The Presidential War on Press
Freedom of Press is often held as the cornerstone of democracy. It is one of the unspoken principles that any threat to its freedom is enough to send people in frenzy and is perceived as a threat of individual freedom. One of the prime examples of press dismantlement was during Adolf Hitler’s wretched tenure during the mid-twentieth century, which made him one of the most hated leaders in modern history. Is the Trump administration provisioning itself for a similarly wretched tenure?
One of Donald J. Trump’s, hereby called 45, solutions to negative press is to attack and belittle credible news media sources as being fake news. Reminiscent of his election tactics, 45’s first solo press conference was nothing short of surreal. Here, he debated reporters, refused to answer questions in a dignified manner, and basically made a mockery of the position he was elected to despite losing the popular vote. He even whined about how the mainstream media never gives him a break and never asks easy questions. When asked about the numerous leaks coming out of the White House, he claimed, “the leaks are real, but the news is fake.” He used the same diversionary tactic when questioned about his cabinet picks dishonest relationship with the Russian government. He claimed to have no idea about, now-former national advisor, Michael Flynn’s contact with them. When further pressed, he stated that he had absolutely nothing to do with Russian officials and had only talked to Vladimir Putin twice. However, in a characteristic leak from the intelligence community, the New York Times reported “members of the Trump’s campaign ‘had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before he won the election.’” Also, when he was asked about meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), he asked April Ryan, an African-American reporter, if the members were friends of hers and asked her to set up an appointment. This behavior is incredibly ignorant for the President of the United States because it displays a blatant disregard for the position and the prestige that accompanies it. Finally, on February 24th, 45’s self-proclaimed “war” with the mainstream media reached its breaking point, and the White House, in an unprecedented move, barred reporters from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, BBC and CNN from Press Briefing. A small fraction of ultra-conservative groups like Breitbart, however, were allowed to stay instead.
The aforementioned news media outlets, known for their exceptional journalism, have been blacklisted by the current administration as enemies ‘of the American people’ and are having their credibility disparaged endlessly. What we are now witnessing is a disgraceful play of events that seeks to undermine the intellect of the American people. Donald J. Trump, knowing the gullibility and ignorance of his supporters, is taking every opportunity to squash any criticism about his actions. In doing so, he is maliciously reallocating credibility to sources that favor him and his white supremacist agenda. He feels empowered to do so because this was exactly how he, with the alleged help of the Russian government, disparaged Hillary Clinton’s integrity and basically stole the election. This is very concerning because historically, the removal of press autonomy and freedom is characteristic of the impending rise of a fascist regime. Furthermore, his undignified behavior during public events, and his extremely basic vocabulary is an absolute disgrace for a leader of the free world and for representing the American people.
One thing we know for sure is that this administration is an absolute circus, which promises not one dull day. However, in the climate of such widespread political dishonesty, never has the role of journalism and news media been this important. Moving forward, it is now the people’s responsibility to do their own research in addition to following historically credible news media sources. It is also our responsibility to arduously question any information from the White House because this administration is unquestionably corrupt and hell-bent on business interests instead of American interests. Also, we should get into the habit of interacting with people with different perspectives, regardless of how infuriating it might be, to get a well-rounded understanding of issues at hand. And in addition to keeping up with credible news media, it would be only to our benefit to not be completely distracted by only explosive news because they are usually diversionary tactics. If history is to serve as an example, a lot of unfavorable bills have been approved when the public was busy recovering from explosive leaks. And through leaks from the intelligence community, we are learning more about how this administration is being run on personal interests and is riddled with people with zero qualifications. It is also time to dig deeper and hold our representatives accountable for how the vote on bills advocated by the President. In other words, let’s make sure people we vote into office are accountable to us and do not spend their time kissing ass for getting into 45’s good graces. Finally, history gives us a prime example of how important the role of media is in shaping public opinion and can be a tool of destruction. Hitler, essentially, was able to wipe out an entire people’s conscience and fooled them into thinking a religious minority did not deserve to live. Although, thankfully, the United States is nowhere near such a situation, it is our responsibility to ensure the mainstream media is on the right side by showing them support, and to ensure we do not have an impending wipeout of religious minorities in our hands in the future. And because the current administration has been likened to the one in George Orwell’s 1984, there is no better time for unorthodoxy in thinking and in action because “orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”