Diana West
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One feature that marks a totalitarian regime is media that serve as the government's information service. TASS, Radio Berlin, Voice of Hanoi -- these were all government entities that conveyed what the dictatorship wanted. The handout comes, the handout is published. The real danger point arrives when propaganda no longer rankles, but flows naturally. That's when authority carries more weight than evidence, and peer pressure suppresses independent thinking. It's also when captives become subjects.

Watching our free, First-Amendment-protected media react to the surprising release of President Barack Obama's long-form birth certificate, I have to wonder: What exactly is the difference? I exaggerate, but not much. It's been three weeks since Obama first made his long-form birth certificate public on April 27, 2011. Why, suddenly, did he do this, and not in 2008, 2009 or 2010 when this first of the missing bona fides became a focal point of deep national consternation? Why did Obama send lawyers to courtroom after courtroom to keep this simple document hidden -- and now mass-produce it on Obama 2012 campaign t-shirts? Why did Obama prefer to see Army Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin throw away his military career and go to prison for five months rather than, presto, authorize the document's release? The answers have something to do with political inroads Donald Trump was quite unexpectedly making simply by asking natural, obvious questions about Obama that neither Big Media nor someone of un-ignorable celebrity had ever asked before. But that's not the whole story.

We have the long-form birth certificate now -- or at least another highly questionable PDF of a scan of a copy of a document to stare at online (and, almost ghoulishly, on those Obama 2012 campaign T-shirts) -- but we don't have all the answers. Certainly we didn't get them from the "off camera and only pen and pad, not for audio" White House briefing on the document's release. That's because the media don't think, can't think to ask for them. Having spent years fending off the rare query about the long-form birth certificate like angry cats snarling that the president had already released his birth certificate, they didn't even seem to notice what chumps the new Obama document -- the one they said had already been released -- showed them all to be.

Either that, or they channeled their anger at ... Donald Trump. At that moment the non-declared GOP presidential front-runner, Trump got off his helicopter in New Hampshire also on April 27 to discuss his big coup, which is how he viewed the release of this first document in Obama's hidden paper trail. To say the media didn't share Trump's positive views on transparency is the understatement of the year.

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Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).