Donald Trump’s insistence on calling the Washington
Post the “Amazon Washington
Post” riles the newspaper’s executive editor, Martin Baron, to no
end. He wants one and all to know that the online retailer and the
newspaper are distinct corporate entities.
isn’t anybody here who is paid by Amazon,” Baron told the New York Times on
Monday. “Not one penny.”
distancing Amazon from the Washington
Post, Baron said that the Post’s
owner, Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon, involves himself only in the
paper’s business doings, not its news coverage. “He’s never suggested a
story to anybody here, he’s never critiqued a story, he’s never suppressed
a story,” Baron said.
have little doubt that this is true, but Baron’s argument is a distinction
without a difference. Bezos became the world’s richest person
through his labors at Amazon, which he still controls. He purchased the Post in 2013 with
$250 million of his Amazon pin money. While it might be more accurate to
call the newspaper the “Bezos Washington
Post,” seeing as Bezos and Amazon are joined at the hip, it’s not
ridiculous to speak of the paper—at least in the vernacular—as the Amazon Washington Post.
If Amazon didn’t exist, it’s unlikely the Washington
Post would exist in its current form.
course, Trump doesn’t delight in calling the paper the Amazon Washington Post for
these reasons. He has long viewed himself as a “counterpuncher”
who must hurt anybody who hurts him. And boy, has the Post hurt him.
Ordinarily, Trump attacks reporters and outlets by name when a news outlet
offends him. In availing himself of a compound name for the paper, he
gives himself an additional target to pummel. Bloomberg View columnist Timothy
L. O’Brien points out in a column Tuesday that
Trump first fused the paper and online company into a single enemy with a
tweet in December
2015, immediately after the paper reported his campaign call for a
ban of Muslim immigrants. That tweet included Bezos’ Twitter handle, too.
Trump tweeted more of the same in
July 2017, after the Post published
a scathing story on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Trump’s current
crusade against Amazon, falsely
calling the Post a
lobbyist for the company and deceitfully claiming that
the U.S. Postal Service loses money delivering Amazon packages is only
more of the usual Trump tit-for-tat.
drag Amazon into his grudge against the Post?
To do media organizations real harm, Trump understands that he must
threaten some aspect of their business not protected by the penumbra of
the First Amendment. This helps explain his administration’s opposition to
the AT&T merger with Time Warner, which owns his media bête noire CNN.
By jawboning against Amazon, Trump has deliberately caused its stock to
dip. The company has lost 8
percent of its market since Axios first reported
Trump’s full ire against it last week—that’s a $60 billion reduction of
its market value and several billion off Bezos’ net worth.
powers also allow Trump some latitude in rewarding media organizations
loyal to him. For instance, former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps calls
Trump’s recent pro-Sinclair tweets a “green
light“ designed to spur FCC approval of the chain’s $3.9 billion
purchase of Tribune Media’s TV stations.
suspect that Trump doesn’t fully appreciate the downside of his anti-media
strategy. Every denunciation of the Post,
the New York Times,
NBC News, CBS News, CNN and other outlets serves to boost those outlets’
audiences and their corresponding revenues. Newsrooms glow with
appreciation whenever he pounces on them, and the reporters singled out
for abuse preen. Whenever Trump lays the strap on Jim Acosta and CNN, the
competition pouts, “Why not us?!” As I wrote more than a year ago, Trump
has made journalism great again.
bullying works best against flawed or weak adversaries like Hillary
Clinton and Mexico. But when rumbling against the strong and confident,
his record ain’t so good. In Business Insider, Josh
Barro predicts that Trump will lose his stupid
fight with Amazon, which is far too popular with
consumers for him to successfully demonize it. People delight too much in
Amazon’s convenience, selection, low prices and cheap delivery. They
willingly deserted the shopping malls Trump says he wants to “save,” and
they don’t want to go back. If Trump can’t demonize Amazon, he won’t be
able to demonize Bezos. And that means he will fail to demonize the Post, too.
month from now, after the market finally comprehends that Trump lacks the
dictatorial powers required to break Amazon, its stock price will recover.
Learning his lesson, Trump will find some weakling he can whup.