Among those axed from attendance were The New York Times, CNN, BBC, and the Los Angeles Times. Several other news outlets, such as TIME and The Associated Press, did not attend the briefing to stand in solidarity with the banned companies.
Though I’m not a journalist, I find this decision very concerning, disheartening, and a fearful sign of what’s to come with Trump’s presidency and administration. A book I’ve often alluded to throughout Trump’s drama, “Fahrenheit 451”, seems a little less like a distant, only-potential future. The moment I see Trump hold a lighter up to any printed content, I’m outta here.
In all seriousness, this debacle has resounded with an issue I’ve held near and dear to my heart more than other people may be aware: censorship.
In this world of sexism, racism, xenophobia, etc., I’ve been very vocal about many other issues that have direct and immediate effects on the safety and well-being of people, so I haven’t had much space for my strong feelings on censorship to come out. However, after Friday’s events, I could feel censorship forcing its way into my already loaded queue of dangers to society.
My feelings for censorship started at a young age. In middle school, I had an account on the Nintendo-run website “Flipnote Hatena”, where Nintendo DSi users were able to post art and animations. It was there that I explored my interests in art and animation most deeply. Even though I ended up not pursuing that path in life, it still played a major role in my appreciation and understanding of the arts.
With it came a forceful exposure to censorship. Because Nintendo is “family-friendly”, it wasn’t uncommon to get your art removed from their website for violating one of their many rules, whether it be gore, language, or just the use of copyrighted audio.
As you could imagine, it’s hard to rein in artists, who thrive by following the unpredictable path of creativity wherever it takes them. And considering the majority of users were in the age range of 12 to 17, from my own rough estimate after using the site for years, well, good luck getting them to follow the rules. I had my own art taken down every now and then for this reason or that, so censorship and I were at odds for years before I really learned about it.
Then came high school, with an on-campus library that observed “Banned Book Week” every year. For some unknown reason, I immediately felt drawn to their exhibit my freshman year. I thumbed through some of the books they had on the subject and was surprised at my findings. From the Bible to “Where the Wild Things Are”, it seemed that no creation was safe from those “special snowflakes,” as Tomi Lahren (or whatever she even uses these days) puts it—though most of the people responsible for getting the books banned tended to be of more conservative and religious backgrounds, not necessarily liberal. (I think Tomi should take a better look at the demographic she’s going after.)
All potential ways of roasting Toyota Lasagna aside (and there are many), it was in high school that I found this issue of censorship more frustrating and problematic. I’d discuss it with my friends every once in a while, but, given it was a Catholic school, it was easy for others to just sigh and say, “Well, obviously books like ‘Twilight’ should be banned, because they have sex in them, which is inappropriate for school,” which, like, okay, I get it; I’m not advocating for “Twilight” to be put in every elementary school library, but there’s a difference between excluding a book in your school’s collection and going to all the trouble of having it explicitly banned from the district.
Enter college, where I’m taking beginner film classes and getting a feel for the environment. For the first time in my life, I’m at a Catholic school that not only allows fairly unbiased room for other opinions, but welcomes them with open arms. Pretty early on into one of my film classes, our professor reassured us that LMU won’t censor anything we create as students.
Censorship is quite a fickle thing. It’s a prime example of the principle of “either all is okay, or none is okay”, similar to the American rights of free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, etc. Not only would it be tedious for the government to review every individual case, but it wouldn’t be a consistent law. Judicial positions are revolving doors from a long-term perspective; just look at our own Supreme Court’s history, which gave us Plessy v. Ferguson in the 1890s, only to be overturned by Brown v. Board of Education half a century later.
We can’t accept and reject censorship at the same time. Laws are already vague enough, occasionally too flexible to use firmly. Censorship is either okay or it’s not, and seeing as we all enjoy our First Amendment rights to their full extent just by being able to tweet our concerns directly to President Trump, censorship has been ruled as not okay.
Things change under every president, but Amendments usually do not. Where are all those who freaked out about the Second Amendment only one year ago, claiming their rights were being threatened by a government that hadn’t made any tangible moves against their Constitutional rights? Meanwhile, less than 100 days into Trump’s America, we’re hurling ourselves toward a "Fahrenheit 451" society built upon many decisions over time to limit people’s access to information. Sure, some of those banned on Friday haven’t been Trump’s biggest fans so far, but only allowing proclaimed-Trump-friendly sources access to information provides a chance for an actual threat of Trump’s fear of “Fake News.”
Think about it: it’d be harder to convince writers at The New York Times to spread pro-Trump misinformation than it would be to convince writers at the self-proclaimed Trump-supporting Breitbart. This isn’t a matter of left vs. right so much as it is a matter of picking favorites.
Trump’s been selected team captain for today’s P.E. class and is choosing members for his kickball team. Despite some of his classmates being critically acclaimed players, he’s first choosing his friends, those whom he knows won’t question his authority as captain—which will ultimately be his downfall.
This is a major loss for Americans, too. I don’t know about everyone else, but I personally don’t go to Breitbart for my news. While I do go to other news sources on similar size-levels as Breitbart (AKA, not network giants like CNN or Fox), I’ll usually compare articles from multiple sources to try to get the full picture. Trump is hindering us from doing this by limiting the vehicle upon which his information is transported from the White House to the American people.
Now that Trump has taken his first big step in this direction, every step afterward gets easier and easier. Next week, ABC and CBS could be added to the “banned” list. Though it will still be a huge deal, it won’t hit Americans in the gut quite as sharply as Friday’s events did. Eventually, the blows will lessen and lessen until there’s nothing left—either we’ll be so desensitized to our government’s outlandish behavior, or there just won’t be any news outlets left to report on Trump’s behavior and we’ll be completely in the dark.
Let me say a slightly more personal thing.
As a writer, censorship is one of my biggest enemies. I can spew hatred about it all day in a metaphorically fiery breath, but deep down, it can be a source for fear. If we continue down this path, where will America stand in ten years? What will happen to our freedoms?
I will take this moment to assert the fact that I will never let my writing be censored.
If I have any fucking thoughts to pass along to Mr. Trump, to other people, to anyone, I will fucking do so.
Trump cannot stop me from creating my art or sharing my stories, even if their sole purpose is to pass along information (that he's omitted from the public) to discredit him and show the effects of his decisions at the vulnerable level of a first person narrated novel.
The day we accept the censorship of information is the day we give up on our American-instilled rights to having access to and the choice to pursue the truth.