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Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference recently, President Donald Trump said of the press: "They are the enemy of the people." As a theatre historian, the term struck a chord. "An Enemy of the People" is the title of an 1882 play by the first great modern playwright, Henrik Ibsen of Norway.

The play is set in a town whose chief source of income is the healing waters of the local baths. The town doctor discovers that the waters, far from being "healing," are contaminated by the baths' drainage system. He takes the information to the town officials, expecting them to be grateful that the problem has been exposed. Instead, he is ordered not to reveal the secret because repairing the drainage and losing the income while the repair takes place is too great. When the doctor refuses to hide the truth, the leaders call on the town to banish him, and label him "an enemy of the people."

The analogy is obvious: He who speaks truth to power is seen by the wielders of power as a threat. But even if the speaker of truth is stifled, the poison at the source remains.

Richard Scharine

Salt Lake City