Free speech is a tenet of our national identity.
The idea that citizens are shielded from government censorship is a true endowment. Although words on their own can appear innocuous, the power they wield is considerable. In his acclaimed graphic novel, “V for Vendetta,” author Allan Moore explored the value of verbal communication. “Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.” But where truth was once absolute, it is now relative. And after President Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, declared on NBC that “truth isn’t truth,” no one can be sure of anything. As it relates to the press, this is exactly what Trump wants.
Since the inception of his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has consistently undermined the validity of mainstream media reporting. In 2017, Trump intensified his attacks by tweeting “The FAKE NEWS media is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” The visceral tone of this statement is disturbing. According to renowned journalist Carl Bernstein, the views espoused by Trump run contrary to the principles of American democracy. As Bernstein told The New York Times, “Donald Trump is demonstrating an authoritarian attitude and inclination that shows no understanding of the role of the free press.”
While I generally agree with Bernstein’s sentiments, I do take some exception. Specifically, I believe Trump fully comprehends the role of the media — this is why he fears them. The American press serves as watchdogs. Journalists provide oversight, ensure accountability and protect the integrity of our democracy. Because Trump thrives on dysfunction and requires an aura of confusion to govern, he demeans the press for his own political gain.
The consequences of Trump’s diatribe reached dangerous heights when explosive materials were anonymously mailed to several of his political opponents. Notably, a singular news agency was the recipient of a suspicious package. According to The Washington Post, a bomb was sent to CNN’s headquarters on Oct. 24. To be clear, Trump did not direct these acts of domestic terrorism and I am not suggesting that he did. However, it is likely that a deranged individual was inspired by Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. Accordingly, Trump must accept responsibility for inciting this behavior. Consider the following. At an Oct. 22 rally in Texas, the Dallas Morning News noted a “CNN sucks!” chant erupted as Trump spoke. His response to their taunts was all too predictable: “Don’t worry. I don’t like ‘em either.”
On Oct. 25, Trump deflected all criticism related to the mail bombs in an accusatory tweet. "A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description." Trump is right. The state of affairs in America is bad and hateful. But if the president wants to assign blame for the condition of our nation, he needs to look no further than a mirror.