Freedom of the press is a fundamental bedrock of American democracy. For centuries, news outlets have been revered and held to standards of great importance and prestige in their deliverance and analysis of news stories. As of late, however, news outlets and “the media” — a now ardently prosaic dirty phrase— has bore the brunt of major criticism, most notably the brandishing of CNN by the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, as “fake news.” Yes, our dear president has emblazoned upon the proverbial forehead of one of the largest media outlets in the world the word “fake.” It seems only hypocritical, though, for such a claim to be made by a man who rose to power, and actively seeks to maintain power, by perpetuating proven falsehoods and proliferating his administration’s agenda through the mismanagement of information.
Let’s take, for starters, his claims about the 2016 Presidential Election. Following the election, The Donald stated that the three million-vote margin between Hillary Clinton and himself in the national popular vote (a tally that literally does not matter at all in the American electoral system) were all votes cast by illegal immigrants, thus being the biggest case of voter fraud electoral history. An unnecessary, divisive statement? Yes. A factually devoid claim? Absolutely. He asserted such a thing in the midst of his victory and based it in zero factual or statistical data. Now that’s some fake news if I’ve ever heard it. But it doesn’t end there, folks. The Donald also stated in his first press conference in January that he won the largest amount of electoral votes in a presidential election since Reagan; another blatant lie, as both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton’s victories were larger than The Donald’s. When challenged by a member of the press, he simply shrugged and deflected, stating that “that information was just given to me. I don’t know where it came from.” Doesn’t that sound pretty fake? And wait, we’re not finished yet. In February, at a rally in Florida, The Donald fabricated a terrorist attack in Sweden perpetrated by Syrian immigrants. When challenged by multiple people on Twitter, including Sweden’s official Twitter account, @swedense, The Donald responded by throwing Fox News under the bus. And now, most recently, The Donald has outdone himself in terms of ridiculous claims; he now asserts that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 Presidential Election. And as you can imagine, he provided no evidence to back up his outlandish claims. Fake news indeed, Donald.
This hypocrisy poses a danger not only for fact-sharing in the United States, but also for the integrity of news organizations around the world. For what is the worth of media if it is all victimized in blanket statements by the head of government of one of the most powerful countries in the world? And what is the use of honesty if that basic notion of human communication is not even upheld by the leader of the free world?
But merely telling untruths is not the only threat to our democracy; a much more concerning threat is the barring of news outlets from reporting the news. Has this happened, you ask? Yes, yes it has. On February 24th, the White House held a press briefing moderated by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, but barred CNN, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Politico, and The Los Angeles Times from attendance, as they had been recently critical of The Donald.
So what does all this say about the future of the press in America? Well, it’s not incredibly optimistic. At its most cheery, it can be categorized as threatening. Threatening to journalism, as both a profession and an institution, threatening to the First Amendment, which has been all but overlooked by the Trump Administration in the demonization of the media as a collective whole, and threatening to the perpetuation of a democracy, which is predicated in part on the free flow of any and all pertinent information. If the media or news outlets are victimized out of existence then the American people are left uninformed and to the mercy of whatever information we receive from the government, which as of late has been nothing but lies and falsehoods. The press have an obligation — a sworn creed — to the people of the United States to keep the lifeblood of democracy flowing through the veins of our country. What The Donald has propagated with his words is not in the interest of saving the American people from what he calls “fake news”, or what we now know to be any reporting that doesn’t advance his twisted agenda. No, what he has propagated is his own form of “fake news”, only we can see through the lies that he and his administration have tried to force-feed to their followers. For the “fake news” is prevalent, but its source is from the person who claims its existence to be elsewhere.