Week in Review 2-22-2019
When President Trump continuously tears down the mainstream media, he is pushing people towards alternative sources of information. These sources often times breed hate and extremism. Trump renders the media irrelevant, non-credible and untrustworthy. Consequently the media, which can and does counter the misinformation, is considered unreliable.
For example, the "yellow jacket" social-protest movement in France has encouraged anti-Semitism, which is terrorizing the Jewish community. A poll conducted in France shows that members of the movement get their information from social media, where conspiracy theories can flourish further and faster than actual facts from mainstream news organizations. This dangerous trend will only grow.
Trump at home has even condoned physical violence towards reporters. He praised Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte last October when Gianforte assaulted a journalist. "He's my guy," Trump said. A Trump supporter recently attacked a cameraman at a Trump rally.
The continuous refrain of "fake news," generated by Trump, and open hostility towards the media, has dangerous repercussions. A coast guard officer was arrested for allegedly planning terrorist attacks against journalists.
Authoritarian leaders want to control the media and the message. State-sponsored media outlets are merely a propaganda arm for their leaders. Anyone who doesn't agree is declared an enemy and is subject to persecution.
When Trump declared that The New York Times an "enemy of the state," he crossed into dangerous territory. Hugo Chavez, Adolf Hitler, and other leaders squashed a free press to promote their ideology.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the Constitution and protected by the Supreme Court. The Court has ruled in the past (New York Times v Sullivan) to significantly limit the scope of defamation lawsuits that could be brought against publishers or reporters by public officials and other prominent figures. This ruling has empowered journalists to highlight official corruption and expose wrongdoing by the powerful, such as the president, without fear of repercussions.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas indicated in a writing this week that he is ready to overturn the Sullivan case. Trump would then have even more leeway to use his powers to stop the press.
We are all safer, and our democracy stronger, when the media has the ability and protection to expose anti-Semitism, debunk conspiracy theories, and challenge our elected leaders.