Fake News as a Presidential Weapon

In jam-packed stadiums across the country, where campaign rallies continue a year and a half after the election, President Trump and his supporters choose from a plethora of fan-favorite rallying cries.

“Lock her up.”

“Build the wall.”

“Drain the swamp.”

But perhaps the most dangerous chant is one Trump saves for his most despised opponent: the news media.

By now, Americans are familiar with the term “fake news”. U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that the Russian government had spread fake news on social networking sites to sew political division and influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. To the leader of a democratic nation, there should be nothing more disturbing than the interference in the free elections that uphold the very structure of our republican government. Yet, for President Trump, who adopted and weaponized the phrase, fake news became a way to undermine the press and their coverage of his cruel policies and abuses of power.

News outlets like the New York Times and CNN, which were once hailed as trustworthy and credible sources, are now slandered. At the first press conference after Trump’s election, a reporter from CNN attempted to ask a question. Trump delivered an overt and lethal condemnation: “You’re fake news.”

The Cornerstone of Democracy

In the United States, a free and independent press is protected by the Constitution. Journalists are responsible for holding those in power to account, for investigating and reporting government actions, and for providing a voice to those who are silenced. Now, more than ever, vigilant work by the press is vital as Trump and his allies intentionally and maliciously mislead the American people.

Embodying the impact and importance of the press, hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. Initially, the White House denied the existence of the policy then blamed its implementation on Democrats. The media challenged these lies, fiercely covering the issue and striking outrage in politicians and civilians alike. Even before the demonstrations took place, the American people pressured the president with such determination that the administration was forced to terminate the policy- a result of the compassion sparked by news coverage.

Threats to the Fourth Estate

Rampant attacks against the press have become increasingly violent. With the president dubbing journalists “the enemy of the people”, the hostility reporters have faced is unsurprising. At Trump rallies, journalists are often the victims of verbal abuse and threats by both the President and his supporters.

On June 28, a man armed with a shotgun opened fire on the journalists of the Capital Gazette in Maryland after a columnist wrote about the man’s stalking and harassment of a former classmate. While unfair to attribute the shooter’s actions to the president, the incident reflects the challenges and resentment that the press faces today in the United States. In a country that claims to value freedom of speech, this shooting makes clear that there are some things the First Amendment cannot protect our journalists from.

Unafraid and Fighting Back

Despite these terrifying threats, American journalists are not backing down. Like the reporters who kept investigating after the Trump administration assured that the government was not separating migrant children, or the staff at the Gazette who put out a paper the day after the shooting, good journalists understand what it means to be a member of the media.

It now becomes the duty of the American people to join the press in challenging power. Staying informed is in itself a form of resistance. Rejecting lies and hateful rhetoric is a means for combating this administration. Supporting journalists, our fellow citizens, is to defy the commands of the authoritarian regime that seeks to cover its discriminatory tracks.

The President wants Americans to think that journalists are the enemy; but as the Founding Fathers would tell you, that’s fake news.


Image Attribute: Pixabay