An Enemy Of The People

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An Enemy Of The People

Postby toucana on July 29th, 2018, 9:03 pm 

In 1882 a Norwegian playwright called Henrik Ibsen wrote a new play called En Folkefiende, which became better known in English as An Enemy of The People.

Ibsen wrote his play in Rome where he had been living in self-imposed exile after the universally hostile reaction to his previous play Ghosts which had been banned as immoral and degenerate on account of its open discussion of adultery, incest and venereal disease. His new play fared little better. It dealt with venereal disease again, but it also addressed municipal corruption and the failure of both a mayor and a local newspaper editor of a small spa town to respond to a potentially catastrophic threat to public health notified to them by the town’s medical officer, Dr Stockmann, who has discovered that the town’s lucrative public spa baths have been contaminated by industrial waste from a local tannery.

There is an exquisite modern irony to be found in the fact that president Donald Trump has chosen to adopt the phrase An Enemy of the People as his chosen term of abuse for any journalists who try to hold him and his corrupt regime to account.

The latest manifestation is an encounter between Trump and A.G Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times which took place a week ago.

The meeting was in private and was supposed to be off the record. Trump however chose to offer a misleading account of the meeting in a Tweet from his golf club on Saturday, which prompted A.G Sulzberger to release his own detailed notes of the encounter.

Sulzberger said he accepted the meeting to raise concerns about "the president's deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric" and that he told Trump his language was divisive and "increasingly dangerous."
"I told him that although the phrase 'fake news' is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists 'the enemy of the people.' I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence,"
"I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president's rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country's greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.

Ibsen’s play An Enemy Of The People was incidentally updated and rewritten in 1950 by America’s greatest modern playwright Arthur Miller who viewed the play’s central theme as:
the central theme of our social life today - that is whether the democratic guarantees protecting political minorities should be set aside in a time of crisis.

President Trump should perhaps break the habit of a liftetime, and try reading it.
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