Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The park's official Twitter feed "went rogue" this week.
If Donald Trump truly wants to turn off the spigots of hostile information flowing out of the federal government and insolent sass flowing in, may I suggest a war? In wartime even people with ardent attachments to the First Amendment find themselves agreeing everyone needs to shut up.
On Tuesday the White House ordered
a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency—no new press releases or blog entries or posts to social media accounts.
The response? Mysterious tweets
from Badlands National Park in South Dakota offering the sort of scientific info that might infuriate a climate-change denier. For example: "Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years."
By Tuesday evening the tweets had disappeared.
Whatever this impudence was all about, once again the White House looked terrible. "The broader concern, of course," reported Anderson Cooper on CNN Tuesday evening, "is that the administration is putting a lockdown on information it doesn’t like." CNN's Van Jones saw a fiasco: "You cannot possibly think that it is great for a new administration deleting tweets that only put out facts."
The Badlands Twitter account "seems to have gone rogue," reported CBS News
. Salon published
an account of a "gag order" that raised "harmless tweets" to the status of "an act of open rebellion." The White House—already being jeered
for "alternative facts" and "falsehoods"—was coming off as thin-skinned, repressive, and incompetent, as unable to make an order to federal employees stick.
Order was easier to maintain in 1944. By happenstance, the same night I watched Anderson Cooper on TV I came across the agreement that an American correspondent had to sign in order to cover the Normandy invasion. War reporters back then pretty much gave away the store:
I will govern my movements and actions in accordance with the instructions of the War Department and the commanding officer of the Army or Navy unit to which I am accredited, which includes the submitting for the purposes of U.S. military censorship all statements, written material, and all photography intended for publication or release either while with the Army or Navy or after my return, if the interviews, written matter, or photography are based on my observations made during the period or pertain to the places visited under this authority. I further agree that I will submit to the War Department for purposes of censorship all such material written after my return, if the interviews, written material, or statements are based on my observations made during the period or pertain to the places visited under this authority. This includes all lectures, public talks, "off the record" speeches, and all photography intended for publication or release, either while with the armed forces or after my return, if they are based upon my observations during this period or pertain to the places visited.
Weren't those the good old days! Imagine if Trump's White House could reserve the right to tell reporters exactly where they could and couldn't go and do, and the right to read all their stories ahead of time and delete anything it disapproved of! Don't you think President Trump's issues with the media would melt away once he established those working conditions?
Back in the 1940s, those working conditions required a war. Then again, Trump seems to think he is
at war—against the media and lesser naysayers. If the media intend to cover the president's war against themselves, the least
they can do is cover it under rules set by the president. He understands what's at stake—the awesomeness of the flawless leader!