Less than a month into his presidency, President Donald Trump has already sent shockwaves through the American public. Since taking office, he has signed numerous proclamations, executive orders and presidential memoranda implementing his campaign platform at surprising speed.
He has ordered investigations into voter fraud, despite the lack of evidence suggesting any malfeasance (and diminishing his own victory in the process). He has made plans to cut Dodd-Frank regulations because, as he says, “I have so many people, friends of mine, who have nice businesses who can’t borrow money.” He has issued a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, none of which has been host to anti-American terrorists in the past four decades.
The Trump administration has been taking active steps to advance its agenda in many arenas, including berating the media. The administration’s contempt for the media is a crucial issue to examine, given its implications regarding the very foundations of our political system. In deliberately diminishing public trust in the news, Trump is limiting the right of each American to a free press, and undermining a cornerstone of democracy.
Throughout his campaign, and continuing into the onset of his presidency, Trump has capitalized on his critique of the media. In the final days of his campaign, Trump went out of his way to label the media as “dishonest,” the New York Times as “a total lie” and even incited a “CNN sucks!” cheer at one of his events. His voters express being “fed up” with the press, and appreciate his off-the-cuff tweeting as a way to cut out the middleman of mainstream media.
Trump’s rhetoric may be expected from a reactionary, impotent candidate, but it has quite a different impact coming from the president of the United States. Indeed, Trump openly calls his relationship with the media a “running war.”
Trump’s administration is following his example. White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has not only made claims of a fraudulent press, but has actually told the media to “keep its mouth shut.” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, has also criticized the media for spreading what she calls fake news, despite her infamous euphemism defining falsehoods presented by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer as “alternative facts.” Perhaps most alarmingly, Bannon and Trump have both called the media “the opposition party.”
Rather than respecting the media’s presence as an institution that strives for balance and integrity, Trump’s administration has directly fired verbal shots at news outlets, thus politicizing the very pursuit of truth.
Excoriating the entirety of mainstream media is misguided and dangerous. The American people need the news sources Trump despises in order to educate themselves and act accordingly during the most tumultuous election and presidency in recent history. We should not be encouraged to rely on one man’s Twitter account for our news, whether he’s the most brilliant person on the planet or typing from the bathroom.
Without an open supply of high-quality information provided by a thriving media, voters will remain uneducated about the issues facing our country. In order for this country to engage in a robust debate about how to move our country forward, we need a common factual framework to even have that debate in the first place.
We, the people, must demand more from our leaders by supporting media institutions in every way possible. One way to do this is by subscribing to reputable news outlets, which helps ensure diligent journalists are getting paid for the important work they do. We must continue to reward responsible journalism and fight against “alternative facts,” because our democracy itself relies upon the relentless pursuit of truth.