Lügenpresse, or “lying press,” was the derisive term employed by Adolf Hitler to undermine the legitimacy of and, ultimately, take control of the free press in Germany. Once accomplished, the media — print and broadcast — operated in strict compliance with the dictates of the Nazi regime. The media were deployed to reinforce the real or imaginary grievances of the German people and channel these anxieties into political measures that ultimately eradicated civil liberty and democracy.
The modern-day equivalent of lügenpresse is the term “fake news,” the contemptuous term employed by Donald Trump to raise doubt regarding the veracity of the media and, ultimately, to undermine the legitimacy of the free press in America. His comment on Twitter in February that the press is “the enemy of the American people” was extraordinary, even by the standards of a person who routinely makes bizarre statements.
Our Founding Fathers were of the opinion that freedom of the press was the cornerstone of our democracy and the basis of all of the freedoms embodied in our Constitution. When one freedom is threatened, freedom itself is threatened. Without freedom of the press, democracy is subject to the dictates of an authoritarian regime, a predilection embodied in both word and deed of Donald Trump.