You want fake news? Here’s some fake news about fake news.
William Randolph Hearst, impresario of yellow journalism around the end of the 19th century, was described as such a powerful press baron that, it was said, he basically started the Spanish-American War as a stunt to boost newspaper sales.
The story goes that when he was told by Frederick Remington, the already-famous illustrator he had sent to Cuba to document supposed battles there, that there were no battles to record, Hearst famously replied, “You furnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.”
That story is now thought to be apocryphal at best. But it was too good not to mimic in Orson Welles’ version of Hearst’s life, “Citizen Kane,” and not to otherwise be brought out in appropriate moments.
This is such a moment.
There is no crisis on the U.S-Mexico border. Fox News can’t even provide the pictures. But the president of the United States has declared a formal national emergency, an excuse for an unconstitutional power grab so he can build, or plan to build, or pretend to build, a multi-billion-dollar wall along that frontier.
First he tried shutting down the government for more than a month — an economically disastrous month for both innocent government employees and the whole of the nation — in an attempt to get $5 billion for his foolish wall project.
When that didn’t work, the president capitulated to a new spending bill Friday, only to immediately announce that, Congress and the Constitution be damned, he was going to scare up $3.6 billion that had been allocated for military construction projects and add another $3 billion from accounts that are, arguably at least, within the president’s power to reallocate.
He did so repeating his phony, scaremongering claims that an invasion of disease-ridden, murderous drug dealers is pouring across our southern border, requiring extraordinary steps to protect innocent Americans.
Drugs, often carried by highly unsavory people, do come across the border. Through legal ports of entry. Because there is an insatiable appetite for them here.
But the real crisis, to the extent there is one, is felt not by Americans, even in border towns such as El Paso, but by desperate, downtrodden and dirt-poor refugees who have every treaty, legal and human right to seek asylum in this land of asylum-seekers. The president’s repeated abuse of real pain felt by real people, including Americans who have really been victimized by drug gangs, is a disgrace.
It is also disgraceful that he raises these false flags on the day after the first anniversary of the shootings at the high school in Parkland, Fla.. Such violence is a symptom of a real crisis that has and continues to threaten the safety of Americans, but that doesn’t serve the purpose of the president or his right-wing media allies because such atrocities are generally committed by white, American-born criminals.
One glimmer of hope this week is that some of the president’s fellow Republicans, notably Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Chris Stewart, are at least furrowing their brows in response to this phony national emergency and that they and other Republicans might — just might — stand up to the president and reassert their constitutional powers.
If not them, who? If not now, when?