US president Donald Trump continued his war against news outlets that don’t write flattering stories about his administration on Friday, declaring nearly all of the country’s major television news outlets enemies of the American people.
The tweet was the second with nearly identical wording that Trump published in rapid succession. The first tweet was apparently deleted so Trump could remove the interjection “SICK!” and use the freed-up space to add ABC and CBS to his list. Together, ABC, CBS, and NBC, the US’s major television networks, draw over 20 million viewers a week to their news broadcasts.
China’s dictator Mao Zedong, who created the Great Famine that killed an estimated 36 million Chinese, famously embraced the concept of calling individuals or associations critical of his policies or Communist diktats “enemies of the people.” Identifying and punishing these “enemies” was central to Mao era-political indoctrination that began in primary school, explains Zhengyuan Fu, in “Autocratic Tradition and Chinese Politics.”
Members of society are divided into two major categories: the “people” and the “class enemy.” People describes the in-group, within which are workers, poor and lower-middle-class peasants, soldiers and cadres. The “class enemies of the people” refers to the out group…a highly arbitrarily assigned group whose members are defined by the party state.
While the “people” are described in terms of “warmth, friendliness, candor, courage, and everything that is good,” the class enemies are depicted as “cruel, cunning, morally degrading, always scheming, and evil,” Fu writes. In the enemies camp were landlords, teachers, intellectuals, artists, and scholars, who often were imprisoned.
Mao was not the first dictator to use the phrase “enemies of the people,” of course. Nazi German leaders applied it to the Jewish people decades before, including Goebbels, who declared them “a sworn enemy of the German people.” Hitler’s writing, thinking, and perhaps actions may have been inspired by an Ibsen play of the same name, some scholars believe.