THE publication of "I Am Part of the Resistance Within The Trump Administration", an anonymous op-ed article in the New York Times last week that claims to be the work of a "high-level official within the White House", has set off a flurry of questions directed at the ethics of publication and that of the writer.
You can read the op-ed here: https://nyti.ms/2PCZCWv.
In addition to the pundits — American and those around the world — who weighed in, there were 23,000 readers who, subsequently invited by the Times, submitted questions about the decision to publish, the acceptance of anonymity, and the content and possible motives of the essayist.
As if in tribute to Trump, himself, the content of the op-ed is full of Orwellian double-speak from the appropriation of the word, "resistance" in its title, an association with a popular movement which arose in opposition to Trump immediately after the inauguration, to its false claim of lofty purpose, in giving his co-conspirators credit for saving the country from Trump's worst impulses.
The claim that the writer and his confreres, who support Trump's agenda but are appalled at the president's amorality and absence of principle, are acting to preserve democratic institutions by thwarting or redirecting some of Mr Trump's impulsive actions is false on its face.
This group, if it exists, consists of unelected officials. Their taking it upon themselves to determine which of the executive's aims is right and which wrong, which deserves implementation, and which needs blocking, is the opposite of preservation of democratic institutions.
It's an attack upon the institution of the presidency and, as such, it's a coup d'etat in the making.
This internal opposition is not over policy, but about the style with which Trump goes about his work, described as mercurial, impulsive, erratic, unreliable. Trump as self-serving narcissist — something we've all known for some time.
The writer fully praises Trump's agenda. Getting in a lick at the alleged media failure to acknowledge Trump's achievements, "anonymous" admiringly cites "effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military".
Critics see these "accomplishments" as evidence of a far-right agenda that is likely to be far from positive in its effect on the country's future, diminishing protections for the environment, assailing the social safety net, encouraging retrograde steps in the face of mounting evidence of effects of global warming, ultimately weakening the country.
Unlike the writer, those who are serious in their opposition are far more concerned with Trump's appalling policies — like separation of children from asylum-seeking families, or his obvious toadying to Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Should the Times have published the piece and agreed to protect the writer's identity?
The function of a free press in a democracy is to hold the government accountable. That is an adversarial position, protected by constitutional law. The press is also the democratic institution which provides factual data upon which citizens may form opinions and thus participate in the democratic process. The press functions to maintain an informed electorate.
By that standard, the publication of the unsigned op-ed by the New York Times fails an important test. It's not news, and it may not be factually based. Why would a group like this conspiracy tell about it?
If we ask the all-important "Cui Bono?" question; whose interest is served by publication, the answer is certainly not that of We The People.
Here are the words of Henry Mathews of New York, one of the 23,000 readers who took up the invitation to ask about publication.
"Why publish this? What purpose does it serve, other than to enrage its target and assuage the guilt of a collaborator?"
By publishing with anonymity, the Times lends fuel to Trump's attack on the press. By implicitly endorsing the content, lending it unearned prestige, the Times becomes complicit in its own degradation and that of the democratic institutions.
A genuine patriot would have resigned and then written his objections. This was a cowardly and dangerous act. Its unsigned publication is no better.
Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable