried to get intelligence chiefs to resist it, fired the FBI director over it, dictated the misleading cover story to conceal it and berated Sessions and McConnell for failing to protect him from it?

Mr. President, the press’s job is not to make the nation’s CEO look good. It’s to hold the president and other public officials to the nation’s laws, constitutional principles and core values. If the president makes mistakes, it’s the press’ job to alert the American people. If the other branches of government fail to check presidential abuses, it’s the press’ job to serve as a constitutional check by bringing the abuses to light.

Yes, the press wants to make American great again. Shining a light both on the president’s — or the nation’s — accomplishments and shortcomings is a journalist’s form of patriotism.

The Constitution under stress after Charlottesville


by William H. Freivogel

The bloody weekend in Charlottesville, Va. has put enormous strain on President Donald Trump, the First Amendment and constitutional checks on the president.

Trump flunked the stress test spectacularly in his unhinged, red-faced rant of a press conference by failing to speak to the nation with the voice of moral authority.

The First Amendment emerged from the weekend tattered, facing new questions about how to protect protests when demonstrators are hateful and armed.

But the separation of powers held up pretty well. An unprecedented number of top Republicans criticized their own party’s president for failing to call out white supremacists and neo-Nazis. And the mainstream media continued to pepper Trump with hard questions in the face of the president’s repeated and false refrain about “fake media.” People would understand his view on Charlottesville, he claimed, “if the press were not fake and were honest.”

Going ‘rogue’

Trump wasn’t supposed to answer questions after his Trump Tower event on infrastructure on Tuesday, but he went “rogue,” as one staffer put it. Chief of Staff John Kelly stood glumly to one side.

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, standing near the president, was “particularly displeased” according to Politico, that “the president launched into a rant about the culpability of the ‘alt-left’ while calling some of the protesters at the white nationalist rally ‘very fine people.’”

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, also was trapped next to Trump. McConnell on Wednesday said simply, “There are no good neo-Nazis.”

Exhibiting the nastiness he shows when backed into a corner, Trump went out of his way to attack Sen. John McCain, R-Az. Asked about McCain’s criticism of the alt-right, Trump shot back, “you mean Sen. McCain who voted against us getting good health care.” Then, in an especially distasteful quip, he added sarcastically, “I’m sure Sen. McCain must know what he’s talking about it.” McCain is under treatment for brain cancer.

By Wednesday the resignations of seven top industry leaders from presidential advisory councils led Trump to dissolve two of them. He didn’t hesitate to blast some of those who quit in protest for failing to bring jobs back to the United States.

Sprinkled throughout the press conference were attacks at the media. “I’m not finished, fake news,” he said when he thought a reporter was interrupting. At another point, he suggested his view would be better understood “if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you are not….”

“Unlike the media before I make a statement I like to know the facts … I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters” — a claim that doesn’t pass the sniff test coming from the president who has lied more often in his first year of office than any other president.

But most disheartening was the ignorance of American history explicit and implicit in his comments. He defended the “very fine people” there because of “the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.” He said these protests were understandable when “you are changing history, you are changing culture” by taking down Confederate monuments.

Never mind that these “very fine people” were standing next to white supremacists and Nazi’s chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” Never mind that the city had changed the name from Lee Park to Emancipation Park. Never mind that Trump failed to see the difference between Robert E. Lee, a traitor who fought a war to destroy the United States, and George Washington, who fought a war to create it.

First Amendment

After the death of a counter-protester and two police officers, the ACLU and federal courts faced criticism for having forced the city to allow the demonstration in Emancipation Park, rather than another park a mile away.

As a matter of black letter law, U.S. District Judge Glen E. Conrad was right to issue an injunction forcing the city to allow the demonstration in Emancipation Park. The judge noted that the city had tried to move the white supremacists’ rally away from Emancipation Park, but had not revoked the counter-demonstrators’ permits for the area near that park. This amounted to discrimination against the white supremacists based on the content of their speech, which violates the First Amendment.

But Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern suggest future First Amendment cases may have to factor in the growth of the Second Amendment and open carry movement. They wrote:

“The judge (Conrad) failed to answer the central question: When demonstrators plan to carry guns and cause fights, does the government have a compelling interest in regulating their expressive conduct more carefully than it’d be able to otherwise? This is not any one judge’s fault. It is a failure of our First Amendment jurisprudence to reckon with our Second Amendment reality.”

Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, made a similar point in the Lawfare blog. He noted that Justice Robert H. Jackson had once cautioned that if the court “does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.

Twitter shaming

Another media-related First Amendment issue emerging from Charlottesville was the Twitter campaign – @YesYoureRacist – to shame white supremacists and neo-Nazis who attended the rally.

