Since the creation of American democracy, this country has valued a Constitution granting its people the freedom of speech and press. These statements, written as absolute and inalienable rights, led to the creation of a strong and crucial limb of the American political system: mass media.
In his first week as President, Donald Trump has continued his ongoing feud with the media. Many Americans hoped that once president, Trump would ditch his previous ways and move away from the moniker of “Twitter President.” However, in a striking, yet unsurprising move, Trump has simply extended his “war on media” from his twitter account to the White House Press Office.
During his first national press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tackled the greatest challenge Trump’s America is currently facing: the crowd size at Trump’s Inauguration. Spicer spent the majority of his nearly six-minute-long press briefing attacking the media for coverage that apparently tried to “minimize the enormous support” at Trump’s inauguration and for “engag[ing] in deliberately false reporting.”
The Press Office is responsible for providing updates on the president’s activities in office, as well as for answering questions from reporters — neither of which Spicer did. This unscheduled press briefing was not arranged because something pertinent to national security was underway, but because the president’s pride was hurt.
Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, has gone as far as to say the president provided “alternative facts” on the matter of Inaugural attendance. “Alternative facts,” as Conway referred to the statements, are merely falsehoods, or blatant lies. An administration that attempts to argue otherwise is continuing farther down a road of deceit.
Earlier that day, Trump gave a speech at the CIA to introduce himself to the organization. Trump stood in the CIA’s Hall of Heroes and spoke about his “war on media,” called media “the most dishonest human beings on Earth” and insisted that there were “a million, million-and-a-half people” in attendance at his Inauguration.
The President of the United States of America should not discuss his personal qualms in a room dedicated to American patriots and heroes who have given their lives to protect this country.
The recent events, however, have further proved to us is that Trump’s actual problem is not with the media. For Ezra Klein of Vox, Trump is instead at war with facts. Klein points out that Trump uses media to his advantage every day, but has made it his goal to delegitimize the media, specifically news sources that report about him and his administration ‘negatively’. In doing this, Trump’s administration has begun to regulate the facts presented by the media in an attempt to skew the public’s perception of truth.
The intended outcome of the war against facts is to pin Trump supporters against news sources which report the truth, therefore painting the media as their enemy.
The rhetoric Trump is attempting to create is dangerous and abnormal. According to David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, Donald Trump has not fundamentally changed “the nature of fact,” but the direction that his words and actions are heading threatens the nature of fact.
In the past week, the media’s rhetoric has drastically shifted toward a focus on the president’s lies and deceit. This focus has become a theme in recent news coverage of Trump’s administration.
Spicer has lashed out at media for this, but his actions have lead to nothing more than an undermining of the authority of the White House Press Office. Spicer has gone as far as to say that the office of the president “can disagree with facts.”
The bottom line: facts are not subjective and therefore cannot be disputed. By nature of democracy, the leading party cannot demand the media to report in their favor. The acts of Trump and his cabinet do not uphold the freedoms of press or speech that our very country stands upon.
If the first week is any indication, these next four years call for a media that is resilient and unyielding. Even if the goal of Trump’s rhetoric is to undermine and dismiss the power of the media, journalists must not tire in the search for facts.
The fight for truth is valid and it’s our responsibility. As discouraging and difficult as it may be to write while under the power of an administration who aims to strip American people of a fundamental right to free press, there is a crucial demand for ardent journalists. Vigilance among American citizens in the quest for facts is imperative.
Sriteja Yedhara, Contributing Columnist
Skye is a senior majoring in Communication Arts and minoring in Psychology. She is passionate about illustration and finding creative spaces to have open discussions about mental illness. A fervent animal lover, she would probably be a herpetologist in another life.
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