It’s a pleasure to feature as my guest blogger today the author who’ll be on the Crime Cafe (video version) next week, Peter Eichstaedt. He’s also doing a book giveaway here, as per usual.
If you’d like to win a copy of Enemy of the People, just email Peter at peter[dot]eich[at]gmail[dot]com. Put the words “Crime Cafe giveaway” in the subject line, so he’ll know
it isn’t just spam what to expect. 🙂
And with that, I happily cede the
floor blog to my guest author, Peter Eichstaedt!
The Writing of Enemy of the People
By Peter Eichstaedt
My most recent novel, a mystery/thriller titled Enemy of the People, was inspired by our current president, Donald Trump.
As those who follow Trump’s words and deeds know, the president has called his critics, especially those in the news media, the “enemies of the people.”
It’s a descriptor I and most other journalists and writers, with the exception of Trump’s lapdogs at Fox News, consider a serious threat to free speech and critical thinking.
Trump’s use of the phrase “enemy of the people” for the news media implies he is beyond criticism and the news media are acting against society as a whole. The designation implies treasonous behavior, a crime that is punishable by death.
The term originated in Roman times and in Latin is “hostis publicus,” which literally means “public enemy.” The term has been used for centuries in literature, for example, An Enemy of the People, the 1882 play by Henrik Ibsen, and Coriolanus, the play by William Shakespeare, written more than 400 years ago.
The term was widely used in Soviet Union until the mid-1950s, most frequently by Joseph Stalin, who like Trump, used it to describe his critics. It has also been used by other authoritarian rulers who consider themselves self-anointed representatives of the people at large.
Shockingly, the term resurfaced when Trump used it for news organizations and journalists who are and have been critical of him. The president’s use of the term not only threatens our First Amendment right of free speech, it also reveals his disturbing thought processes and point-of-view.
While Trump’s authoritarian impulses are fortunately restrained by the two other independent branches of government (the Supreme Court and Congress), his descriptor shows he sees himself as possessing powers of an anointed ruler rather than an elected official.
Trump conveniently has forgotten that he lost the popular vote in 2016, though he secured the majority of electoral votes in our two-tiered presidential selection process. The majority of the voters in this country did not want him to lead this country, a fact increasingly relevant today as Trump has only a 40 percent approval rating. This means six out of every ten people in the U.S. don’t like what he says and does.
Yet, Trump’s criticism of the news media, which reflects the public’s increasing distaste for his work, shows he considers himself above and beyond criticism.
Having been a journalist for most of my life, starting when I was 16-years-old as a high school correspondent for the county weekly newspaper, I was shocked and appalled when Trump called the news media the enemy of the people.
Back in 1787, the framers of the Constitution knew that certain issues needed to be expanded and clarified in the document. The most important was freedom of speech. That is why the preservation of our right to speak our minds was enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The framers knew free speech was and is critical to a free society, having suffered under the rule of King George III, who ruled England at the time. But in fact, the notion of free speech dates from 399 BC when Socrates said at his trial that his right to question authority and just about everything in Greece was derived from the gods, not the rulers of Greece.
This historical backdrop to our guarantee of free speech has escaped the mind of President Trump, who on August 2, 2018, tweeted “FAKE NEWS media… is the enemy of the American People.”
The tweet made most people cringe and garnered severe criticism from around the world, including the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the U.S. Senate which passed a resolution by unanimous consent affirming that the media is not “the enemy of the people.”
With all of this swirling in my mind, I felt compelled to counter Trump’s debasement of the news media and began to write my mystery/thriller, Enemy of the People. The story centers on a journalist covering a secretive political summit in at a resort in the Southwest where a liberal U.S. president is kidnapped by terrorists. The journalist reveals the terrorists have been aided by right-wingers anxious to reclaim control over the government and that they are the true “enemies of the people.”
My goal with the novel was show that journalists are upholders and protectors of everyone’s right to free speech, not elected officials like Trump who see free and independent reportage and commentary as a threat. Considering the strong and positive reviews I’ve gotten on Amazon, I achieved my goal.
Here’s one example:
“This book is a phenomenal read! Eichstaedt’s favorite protagonist, Kyle Dawson, newspaper journalist, has found himself on a journey to his best story ever. After a jihadi cell has infiltrated the US, our top officials are threatened, and Kyle is in the midst of the drama. I dare you to put this down after the first chapter!”
Peter Eichstaedt is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction books. In 1999, after three decades in journalism in the Southwest, he received a Fulbright grant to teach journalism in Slovenia and the former Soviet Union country of Moldova. That was followed by three years with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting as the director of an independent journalism program in Armenia, and several years working as a freelance journalist and journalism instructor in Afghanistan and the East African country of Uganda. He also has worked as a freelance journalist in Albania and Moldova. His articles have appeared in The Seattle Times, the Moscow Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Dallas Morning News. He is the former Africa Editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and lives near Denver, Colorado.
He won the 2010 Colorado Book Award for his exposé on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, titled First Kill Your Family (Lawrence Hill Books 2009). He also won the 2015 International Latino Book Award for his book on life along the US-Mexico border titled, The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise on the US-Mexico Border. Much of that research aided in the creation of his 2017 novel, Borderland, a thriller set on the US-Mexico border featuring journalist Kyle Dawson, his TV reporter girlfriend, and his cousin, an agent with the DEA. His recent fiction includes Enemy of the People (WildBlue Press 2019), a mystery-thriller also featuring Kyle Dawson, who helps rescue a US president kidnapped by terrorists who are backed by a cabal of conservatives from the far right wing. Dawson is again featured in Eichstaedt’s forthcoming thriller, The Correspondent.