Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, makes the point that autocrats from Chávez to Erdoğan, Sisi to Mugabe, all follow a general pattern. They attack and threaten the press with deliberate and ominous intensity; the press, in turn, adopts a more oppositional tone and role. “And then that paves the way for the autocrat’s next move,” Simon told me. “Popular support for the media dwindles and the leader starts instituting restrictions. It’s an old strategy.” Simon pointed to Trump’s lack of originality, recalling that both Néstor Kirchner, of Argentina, and Tabaré Ramón Vázquez, of Uruguay, referred to the press as the “unelected political opposition.” And, as Simon has written, it was the late Hugo Chávez who first mastered Twitter as a way of bypassing the media and providing his supporters with alternative facts.

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