A free and independent press aids the citizenry in their fundamental duty as citizens: guarding against madness and corruption in government.
Attacking the independence of the press is one of the ways in which Donald Trump has weakened and is currently weakening our shared democracy, one of if not our most precious (for without it, the government belongs only to the moment’s despot) national resource.
4/20/2020 CPJ report finding that Trump threatens press freedoms
[Author: Leonard Downie Jr., the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Researcher: Stephanie Sugars, a reporter for the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker (from the About page.
From the press release page (linked to above):
“In a November 2016 meeting, CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl asked President-elect Trump why he continued to berate the press. Trump responded, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so that, when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.'”
If, people of the USA, you cannot catch onto an autocrat who is constantly revealing his hand, what hope is there for you? How are you going to do your job and preserve your democracy? Are you even trying to do your job? What do you think your job as citizens of a democratic republic is? To sit around bragging while rubbing your belly? You are driving me crazy.
“The report found that Trump’s attacks are both intentional and hard to miss. Repetition has become one of his most potent weapons. Trump attacked the media in nearly 1,900 tweets between 2015, when he announced his candidacy, and the end of 2019, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.”
“According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Trump has made 16,200 false or misleading claims on Twitter. Other fact-checking sites found similar results. ProPublica founder Paul Steiger said this creates ‘a readiness of people to disbelieve factual reporting.'”
“The Trump administration has stepped up prosecutions of news sources, interfered in the business of media owners, harassed journalists crossing U.S. borders, and empowered foreign leaders to restrict their own media. But Trump’s most effective ploy has been to destroy the credibility of the press, dangerously undermining truth and consensus even as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to kill tens of thousands of Americans. A special report of the Committee to Protect Journalists.”
“The president’s press secretaries, other White House aides and administration officials, along with Trump’s allies in Congress also repeatedly attacked the press, often parroting the president’s language.” He’s also stepped up legal investigations and threats to prosecute members of the press. And called for boycotts of news organizations who don’t lick his boots, tried to remove the White House press credentials of press members, and “He encouraged federal government interference in the businesses of the owners of CNN, the traditional broadcast networks, and The Washington Post”
“As threatening as all of that has been for the news media, Trump’s attacks have had the most success in eroding the credibility of the American press among his many millions of supporters. A major Pew Research Center study in late 2019 showed that a plurality of Republicans consistently distrusted most of the news media (except for Trump-supporting media like Fox News), while pluralities of Democrats tended to trust them.”
“At the same time, until the COVID-19 crisis, the Trump administration restricted most on-the-record access to White House and administration officials other than the president.
In response, reporters developed confidential sources of information inside the White House and government departments for revelatory stories. Trump then called those stories ‘fake news’ and claimed that their ‘anonymous sources’ did not exist. When Trump attacked those stories and the reporters who wrote them, his supporters often targeted the journalists with online insults and vitriol.”
The author compares Trump’s relationship with the press to those of other recent presidents. Nixon’s is the most similar in media attacks,
“The administrations of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both courted the press, although Bill and Hillary Clinton resented reporting about their Arkansas business dealings, the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, and his impeachment.”
“George W. Bush was personally friendly with reporters, and officials in his administration were accessible to the press. At the same time, they were notably disciplined in their messaging, which included false justifications for the invasion of Iraq after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”
“Barack Obama promised that his administration would be the most transparent in history. Instead it became the most determined to limit information that the news media needed to hold the government accountable for its actions. It used White House websites and social media to bypass the news media in presenting its own version of reality to the public, in a precursor to how Donald Trump would later use Twitter.”
“Most significantly, the Obama administration prosecuted 10 government employees and contractors for disclosing classified information to the press. … National security journalists told me that those investigations had a chilling effect on government sources of information.”
“Yet, the Obama administration ‘never engaged in public rhetoric against the press,’ noted University of Georgia media law professor Jonathan Peters. By contrast, Peters characterized Trump’s verbal attacks on the press as ‘a systematic effort to de-legitimize the news media as a check on government power.’”
“By the time Trump was elected president in November 2016, Americans appeared to be irreconcilably divided, not just politically, ideologically, and emotionally, but factually. Poll after poll showed that supporters and opponents of Trump believed very different versions of what they think of as facts because they depend primarily on sources of news and information they trust, regardless of their veracity.”
The reports sections are: Trumps attacks on press credibility, Press access to government information under Trump, Trump and the truth, Trump, the law, and the press, Targeting news media owners, War on leaks, Harassment of journalists at U. S. borders, Impact outside the U.S., News media response, and Recommendations
“Presidents are free to mock, needle, evade and even demean the press, but not to use the power of government to stifle it. That is why this week PEN America, an organization of writers that defends free expression, together with the nonprofit organization Protect Democracy and the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Clinic, is filing suit in federal court seeking an order directing the president not to use the force of his office to exact reprisals against the press.”
“After repeatedly attacking CNN’s news coverage as ‘fake,’ ‘garbage’ and ‘terrible’ and personally pledging to block a proposed merger of its parent company, Time Warner, with AT&T, the Trump administration opposed the deal, a vertical merger that would not normally attract antitrust scrutiny.”
“Trump has also repeatedly attacked the Washington Post and threatened to target its owner Jeff Bezos’s biggest holding, Amazon. This spring the president followed through on his threats, ordering the Postal Service to review rates for the online shopping behemoth.”
“Trump threatened to withdraw the press credentials of reporters who criticized him; in August CNN’s Kaitlan Collins was barred from a Rose Garden press conference for asking questions the White House judged impertinent.”
“In August a man was arrested for threatening to murder Boston Globe journalists parroted the president’s ‘enemy of the people’ language. White House radio reporter April Ryan, the New York Times’ Bret Stephens, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynzki and others have received death threats.”
A couple other articles:
Study finds Trump’s attacks on press effective
[For an overview of our political philosophy (such as it is), see A Simpler Shared Something Deeperism, Duties of a Republic’s Citizenry, and Representative Democracy is a Spiritual Good. Our core philosophy is Something Deeperism — the general worldview that people can relate meaningfully to the Truth and therefore can relate meaningfully to their own thoughts and feelings, but they cannot relate to the Truth in a literal way, meaning that knowledge is better pictured as an organization of ideas and feelings around the Truth shining in and through all things, rather than a set of ideas and/or feelings one can definitively grasp as “True”. One can organize one’s thoughts and ideas better and better around the Truth/Light, allowing one to align one’s feeling/thinking/acting better and better with Reality. We have a Something Deeperism Institute, with a few essays selected from our several books.]