For a President who likes to use social media and news outlets to convey his thoughts and positions on many issues, Donald Trump sure does want to silence these very outlets. Our President has waged all-out war on our media which is protected by our first amendment. This amendment reads,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
To summarize, this means the government cannot persecute you for what you say or how you say it. While there are exceptions to the speech the First Amendment protects (i.e. obscenity), critical rhetoric regarding the government is surely not one of them. In United States history, the media has exposed national scandals, unfair business practices, and, most recently, allegations of sexual assault.
The press is vital to our system and keeping the government in check whether you like it or not.
Sadly, our president is doing everything he can to attack one of America’s most important democratic factors.
Recently, he tweeted about the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) revoking the network licenses of news channels who wrote or reported what he deems “fake news” stories about him or his administration. There’s one small problem with this though. The FCC doesn’t grant licenses to networks or cable channels. The channels he often attacks such as CNN, MSNBC, and ABC don’t have licenses to revoke. The FCC deals with things such as indecency and cross-ownership rules. Not whether or not MSNBC reported Trump’s new bill the way he wanted them to. You can’t shut down criticism of the government just because you don’t like it and the first amendment protects news stations from this very incident.
Another event having to do with free speech that has dominated the news recently is the NFL protests which Trump has attacked with zeal. Many tweets have been sent out on the subject but Trump has made it very clear that players should be fired for kneeling. Peaceful protests and symbolic expressions have been the backbone of many changes in our democracy. The first amendment protects symbolic expression as determined by the 1925 Supreme Court case Gitlow v. New York. It also protects symbolic expressions, such as flag burning, as determined by the 1989 Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson.
Free speech and the protection of it is vital to our democracy.
Our President’s apparent lack of understanding of it threatens what makes America actually great. We have distinguished ourselves from other governments because our press can report on controversial topics without worrying about being arrested or attacked. Trump’s zeal for wanting to attack and silence all of his critics is concerning and a threat to American democracy.