Mainstream media in the Trump era have fashioned themselves as tribunes of the people and arbiters of truth. “Democracy dies in darkness,” warns the Washington Post; the New York Times intones, “Truth. It’s more important than ever.” With the election of a Republican president, the media have rediscovered constitutional government. Suddenly, executive power must be constrained again. Checks and balances are all the rage. Federalism and states’ rights are no longer racist “dog whistles,” but essential antidotes to a domineering central government.
And yet, while the media clang their alarms about how Donald Trump is supposedly turning America into a fascist dictatorship, they largely neglect the fact that democracy really is dying in other parts of the world.
In Turkey, for instance, Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent referendum victory allowed him to consolidate power over all three branches of the national government. Erdoğan’s triumph followed on the heels of a failed coup, which he may have staged, and which enabled him to jail and thereby sideline thousands of political opponents. The media miss the broader context of these events: Turkey has now all but completed its transformation from a secular, Kemalist nation to an Islamist dictatorship. Ankara has undergone its equivalent of the “Arab Spring,” with the same disastrous result as in other countries. A modern, majority-Muslim nation of 80 million people has repudiated a 90-year experiment in relative Western liberalism for dictatorial rule under a man who describes himself as a “servant of Sharia” and who views democracy as merely a means to an end: “You ride it until you arrive at your destination, and then you step off.” As Andrew C. McCarthy aptly put it: “Erdoğan is an anti-Western, anti-Semitic, sharia-supremacist, jihadist-empowering anti-Democrat. . . . His referendum victory is the death knell for democracy in Turkey.” Is the triumph of Islamism within a NATO-allied country no big deal, or is the commentariat unable or unwilling to report on it because of its past romance with Erdoğan?
Another story that the media largely ignore is that of the collapse of Venezuela under socialism. The Left’s “May Day”—better titled Victims of Communism Day— came and went with barely a peep about the collapse of the once-vibrant Latin American nation under Hugo Chavez/Nicolás Maduro Stalinism. Just as Turkey is about to fall under the veil of Islamist tyranny, Venezuela is reaching the logical conclusion of Leftist tyranny. Thousands have been taking to the streets in protest. Citizens are going hungry in a country that was once the richest in the region. The government is seizing the assets of global corporations. Inflation is running at 280 percent. In a nation that had banned private gun ownership, Maduro is now planning to arm up to 400,000 loyalists to preserve some semblance of order. Central planning and other attacks on individual liberty and private property rights have turned Venezuela into another failed Communist experiment, leaving its people mired in violence, poverty, and misery.
You might think that the downfall of a nation in America’s hemisphere under democratically elected socialists might be subject to intense media coverage. You would be wrong. Could it be that the Left does not wish to report on the end results of its policies?
Lastly, Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” policy may be heading toward the dustbin of history. During a celebration marking the 27th anniversary of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, China’s Hong Kong Liaison Office Legal Chief Wang Zhenmin warned an audience that “the more Hong Kong fails to actively defend the sovereignty, national security and development interests of the country [China] in accordance with law, the more wary the country might be on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and the ‘two systems.’” Chapter I, Article 2 of the Basic Law guarantees the territory “a high degree of autonomy,” under which it can “enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power.” But this autonomy is eroding under pressure from Beijing. As I wrote elsewhere following a trip abroad to Hong Kong in 2016, China has been “exerting its control [over Hong Kong] in ways small and large,” from “harassing reporters and book publishers unfriendly to Beijing to blocking elected officials from assuming office if they fail to recite a loyalty oath.”
The Chinese are eroding freedom in Hong Kong, step by step—but the press appears largely disinterested in the story. Perhaps the fearless democracy defenders of the fourth estate are afraid of running afoul of China’s Communist censors, who might ban media outlets unwilling to comply with local censorship laws. Or maybe, sadly, they sense the inevitability that Hong Kong will be subsumed by China regardless of their reportage.
Whether under Islamist tyranny or the Leftist tyranny of the Latin American or Chinese varieties, democracy is gravely threatened in major areas of the world right now. By and large, the Western media intelligentsia has nothing to say about it. The march of authoritarianism does not seem to rise to the level of importance of the latest Trump Twitter outrage, or his comment about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War, or the manner in which a White House advisor sits on a couch in the Oval Office, to take just a few examples. The Washington Post and its cohorts are right that “democracy dies in darkness.” They should turn their attentions now and then to the places where the lights are going out.
Benjamin Weingarten (@bhweingarten) has written for The Federalist, PJ Media, and Conservative Review. He is founder and CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting, production and publication advisory firm. You can find his work at benweingarten.com.
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