Longtime political activist, chess grandmaster, and chairman of the Human Rights Foundation Garry Kasparov has made a chilling comparison between president-elect Donald Trump’s sham of a press conference this morning and the former Soviet Union. Kasparov was born in the Soviet Union in 1963, and since its fall has resided in post-Soviet countries where he has fought tirelessly for liberal democracy. He has witnessed the worst side of the Soviet and current Russian autocracies. Kasparov has suffered through public beatings and arbitrary detention for daring to speak up for Western values.
Kasparov is anything but ignorant when he compares Trump to one of the most repressive regimes in history. Kasparov is intimately acquainted the tactics of the Soviet Union, who force-fed millions of citizens the party line until no one could tell what was true anymore.
That reminded me of a Soviet press conference. More speakers than questions, more flags than answers.
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) January 11, 2017
Trump has repeatedly threatened the freedom of the American press, most recently by refusing to adequately answer reporters’ questions this morning. He repeatedly left the stage during the conference to let his team read their scripts unquestioned, deflected difficult questions rather than answering them, and refused to take a question from a CNN reporter because he has deemed CNN “fake news.” This is alarming. Trump is furiously working to silence viewpoints in the media that oppose his presidency and his narrative.
During the presidential campaign, Trump also began a campaign of vilifying the mainstream media, cajoling his supporters into disbelieving everything they hear from the mainstream. Trump has been constructing a reality in which he is only source of truth, and the only voice that can be trusted. As he begins to establish his authority over the fabric of reality, Trump has been considering silencing anything that he decides is a lie. In February Trump promised he would “open up libel laws” so that public figures could sue for libel. Trump wants to be the first president in the history of America to sue journalists for holding him to account and saying unfavorable things.
We must heed Kasparov’s warning that Trump’s lack of transparency echoes some of the worst regimes in human history. The press conference we witnessed this morning cannot become the norm. If it does, we will slip into the same “normalcy” that was life in the Soviet Union. America’s best hope for the next four years is to cling to its freedoms, guaranteed by the Constitution and the First Amendment, and minimize the damage of the incoming tyrant, Donald Trump.