There is no question that Donald Trump is a bitter enemy of of press freedom and the Constitution’s First Amendment. He has relentlessly maligned the media in an attempt to persuade his followers that he is the only source of truthful information about the government and his administration. It’s a tactic that has been favored by authoritarian tyrants throughout history.
Now Reporters Without Borders has released their latest annual study on international press freedom. The World Press Freedom Index is a ranking of the status of the media around the world. The study asserts that threats to press freedom and to journalists are growing, and warns that “hostility towards the media” is “openly encouraged by political leaders.” And the study’s opening paragraphs are clear about the sources of these escalating threats:
“More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as ‘enemies of the people,’ the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”
Trump’s attacks are are rooted in his seething fear that honest journalism will educate the public about his incompetency and criminality. So he has taken to calling any reporting that is critical of him “fake news”. While most Americans see through this infantile name-calling, his base of “Deplorables” devour it with an all-consuming ignorance and cultish devotion.
Trump has no regard for the harm he is doing to the nation and the world, whose dictators have adopted the Trump model for destroying the press. The study notes these threats as it goes into deeper detail with descriptions of the dangerous hostility that Trump holds for the the media that he is determined to undermine. What follows is the section of the study that focuses on the United States and its media-hating leader:
“In 2017, the 45th President of the United States helped sink the country to 45th place by labeling the press an ‘enemy of the American people’ in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempts to block White House access to multiple media outlets, routine use of the term ‘fake news’ in retaliation for critical reporting, and calling for media outlets’ broadcasting licenses to be revoked. President Trump has routinely singled out news outlets and individual journalists for their coverage of him, and retweeted several violent memes targeting CNN.
The violent anti-press rhetoric from the White House has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions. Reporters have even been subject to physical assault while on the job.
Press freedom violations in the country of the First Amendment in fact have become so frequent of late that RSF joined a coalition of more than two dozen press freedom organizations to launch the US Press Freedom Tracker in August, which documented 34 arrests of journalists in 2017, the majority while covering protests (find out more on the tracker).”
This study is just the latest verification of how destructive Trump’s anti-media mission is, and the scale with which it produces tangible harm. He has previously been cited as an an unprecedented threat to press freedom by the Committee to Protect Journalists. And he isn’t getting any better with time. He just sent out a fundraising email that explains his decision not to attend the White House Correspondent’s Dinner this weekend. It should be noted that this is an annual event for charity that almost always features the sitting president, who joins in the lighthearted roast. But Trump whined to his donors, “Why would I want to be stuck in a room with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me?”
Trump’s gnawing loathing for the press is also apparent in his avoidance of any scrutiny by independent journalists. He has not had a solo press conference in over a year. The only one he has held as President was shortly after his inauguration. Nor has he submitted to an interview with anyone other than friendly “news” outlets like Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network in nearly a year.
Unfortunately for our frightened president, his cowardice has been noticed by the majority of America’s citizens. They understand that a leader who is afraid to face the press is not a leader at all. Consequently, surveys that asked who the people trust more – the media or Trump – consistently show that the people have greater trust for the media than for the spineless cretin temporarily occupying the White House. And that, at least, is a hopeful sign for the future.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.