On Friday's Amanpour & Co. on PBS and CNN International host Christiane Amanpour held a discussion on how leaders could exploit the coronavirus pandemic. The PBS host set up authoritarianism as the topic of discussion:
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Now, amid the battle against the coronavirus, the head of the United Nations has warned about a pandemic of misinformation, and reminds us all that facts and science must lead the way at all times. And, while many people are suffering from the health and economic devastation caused by coronavirus, some governments are seeing an opportunity to grab more power and erode fragile democracies.
Translation: the U.S government.
After introducing The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum and David Rohde, executive editor of The New Yorker online, Amanpour began by asking for reaction to President Trump's spitballing about disinfectants and ultraviolet light to treat coronavirus patients. Rohde proclaimed "I think this is the culmination of years of Trump sort of undermining the public's trust in experts and the news media."
Applebaum asserted that President Trump has a history of using "disinformation" to undermine his opponents:
ANNE APPLEBAUM, THE ATLANTIC: ...Disinformation is a tactic, and it's one that Trump has used to great success in his political career, starting with using it against President Obama, accusing him of having been born outside the United States. It's also a tactic that many other leaders have used frequently and regularly as a way of distracting their populations -- as a way of dividing them -- and also as a way of undermining real news and undermining real facts so that when they are accused of being corrupt or when unflattering stories about them appear, all they have to do is say, "Oh, that's the fake news media -- we don't believe them."
We've grown rather used to this in the United States, but of course this is a tactic used around the world by many leaders, you know, it's not just Trump alone. And, in many ways, it's Trump borrowing from the authoritarian playbook. It's the main tool that he's used, and he's borrowed it from President Putin. He's borrowed it from leaders of Turkey and other places. And now we're seeing what the real impact of it is, you know. In a terrible pandemic situation where we need facts and science, a part of the population is no longer willing to listen to real news.
Amanpour replied "I want to come back to you, Anne, about the central thesis of what we are trying to get to, and that is, you know, this sort of increasing grab and slouching towards authoritarianism." Then she went back to Rohde and asked him why he wrote his book, Deep State, about the government in the U.S., leading him to argue that the Trump administration undermines sources of information while he tries to take more power:
DAVID ROHDE: It's become part of the Trumpian lexicon -- a very commonly used term, and it appears in the news all the time. The President increasingly uses it. And I agree with Anne -- it's a very effective tool. Look, he -- and its about it's a simple playbook, President Trump discredits other sources of information -- rival sources of expertise and authority -- and then he simultaneously is making less and less transparence about what he is doing in his own White House, and it's working.
It did not occur to anyone that the dominant media have discredited themselves for decades by slanting to the left on nearly every issue, and demonstrating that they cannot be trusted to report both sides of an issue fairly.
Amanpour followed up: "So, discrediting government officials, that means, what, Hoovering up more power into the executive, David?
ROHDE: Well, yes. Essentially, he's -- of any officials who -- I mean, it started out as the FBI was part of the deep state and then it was the CIA. When he was pardoning an American special forces soldier and some current Pentagon official questioned that, he declared the Pentagon part of the deep state. And it is. It's accumulating and centralizing power because he becomes the only sort of source, an honest source of information and everyone else is part of sort of a secret cabal.
Rohde then proclaimed there was no evidence of the FBI and CIA scheming to get Trump. "I found no evidence whatsoever of a politically motivated, you know, widespread coup being carried out by, you know, officials in the CIA and FBI." What bubble is he living in?