Trump’s assault on the Free Press
By Nate Thayer
March 1, 2016
Donald Trump beat up an icon of the Free Press today, and Trump should hang his head in embarrassment and shame.
And America should be outraged.
Christopher Morris, who has spent decades risking his life documenting the very dangerous reality in most every major war zone since the 1980’s, his images bringing searing truth to untold millions, was assaulted by Trump’s Secret Service security detail at some ten-cent political rally in Virginia.
Christopher Morris has covered the US invasion of Iraq, Panama, the Persian Gulf, and wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yugoslavia, and Chechnya, among numerous others.
I have known Chris Morris and, on occasion, worked with him over the years, although I am pretty sure he doesn’t remember me. But I certainly remember Morris and his extraordinary photographs—and witnessed him risking his life to bring important photographs to the homes of every American and much of the world.
He represents the importance of an unfettered free press everywhere.
Morris covered the invasion of Iraq for Time Magazine. This was a very dangerous and unpleasant time for everyone there, including the contingent of mostly freelance journalists. The first night of the “shock and awe” of U.S. aerial bombardment, those of us in Baghdad gathered on the rooftop of the Palestine hotel, taking pictures and documenting the extraordinary U.S. bombing raining down from the skies on us. At that time, in March, 2003, less than 20 of us freelance journalists were in Baghdad which was still under the control of an increasingly angry Saddam Hussein, who had a few days to wait until his government was overthrown. Saddam and his people were not happy.
Saddam’s security forces burst threw the doors onto the Palestine Hotel roof and wrestled with a photographer on contract for TIME, who defended his cameras, but the thugs of Saddam’s security forces wrestled them free and threw them, and almost the photographer, off the rooftop to the street 17 floors below. I was sure, for a long moment, that the TIME shooter would be thrown off the roof along with his equipment.
One never hears about these little dramas in the day-to-day drudgery of life as a working war correspondent, but remembering it today made me want to spit on Donald Trump.
Today, in Virginia, the protest started after one activist interrupted Trump, to which Trump responded by asking the protester “Are you from Mexico?” Dozens of protesters interrupted, linked arms and brought Trump’s stump speech temporarily to a halt. “Get them out of here!” Trump ordered his Secret Service and personal security thugs from the podium.
Morris was tackled to the ground when he tried to photograph the events. In video of the skirmish, Morris can be heard saying “fuck you” to a Secret Service agent who had grabbed Morris by the throat in a chokehold and threw him violently to the ground.
That “fuck you” was echoed by every working journalist in the world.
Christopher Morris has documented most of the world’s most dangerous war zones.
The first time he was mugged, as he was today by Donald Trump’s thugs, was in Detroit in 2013 when thieves stole $15,000 in camera equipment. Three men smashed the window of his rental car in a McDonald’s parking lot, and ran off with his camera, gear bag and iPhone.
One of Morris’s first forays into danger zones was covering the invasion of Panama under George Bush the first.
“This picture was made in December 1989 during the third day of the U.S. invasion of Panama, and shows U.S. Army Sergeant Raymond Cabacar trying to protect civilians during a gun battle with the Panama Defense Force at the Panama Traffic Directorate. The firefight lasted for most of the afternoon. I was there taking photos and next to me were around 18 civilians that were caught in the crossfire. Several civilians were killed and Sergeant Cabacar was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor for his actions that day. I was one of four foreign photographers in Panama when the invasion started, along with Patrick Chauvel working for Newsweek, Malcolm Linton working for Reuters and freelance photographer José Manuel Rodríguez from Spain. I was there on assignment for TIME. The day before the photo was taken, though, two of these photographers were wounded, and, very sadly, José died after receiving a gunshot to his head. So I was left as the only photographer still working…This image gave me a new sense of self-confidence — it showed me that I could control fear, something that in my earlier conflict work I had struggled with. I had a clear understanding from earlier, similar situations that if I didn’t learn how to manage fear, that it would eventually lead to my death. So I challenged myself to understand it, and later to embrace it. Fear, it turns out, can be channeled into a positive energy. Which is a good place to be in when making this type of journalism.”
Through the 2000’s Morris covered the U.S presidency and the campaigns. Morris wanted his pictures to let viewers “see what I saw and feel what I felt – a nation that has wrapped its eyes so tightly in red, white, and blue that it has gone blind.”
His words then are prescient to the events now.
Morris has also covered life in the U.S. outside of politics.
How dare you desecrate the work of people like Chris Morris who has risked his life to document events far more important than your irrelevant little political campaign, Mr Trump? You should be defending the rights of people like Morris to do his job, not arresting them.
Even Saddam Hussein didn’t arrest Christopher Morris, but Trump did. What does that say about America in 2016?