As threats from North Korea pour in and ISIS insurgents in Niger assassinate brave young Green Berets in secret operations, President Donald Trump has chosen to declare war on a less likely candidate -- the media. Now, each day of his presidency brings new accusations of the media’s dissemination of “fake news” through the medium of aggressive and informal tweets. In 2017 alone, Trump has mentioned the term “fake news” 155 times across the platforms of Twitter, speeches, interviews and news conferences. Each day brings the United States closer to considering this type of dirty warfare a societal norm. Mr. Trump has worked relentlessly to dash any hopes of civility between the media and the administration as he actively threatens broadcasting networks behind the shield of his Twitter avatar.
In October, Mr. Trump “threatened to use the authority of the federal government to retaliate” in response to an NBC report that accused him of desiring a drastic increase in the United States’ nuclear weapon arsenal. He tweeted affirmatively that he was “[challenging] their License,” leaving the rest of the world to question the uncertain fate of news broadcasting. Finally, on October 17, Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced that he stood in solidarity with the First Amendment, and that “The FCC under [his] leadership [would] stand for the First Amendment.” He would not and could not act on Mr. Trump’s call to repeal networks’ licenses based on accusations of their producing “fake news.”
Mr. Trump’s threats and allegations should not come as a surprise. During the final stretch of his 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump drew attention to AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner, and stated the merger was “an example of a media “power structure” that was working to suppress his vote and the voices of his supporters.” Mr. Trump claimed that Time Warner’s CNN was a part of “an alleged plot against him.” The story is reemerging as the Justice Department insists that AT&T “divest either CNN’s parent company, Turner Broadcasting, or its valuable DirecTV service in return for [the Department’s] approval” of the merger. Although the Trump Administration has denied any connection to these demands, one can assume the Department’s attentions stemmed from Mr. Trump’s own self-interests and determination to intimidate his enemies in the business of “fake news.” His “personal vendetta” against CNN has been made remarkably public.
Americans are obliged to take a backwards step and think about these two instances. In response to Mr. Trump’s October attack on NBC, Ajit Pai announced that he would not silence the media and he would not contradict the First Amendment, going directly against the President’s intentions. The President of the United States of America is consistently contesting the First Amendment of the Constitution, while also choosing to hide behind its virtue, threatening our ability as citizens to access the current events that shape our nation and our world because their coverage does not glorify his decisions or actions. This feels eerily like an attempt to suppress our constitutional rights based on a personal qualm with the media’s coverage of political matters -- an attempt Americans have unfortunately been subjected to once before.
In 1798, the second President of the United States, John Adams, implemented the Alien and Sedition Acts, which restricted freedom of speech if it actively harmed the Adams administration. Thomas Jefferson, when he won the Election of 1800, repealed this Act, declaring it unconstitutional to suppress public opinion. 219 years later, Mr. Trump has made it his presidential prerogative to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the American people concerning the media’s true intentions.
Yet this argument is ironic. Mr. Trump has not accounted for the blatant inconsistencies that undermine his argument against the media. According to a Washington Post article, Mr. Trump has uttered “1,318 false or misleading claims in the past 263 days.” When discussing what he deems as “fake news,” Mr. Trump boldly draws attention to his hypocrisy by articulating his “[disgust with] the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write...” It is clear, however, that Mr. Trump speaks (or tweets) without filter just as he claims the press does. Just check Politifact for evidence of his frequent and flagrant lies.
Despite the Trump administration’s repeated blunders and hypocrisies, some disregard the warning signs, defending Trump’s integrity and motives. However, arguing against established statistics and figures is fruitless. Hopefully these facts will draw a critical eye to the ensuing war against the media, and maybe even alert Trump’s most zealous supporters to the reality of the situation:
In 140 characters or less, the 45th President of the United States has repeatedly declared war on the Fourth Estate. According to the Washington Post, Donald J. Trump has made 1,318 false or misleading claims in 263 days. That is 5.01140684 lies or mistruths per day. Yet when discussing what he deems “fake news,” Mr. Trump boldly draws attention to his hypocrisy by stating his “[disgust with] the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write...”
In 1789, these 45 words were laid down in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
On October 11th, 2017, POTUS took aim at the 1st Amendment by suggesting that certain 3-letter news organizations he disagrees with should be shut down. Those letters did not include “F”, “O” or “X”. Nixon tried that same number in the ‘70s, but he was 86’d as the 37th President in 1974.
Although he lost the popular election by around 2.9 million votes, approximately 63 million people voted for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 election. Everyone else falls into a category that Mr. Trump claims is against him.
The problem is that there are 323 million people in the United States, and Trump is supposed to represent all of them. But his tweets and rants are only designed for his base. Therefore, the vast majority of the citizens in the United States are caught in Ground “0” of a war in which they want no part.