Donald Trump’s admiration for dictatorial rhetoric, posturing, and politics has caused some to speculate whether we actually could be dealing with a inchoate authoritarian.
After all, he has on numerous occasions praised autocratic heads of state for their “tough” stances on crime, political opposition, and outward displays of nationalism.
Remember during the second presidential debate when Trump threatened to imprison Hillary Clinton? Remember his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention when he asserted, “I alone can fix it”? He requested White House and Pentagon officials begin planning a grand military parade for sometime this year. Two months ago, we learned Trump has for months been talking about his desire to execute drug dealers, like Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duterte does. Last month, he told Republican donors “Maybe we’ll give that a shot” after Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed changes to the Chinese constitution eliminating term limits so he can and govern for life.
Let’s not forget his calling the media “the enemy of the people.”
On April 3, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), via the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities website, solicited private contractors interested in creating “Media Monitoring Services”–i.e., a searchable database for information about journalists and media outlets, including social media.
The solicitation states:
“Services shall enable [the DHS’s National Protection and Program’s Directorate] to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.”
“24/7 Access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.”
Among the database’s specifications is information about reporters’ contact information and prior coverage.
According the a piece in the The Week that ran the initial story, DHS wants to monitor 290,000 news sources in print, online, on network television, and anything suspected of being a “media influencer.”
The DHS posting adds:
“[The database shall have the] ability to analyze the media coverage in terms of content, volume, sentiment, geographical spread, top publications, media channels, reach, AVE, top posters, influencers, languages, momentum, circulation.”
In a statement, the DHS said:
“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers. [The service would fill] a critical need to incorporate these functions into [DHS] programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners.”
Last month, 19 lawmakers–Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)–questioned in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether Qatar state media Al Jazeera should be classified as a foreign agent because of coverage that “undermines” U.S. interests.
In November, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) criticized the FBI over suspected “black identity extremists'” online activity being monitored.
Responses are due today.
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