Yahoo News explains: Where did the phrase ‘enemy of the people’ come from?

Kate Murphy

“Enemy of the people”: It’s an expression President Trump has repeatedly used to describe the news media. He has also repeatedly tweeted about it:

This week, more than 300 news publications from around the country — from liberal to conservative — denounced the president’s attacks on the media and defended the role of a free press in society. Led by the editorial page journalists at the Boston Globe, the collective effort involved editorial boards addressing the attacks in their own words.

The president was quick to respond…

A Quinnipiac poll released this week says 51 percent of Republicans surveyed agree with Trump’s assertion that the news media is the “enemy of the people.”

This month, CNN’s Jim Acosta urged White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to acknowledge that the president shouldn’t refer to the news media as the enemy of the people — which she failed to do.

As the New York Times describes it, “enemy of the people” is an expression “typically used by leaders to refer to hostile foreign governments or subversive organizations.”

What the president may not realize is that the phrase has also been used repeatedly by dictators over the course of history.

Where did the term “enemy of the people” come from?

Its earliest use appears to date to the rule of the disastrous and careless Roman emperor Nero, who was declared “an enemy of the people” by his own people — the Roman senate.

The phrase was also used during the French Revolution, when “ennemi du peuple” referred to those who disagreed with the new French government and, in some cases, were executed.

The phrase was used prominently in Nazi Germany, when Adolf Hitler’s administration described Jews as “a sworn enemy of the German people” who posed a risk to his vision for the country.

Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin used the phrase during the early years of the Soviet Union to describe those who disagreed with the ideologies of the Bolshevik government.

And Venezuela’s former socialist president, Hugo Chavez, has referred to political dissenters as “enemies of the homeland.”