Montana Voices: Enemy of the people confesses
By David Crisp/Last Best News
OK, you got me. I might as well admit it: I am an enemy of the American people.
My co-conspirators in the media and I have done our best to keep up the ruse, but now that the president has exposed us, there’s no point in hiding anymore.
I feel so ashamed. The urge to destroy America seems to have just been born in me. Even in the crib, I constantly messed my diapers, despite repeated warnings from my parents not to do so. I knew at an early age that America was a great bulwark of wealth and liberty, and the only proper response was to destroy it.
When I was a kid, I used pencil and paper and a toy printing kit to begin honing the skills I knew it would take to hurt my enemy, the American people.
In high school, I worked on the school newspaper, sensing instinctively that editorials about bad school lunches and arbitrary dress codes were the key to dismantling this country’s revered public school system.
In the Army, I finagled my way into a top secret security clearance, certain that the key to destroying America lay in gaining access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets. In a few short years, our ruined Army was in retreat from Vietnam.
In college, I was indoctrinated in the anti-American screeds of Stalin, Hume, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau. I studied foreign languages, knowing that once America was overthrown, English would soon follow.
Years of study prepared me to enter the field most certain to bring about America’s destruction: journalism. If I wanted to create a world in which totalitarian rulers could squash journalists like bugs, then that is the field I would have to enter.
Some comrades said the key was to go into the national public arena, to tear down America from the top. But that job was already being admirably filled by reporters like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who destroyed a perfectly legitimate president elected by the consent of the American people.
Plenty of reporters were tearing down the country in Washington, D.C., going after corruption and petty scandals, publishing the Pentagon Papers and trashing the reputations of such sterling Americans as House speakers from both sides of the aisle, Jim Wright and Newt Gingrich.
That work continues today, as Washington reporters repeatedly print stories about inauguration crowd sizes and suspicious ties to Russia, all in full contradiction of the well-established alternative facts. Some reporters even cite falling violent crime statistics in a vain attempt to show that actual numbers should carry more weight than the images of carnage portrayed by the president.
But the national arena was not for me. I knew that the real work needed to be done in the small towns and rural spaces of America. All politics is local, and that’s where I set to work. Oh, it was tedious at times, with long nights at city council and school board meetings, slowly chopping away at the deepest roots of American democracy.
And I had to be careful. Just making up stories wouldn’t work for long in small towns where people knew each other. But misreporting a school levy election by a dozen or so votes, or misspelling the name of the new public works director, or getting the landfill hours wrong, all added up. With every slightly distorted fact, with every slanted headline, trust in public institutions was slowly undermined.
Sometimes the effort required writing longer pieces that were more complex to produce but also more difficult to expose as fundamentally anti-American. So there would be an occasional long story, or even a series of stories, on failing volunteer fire departments, on unsolved reservation crimes, on the hazards of nuclear waste.
Readers might be skeptical, but what could they do? Journalists bought ink by the barrel.
Sometimes the effort even meant writing editorials that violated every principle Americans hold dear. I might write, for example, that building good roads and public parks doesn’t reduce freedom by depriving citizens of their hard-earned tax dollars, but actually increases freedom by making more of this once-great country accessible.
Or I might argue that cutting taxes doesn’t always lead to increased revenues, or that a balanced budget amendment is no way to balance a budget. Sounds crazy, I know, but every year a few gullible people would fall for it.
Of course, there have been signs all along that people were catching on. According to fake polls, public trust in journalists has been falling for decades. The internet exposed our daily lies to scrutiny by honest brokers like Breitbart.com and the Daily Caller. We have managed to stay afloat only by steadily driving down public trust in other American institutions, from the Catholic priesthood to the National Football League.
Even now, we have managed to stay above Congress in the public’s estimation. But now our soft underbelly has been exposed. A recent poll—probably fake but who can tell anymore?—found that Americans now regard the president as more trustworthy than reporters.
So we might as well admit that this was the goal all along. Like true enemies of the people, we have finally created an America where self-serving, self-aggrandizing, self-promoting politicians are held in higher regard than people who purportedly have dedicated their careers to upholding the highest standards of accuracy and ethics.
Our work here is done.
David Crisp is a longtime Billings journalist who writes a weekly column for Last Best News.