Monday, May 29, 2017

Attacking Reporters Needs to Stop... Now.

I never thought I'd have to write these words, but then, I never thought I'd see a president like Mr. Trump, a man who thinks it's okay to call the media "scum," "liars," and "the most dishonest people"; who has encouraged his followers to threaten journalists during rallies; and who stated that the media are "the enemy of the American people."  I understand that no one person is responsible for the current climate we are in, but the person at the top often sets the tone; and as I see it, the tone the president is setting is having profoundly negative consequences on those who work in journalism.

Here are several troubling examples.  Yesterday, the offices of a newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky were shot at.  One of the reporters who works for that paper noted that he regularly receives anonymous death threats. (I am told he is not alone-- more reporters are finding this is part of being a journalist in 2017.)  And a few days ago, a reporter who was doing nothing more provocative than asking a question about the healthcare law was body-slammed by Republican candidate Greg Gianforte of Montana; Gianforte also screamed at him, and then tried to lie about it and blame the reporter, saying he was a "liberal journalist" causing trouble.  (To her credit, a reporter from Fox News saw the event and defended the journalist's version of what happened. But it didn't matter-- the Republican candidate won anyway.) The president called it a "great victory."  But I don't think it was.

What bothered me about both stories, and others involving journalists being pushed or attacked (whether physically or verbally), is the lack of outrage from most of my Republican friends.  I've read on social media that the journalist beaten up by Mr. Gianforte "deserved it," or "had it coming."  After all, isn't that how you treat a "liberal journalist"?  In a world where the president himself seems to make excuses for violence and threats against reporters, it seems to me that this isn't going to get better any time soon.  (Republicans in congress didn't cover themselves in glory either--few condemned what their candidate had done-- after all, he won, and isn't winning all that matters?)

I know what some of my Republican friends will say-- "Yes, but Democrats are just as bad."  Sorry, but I don't recall any Democratic presidential candidates in my lifetime saying that it's okay to attack a reporter.  I know that many presidents, from both parties, have disliked, or even hated, the coverage they got from the media.  But I don't recall any of them egging on a crowd or asserting that the media are the enemy of the American people-- that is how dictators and autocrats speak; and it gives permission to Mr. Trump's supporters (many of whom have already been stirred up by his harsh rhetoric) to lash out at the first reporter they see.

And by the way, when Mr. Trump accuses the mainstream press of being "fake news" or the "fake media," he is being dishonest.  Fake news refers to quotes that were never said, and events that never took place.  I have not seen mainstream reporters making up quotes or making up events when reporting on his administration. Not agreeing with the coverage doesn't make it fake.  I know he much prefers "friendly media" (Fox News, right-wing talk shows, Breitbart, etc); but again, whether he likes a story or not doesn't mean the story is fake-- and it doesn't make it okay to assault the reporters trying to cover the news.

To everyone who defended Mr. Gianforte's thuggish behavior; to everyone who agrees that reporters with allegedly liberal views deserve to be assaulted; to those who have worn shirts that say reporters should be lynched (not funny, and especially scary to black reporters); and to those who have sent around memes that make excuses for threatening reporters, you are making things worse.  I am fine about your wanting to only read right-wing blogs, or believe ridiculous conspiracy theories.  I am not fine about your belief that we don't really need a free press (or that only the journalists and commentators with whom you agree are worthy of respect).

I fear for our country if this sort of behavior continues. So, if the president won't do it, then it's up to you:  stand up for the rights of journalists and let them do their job, whether you agree with them or not.  You may think intimidating and threatening so-called "liberal" reporters is okay.  But I can assure you, it sets a terrible precedent.  It's a dangerous game the president is playing; and I beg you to put a stop to it... before we turn into a country where dissent is punished, and freedom of the press means only whatever the president wants to hear.

2 comments:

  1. Do we want to be "...a country where dissent is punished, and freedom of the press means only whatever the president wants to hear." Amen and well said. We ALL need to work harder if we don't want to slide into an oligarchy.

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  2. Excellent commentary Donna. YES, this assault on journalists everywhere, not to mention the First Amendment, is absolutely unacceptable.

    Great job on the blog as well! Respect.

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