A first casualty was Cole White, a cook at a hot dog stand in Berkeley, Calif. who lost his job after he was outed as a demonstrator. White has no First Amendment protection because the amendment does not protect people from a private employer.

But Peter Cvjetanovic, a student and employee at the University of Nevada does have constitutional protection from the 10,000 petitioners who demanded him be expelled for his views.

The university said it rejected his views but added, “there is no constitutional or legal reason to expel him from our University or to terminate his employment.”

The university is right. As despicable as Cvjetanovic’s views are, they cannot be the basis of punishment by a state institution.

Those joining in the Twitter campaign might ask themselves how they would feel about a social media campaign to expel a member of Black Lives Matter or the anti-fascist Antifa group? They also might ask whether they want to be part of an online vigilante attack that sometimes mistakenly singles out lookalikes.

In an online piece of the New Yorker, the insightful journalist Robin Wright asks alarmingly, “Is America headed for a new kind of Civil War?” Wright quotes experts who warn America is not immune from the problems that befall other countries.

But that is a risk we should be able to avoid as long as the press and courts check the power of this wayward president, as long as Republicans with the spine of Sen. McCain criticize Trump’s excesses and as long as the First Amendment provides a constitutional way for protesters, right and left, to vent their anger.

‘It’s patriotic to question authority’

Publisher’s note:  Margaret W. Freivogel wrote this appreciation of Dudman on his retirement from the Bangor Daily News in 2012.  The piece appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, which merged later with St. Louis Public Radio where Freivogel was editor.  (She is the wife of GJR publisher William H. Freivogel.)

by Margaret Wolf Freivogel

It’s appropriate that Richard Dudman, the quintessential intrepid journalist, retired this week of July 4. For him, journalism has always been a patriotic act.

Of course, Dick has claimed to retire before. He retired as Washington bureau chief for the Post-Dispatch in 1981 after a career that included ground-breaking coverage of the Vietnam War, 40 days in captivity in Cambodia and numerous other scoops. He moved to Maine, only to resurface as an editor for a university-based international news service. He retired from that but emerged 12 years ago as an editorial writer for the Bangor Daily News.

His last of more than a thousand editorials urged Maine’s senate candidates to forgo funding from Super PACs. Characteristically, he argued against secrecy in government. “The high court has held that money is a form of speech and that corporations have the same First Amendment right of free speech as individuals,” Dick wrote. “But the anonymous donations restrict the public’s ability to track which special interests are influencing which campaigns and candidates.”

At 94, Dick may be serious about retiring this time, though I hope he’ll find a new way to continue sharing his signature pithy insights. One I recall well was reserved for slow reporters. “He who sits on hot story gets ass burned,” Dick advised. He always kept a bag packed in his Washington office so he could be out the door before editors had time for second thoughts about sending him on assignment.

With the media world battered by cross currents of economic and technological change, Dick’s work and life shine as a guidestar. His devotion to traditional journalistic principles and zest for trying something new are just the example we need to navigate the shoals of uncertainty.

As Dick learned, charting a new course can be much harder in real time than it looks in retrospect. The love-it-or-leave-it crowd did not cotton to his reporting on the Vietnam War. They didn’t want to hear that reality on the ground was not nearly so sunny as the view from the official briefing in Saigon. The Globe-Democrat once denounced Dick’s work in a front page editorial headlined, if memory serves, “For America or for Hanoi.”

In contrast, Dick believes the most valuable service that journalists can perform for their country is to provide a clear-eyed challenge to conventional wisdom. Years ago, when some critics of the war were burning flags, he built a flag pole at his Maine house and called neighbors together to raise the colors. “Some of our liberal summer friends had questioned why would want to put up a flag pole and suggested that I sounded like a superpatriot,” he recalled this week. Dick told them, “It’s patriotic to question authority.”

Shortly before he left the Post-Dispatch, Dick found himself in uncharted waters. Two eager reporters proposed the crazy idea of sharing a job in the Washington bureau, where 24-7 dedication to work was the prevailing ethic. Would these reporters be sufficiently committed to the calling, he wondered? Dick sought advice from a friend, the feminist author Betty Friedan. “Do it,” she advised. And, with a nudge from publisher Joseph Pulitzer Jr., he did.

The unconventional arrangement was a life-saver for my husband, Bill, and me as we struggled with the logistics of raising our young family. And it turned out to be a good deal for the paper, which could deploy us as a sort of perpetual motion reporting machine.

On Dick’s last day in the office, President Ronald Reagan was shot. Dick ran up Connecticut Avenue to the scene. I rushed to George Washington hospital, where a shanty town of reporters and equipment instantly materialized to keep watch. That evening, Bill arrived in a taxi. I handed him my notes and he handed me the kids, ensuring seamless 24-hour coverage without interruption for sleep.

Then as now, tradition plus innovation works.