“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad” – Albert Camus
Every morning, the vast majority of Americans pick up a newspaper, turn on the television, or log onto their computers to catch up on the latest news stories. Lately, those news stories more often than not focus on the most recent escapades of D. Trump. The media has flooded the airwaves with the man’s every facial tic, every word uttered, and every foolish thing he says or does. It is annoying, it is sickening, and it is the stuff of which bad moods are formed. But it is a necessary evil and our guaranteed right under the 1st Amendment, so we sigh and, for lack of a better phrase, ‘suck it up’.
While we may not like seeing the man with the bad fake hair and orange face on our television sets every morning, Trump apparently likes it even less. Why? Because he cannot control it. He cannot control what the New York Times or The Washington Post, Time, Politico or FiveThirtyEight write about him. He cannot control what Chris Cuomo or George Stephanopoulos say about him. He cannot control what pictures and commentaries are communicated online. And D. Trump is all about control.
Throughout the campaign, he used social media to rant, criticize and proselytize. I do not use my Twitter account, so thankfully was spared the bulk of his messages, seeing only those that made their way into the mainstream media. Or perhaps all of them found their way to the media, who seemed to hang on his every word. This form of communication is fine for short messages among friends, but it is not an appropriate forum for serious policy discussions. No worries there, though, as Trump never conducts serious policy discussions. Most of his ‘tweets’ were about as mature and relevant as those of a teenage girl. However, once elected to the highest office of the nation, one would expect that Trump would show a higher level of maturity than he did during the campaign. But no, the man has decided to stick with the means of communication that put the control in his hands, and circumvent the media that aims to inform and allows for both commentary and opposing views.
Now, Trump has taken his antics yet one step further … or should I say one step closer to a state-controlled media? Rather than giving a press conference to keep the citizenry abreast of his activities, he has taken to releasing YouTube videos on social media. I find this completely unacceptable, and see it as a threat to freedom of the press. Granted, the mainstream media outlets will pick up the video and present it along with commentary and critique, but it nonetheless reeks of bias and manipulation. It is somehow reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. If you have not read that book, or if it’s been a few decades, now might be a good time to pick it up again.
We The People have historically had a love/hate relationship with the media, but at the end of the day, we must applaud their efforts to keep us informed, and to serve as the watchdog between us and our elected officials, especially the president. Trump has been blatantly hostile to the media, mocking, criticizing, and threatening with libel suits, but now it appears that he will avoid them completely as much as possible, instead sending his messages to the American people via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and whatever other venue he can find that circumvents the mainstream media. I find this hard to swallow. I did not watch Trump’s YouTube video, nor will I watch any future ones. But, I understand that I am in the minority – there are many who follow his every tweet.
What, then, are the ramifications of Trump’s preferred communication style? Well, we hear what he says uninterrupted, untranslated, unquestioned, and without opposing viewpoints hours before the mainstream media has an opportunity to pose questions, thoughts, interpretations, and analysis. Unfiltered and unfettered, as it were. Is this in violation of freedom of the press? Technically, no, it is not. But realistically, yes, it is. It circumvents the free press … the media that we rely on to bring us the … rest of the story.
What is next? Will Trump’s threats of libel suits stifle the mainstream media? Will Brietbart, the home of the alt-right and mouthpiece of da trumpeter, reign supreme? Where do we go from here? Do we allow Trump to bypass the media that, though sometimes biased, we rely on for fact-checking, for another viewpoint? Do we fall in line? Do we allow him to shove his rhetoric down our collective throats, unchecked? Do we decide that our 1st Amendment rights no longer matter? Does Trump ultimately force his message upon us in such a way that as soon as we log onto our computers each day, his latest rambling rant is unavoidable? I jokingly told my daughter this morning that once Trump takes office next month he plans to have all Internet Service Providers load a Trump screensaver onto every computer and mobile device. Her eyes widened (wouldn’t you think she would know when I am being witty after living with me for some 46 years???) and I assured her I was kidding. But … is it really so far-fetched? I wonder …