The Trump regime is now in the full paranoid style as Tang the Conqueror's approval ratings crash into the mid 30's and are still falling, and that means that like most proto-fascist autocracies, we're into the "information control by the state press" era.
Over the course of the Trump administration, the White House’s daily press briefings have been pared progressively further back; they are now shorter, less frequent, and routinely held off-camera.
The daily briefing is a venerable Washington tradition, though one that has often been a target of criticism. Media critic Jay Rosen has called for media outlets to “send the interns,” arguing that the briefing is a largely useless exercise in grandstanding. President Trump himself has publicly mused about canceling them, tweeting “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”
But instead of canceling them entirely, the White House has appeared to embrace a different strategy: simply downgrading them bit by bit, from “briefings” to “gaggles,” and from on-camera to off-camera. Guidance for the briefings have begun to include a note that audio from them cannot be used. Additionally, though Trump has held short press conferences when foreign leaders visit, he has not held a full press conference since February.
The changes haven’t gone unnoticed, although reporters are still attending the gaggles. A clearly exasperated Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, said on Monday that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had become “kind of useless.”
“It feels like we’re slowly but surely being dragged into what is a new normal in this country, where the president of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions,” Acosta said on CNN. “I don’t know why we covered that gaggle today, quite honestly Brooke, if they can’t give us the answers to the questions on camera or where we can record the audio. They’re basically pointless at this point.”
Asked for further comment, Acosta said in an email, “Unless we all take collective action, the stonewalling will continue.”
“If the WH is going to place unreasonable demands on our newsgathering, we should walk out,” he said.
What’s not clear is how much the White House would care if this happened. Reporters’ demands for access have not been a top priority for this administration, and though Trump is an avid media consumer and did a large number of interviews as a candidate and earlier in his term, he has begun to hold the press at arm’s length, skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and doing fewer interviews lately.
I respect Acosta's position and he is correct, but I hope that he also understands that the media boycotting these laughable kabuki events gives Trump the excuse to start declaring the "lamestream liberal media" as de facto enemies of the state, and that is precisely what Trump wants right now as the Mueller probe threatens to blow the whole sorry state of affairs open like a rotten melon dropped off of a rooftop.
The Trump regime is trying to couch this as Sean Spicer getting "promoted", but they definitely want to prove that if our media dares to make this political and not cover the daily "press briefings", well, then maybe America doesn't need an adversarial media...
Believe me when I say that step is coming sooner rather than later. The nonsense about "going around the press to get the truth to the people" is propaganda of the the worst sort, an obvious manipulation, but in the kayfabe Trump era of convenient fictions, it's one that will go from perception to reality with frightening speed if allowed.