Less than two weeks ago, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer held a press briefing that was controversial for two reasons. The first reason was the press briefing was held off camera which gathered much attention because of the second reason: Trump barred five different news organizations from attending the press briefing. These five organizations were The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, Politico and Buzzfeed. As usual this became a partisan debate with Trump supporters defending this as taking a stand against fake news, and those who oppose him calling it an attack on free press. As you guessed, I am a believer of the latter. How Trump is treating the press is not a partisan issue and it should terrify everyone.
Disapproval with the media and the news has reached an all-time high in this country. Complaints include the increasing number of media bias, an increase in corporate influence, and the lack of important news stories while focusing on stories that are unimportant but easy to sensationalize. These complaints are reasonable, but the problem is that the U.S. population only applies these complaints to the news organizations that disagree with their political views. The most notable example of this is the complaint of liberal bias in the news, but continues to watch Fox News, Breitbart and Info Wars. At the same time liberals complain about the awfulness of these news organizations, but ignore the shortcomings of the liberal media and this is where Trump has taken this mindset to a terrifying new level.
Throughout his campaign and tenure as president, Trump has constantly manipulated this mindset to his advantage. This includes him saying in campaign speeches that the media has declared war on him, calling the media “the enemy of the people” on Twitter and at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, using “fake news” an excuse to shut down any opposing question, and now barring news organizations that he deems “fake news” from press conferences. There is truth in the fact that is there is an overload of dissent from the opposing side with any president. Another example of this is how Obama was treated by the conservative media during his presidency. His supporters are using this as an excuse for his behavior towards journalists, but it doesn’t.
To put it bluntly, this is Trump deciding what is and what isn’t fake news, and to the Trump supporters who are defending him, imagine how you would you feel if Obama was committing the same actions as Trump. In fact, there were times when Obama would more subtly block Fox News from events, and Fox and conservatives were outraged, as they should be.
Despite how awful a news organization is, a president should not decide what fake news is because even if there is an overflow of dissent, that does not mean that all of the dissent is invalid. Also for the amount of dissent from one side, there is an equal and opposite response from the opposing side of the media.
This is the other side of the fake news that Trump adores. The news organizations that paint Trump as the savior of America, and refuses to say anything negative about him. Trump has shown to favor these organizations that include InfoWars, Fox News, and most notably Breitbart News, with the appointment of Steve Bannon, the executive chair of the news organization to this cabinet. What’s terrifying about this is as far as fake news, Breitbart is the textbook definition. Multiple articles on Breitbart have been proven false, but the site will still retain the articles, and even just the headlines show the inaccuracy of their stories. Ever since Trump’s campaign started, it became Trump’s propaganda station. You have a person painting any opposing news source as fake news, and then boosting a news organization that he has in pocket as the beacon of journalistic integrity.
Whether you are a liberal, a conservative, or other, we need to come together and call him out on this, because when a president is able to decide what is and what isn’t fake news, it’s not going to end well for all of us. To help break the partisanship, we need to stop the crying wolf, stop blanket protests of just we don’t like Trump, and save the protests for when something serious like this is happening. If we continue like we are, we’re going to continue to look like crybabies. We are going to be ignored even in the face of something scary like this, and his announcement of him skipping the correspondent’s dinner shows it’s only getting worse.