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Dear American People: We The Media Are Not Your Enemy

Alexis Bennet

Alexis Bennet

Olivia Fu, News Editor

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Undoubtedly, President Donald Trump has done numerous controversial actions since assuming the role as leader of the free world. Everything from his cabinet picks to his executive orders to his tweets have caused a flurry of responses, often times negative, from mainstream media.

This criticism has not sat well with our leader. It seems that President Trump has interpreted every negative response to his actions as a personal insult, and has subsequently attempted to invalidate them by claiming that they are “fake news” media and not to be trusted, regardless of whatever facts back the criticisms.

He even went so far as to tweet, “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election,” despite his historically low approval ratings.

This kind of statement reeks of low self confidence and an inability to confront reality.

However, in terms of the threat it poses to the freedom of our country, this tweet pales in comparison to a more recent one in which he exclaims, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

Issued after a press conference spent degrading and insulting mainstream media, this tweet sent shockwaves through the journalism world from both sides of the political aisle. Republicans, such as Fox News anchor Chris Wallace and Senator John McCain, are amongst the ranks of people to speak out against President Trump’s comments.

The issue is not just President Trump inability to take criticism; rather, his personal distaste for what the media says about him has influenced him to attempt to weaken the public’s faith in the free press.

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!””

— tweet from President Donald Trump

As Wallace said, “Lord knows, Barack Obama criticized Fox News. If Donald Trump wants to criticize The New York Times, that’s fine. But it’s different from saying that we are an enemy of the American people. That’s a different thing.”

Press Secretary Sean Spicer demonstrated a dangerous attitude of only tolerating media that agrees with the administration when he barred reporters from the likes of CNN, NY Times, Politco from attending a briefing, while allowing conservative leaning publications such as Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and Breitbart News were allowed to attend. Even though certain publications may disagree with him and be perceived as having a “liberal bias”, that doesn’t mean that Trump should exclude them from the democratic process.

The press has always been necessary to keep the White House honest and accountable. Making blanket attacks on media sites who criticize him serve one purpose only– to weaken the American people’s trust in the free press, and thus weaken the strength of our democracy.

As former US president John F. Kennedy explained once in an interview, “Even though we never like it [the press] and even [though] we wished they didn’t write it and even though we disapprove[,] there isn’t any doubt that we couldn’t do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.”

Trump isn’t the first world leader to criticize the media- there’s a historical precedent from both past American leaders and foreign ones. Trump even recently cited Presidents Jefferson and Lincoln’s rocky relationships with the press to justify his own words and actions. However, it should be noted that much of  journalism of that day was purposefully partisan and propagandist, not the objective reporting which is practiced now.

Even then, Jefferson believed, “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to.”

As McCain said in an interview with NBC News, “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

And while Trump has frequently verbally attacked the press in his month of presidency, he has yet to legally go after them. The so called “enemies of the American people” have yet to be persecuted for reporting on the truth, like in true authoritarian states, such as Russia.

However, if Donald Trump wants to see his approval ratings grow, he’ll have to stop throwing temper tantrums over SNL’s most recent portrayal of him, and focus on how to defeat the real enemies of the American people (without violating the Constitution).

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