Saturday, February 25, 2017

Who's Got Your Back? Day 3- Not the Freedom of the Press

It is disorienting for me to live in a society that is complicit in publicly-proclaimed falsehoods, but what has my head reeling is the prospect of not even knowing what real events underlie these falsehoods.  But this is what we are facing now that Trump is disallowing news agencies from covering press events.  Such restrictions are unprecedented in the history of White House news reporting (except a failed attempt by Obama to keep Fox News out).

The right that is needed to support all other rights in a democracy is Freedom of the Press.  Our forefathers could see that democracy can only function when the public knows the truth so that it can vote accordingly.  The framers of the Constitution strove to prevent a demagogue or autocrat like King George from gaining power.  They gave the press right of access to the government and the right to report on it without undue hindrance of libel laws.

Trump has already begun blacklisting news agencies from White House press events & calling on those correspondents who appear "friendly" at press conferences.  This cripples freedom of the press because the press needs access to White House events to survive as a business. If a news agency is threatened with not being able to attend based on how it reports the news, then the bottom line forces it to consider slanting the news to what will allow it to stay in business. Even if the reporting weren't affected, the suspicion that it is will affect its trustworthiness.

By making the "media the enemy of the American people," Trump is taking away the Freedom of the Press by discrediting what it says.  He is elevating a few far-right news agencies such as Breitbart and Fox to the status of state news outlets, depicting their problematic coverage as "real news" while labeling CNN as purveyors of "fake news."

Diminishing the press is so important to Trump because it maintains the gaslighting strategy that normalizes previously disqualifying behaviors.  If enough people see common agreement about "alt-facts" and their implications, even if this differs from previously held common belief, then these "alt-facts" become the new set of "operative facts," or "alt-facts."  But if truth tellers point out the obvious falsehood of these "alt-facts," or if all leaks aren't plugged, the gaslighting won't work.

Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are also mentioned in the Bill of Rights.  Both of these are now gravely endangered by legislation being adopted at the state level.  One bill proposes that anyone can be arrested who participates in a peaceful assembly even if there is a chance that the assembly will become violent.  Other laws make it possible for people who express a desire to attend an assembly having some violence to have their assets forfeited. When it's not possible to attend a protest without the possibility of arrest, protests are effectively illegal.

Freedom of speech is also curtailed by the NSA surveillance and social media checks by border guards which could provide information that can be used to accuse anyone of being disloyal to Trump or the U.S., thus keeping us from expressing ourselves freely over the media.  Freedom of the Press is our friend, not our enemy, but it no longer has our back.

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