Unless you’ve decided that ignoring the news is the only way you’re going to make it through the next four years under President Trump, you’re aware of his administration’s war with the media and the various ways he’s attempted to manipulate the law in his favor.
It’s no secret that Trump hates nothing more than when the press fact checks him or publishes a story that portrays him in a less-than-flattering light. If a news publication runs a story stating that he’s not the best president America has ever had, it’s failing, it’s bad, it’s terrible and the story’s just plain wrong.
When it comes to the media, “fake news” is the former reality star’s favorite phrase.
When it comes to the actual fake news being shared by members of the administration, “alternative facts” is what Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, decided to call the lies.
If anyone is spreading alternative facts, it’s the Trump Administration. If anyone is “failing,” it’s the Trump Administration. And yes, if we can rely on anyone to give us fake news, guess again. The Trump Administration.
However, it’s not Trump’s fear of bad press that is unsettling to journalists, it’s his blatant disregard for our First Amendment rights.
The First Amendment “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.”
The simple fact that the man sitting in the White House continues to do everything in his power to discredit the media and is looking for further ways to diminish access to the truth should be of utmost concern to every American citizen, especially those who value their rights to free speech and a free press.
It’s obvious that the Trump Administration isn’t the most reliable place to get information. Without the press, Americans would have absolutely no way of knowing what is going on within the government.
Aside from the usual early-morning tweet or rally rant about how wrong the media is about him and his “accomplishments” during his first 100 days, Trump has looked into further ways that will make it easier for him to sue the media.
As the laws currently stand, a person can sue the media for libel if a false statement is published about them that is damaging to their reputation and the reporter had previous knowledge that the statement was untrue.
In the Supreme Court case “New York Times vs. Sullivan,” the libel laws were altered for public figures, such as Donald Trump himself. The actual malice standard was established, which must be met in order for a successful libel lawsuit. In such a case, the plaintiff must prove that the falsely published statement not only was published with prior knowledge that it was false, but also that it was published with “reckless disregard” for whether or not it was false.
In a tweet posted at the end of March, Trump reiterated his long-standing interest in changing libel laws that he constantly brought up during his campaign.
According to a CNN article, on the campaign trail Trump was quoted as saying that he wanted to “open up our libel laws so when [the media] writes purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”
While changing the libel laws isn’t something easily done, the mere suggestion of it threatens more than just the media. The more Trump ridicules, discredits and tries to eliminate negative press, the more our American democracy turns into a dictatorship.
Without the protection of the First Amendment, the “free speech” that every citizen takes for granted on a daily basis immediately changes. Forget uncensored music, movies and television. Every tweet, every Facebook post, every Instagram comment will be subject to scrutiny.
The issue here really isn’t libel, it’s about how difficult it currently is for Trump to hear what he wants about himself. He doesn’t want to hear any criticism about himself or the government. It’s American democracy that he has a problem with, which is exactly what he’s trying to change.
The same man who tweets whatever’s on his mind during the wee hours of the morning somehow doesn’t care about free speech. Instead of attending the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD), a long-standing annual tradition where the press and the current administration gather in celebration of our First Amendment rights and often make fun of each other, Trump decided to hold a rally in Pennsylvania to celebrate his first 100 days as president instead (only, of course, after tweeting that the 100-day mark was a “ridiculous standard” only about a week prior).
While Hasan Minaj from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” took the stage at the WHCD to perform a traditional politically-charged comedy routine, Donald Trump angrily stood at a podium and did what he does best — rant and raved about everything the Democrats were doing wrong, everything he was doing right and everything the media isn’t accurately covering.
Trump’s opposition to free press and free speech isn’t likely to subside as long as the media keeps doing its job. His baseless accusations of the press and threats to the First Amendment are indicative of the levels of ignorance sitting in the Oval Office.
Just about 100 days down, only another 1,355 more to go.