President threatens to rescind press credentials

Here we go again.
 
This morning, President Trump threatened – via Twitter, of course – to revoke press credentials for news organizations that produce stories he finds negative toward him or his agenda.

 
Interestingly, according to The Washington Post, Mr. Trump’s threat followed a segment on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” which cited a new report by the conservative Media Research Center, the website of which states, “MRC’s sole mission is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media. This makes the MRC’s work unique within the conservative movement.”
 
Hardly an impartial source.
 
Hardly the first time President Trump has lashed out at the Fourth Estate.
 
Not even a month into his term as our commander-in-chief, Mr. Trump infamously tweeted quite directly that journalists were antithetical to everything he believes America stands for.

 
The president, unfortunately, has found some fertile ground in his effort to discredit the mainstream news media. A new AXIOS/SurveyMonkey poll shows that Americans are deeply divided about whether the media are covering President Trump fairly.

 
Most disturbing to me about the poll is the huge disparity between the views of Republicans, 87% of whom found the news media’s coverage of the president to be “too critical,” and Democrats, a nearly identical 86% of whom found coverage to be either “fair” or “not critical enough.”
 
Needless to say, the president’s animus toward responsible journalism, as manifested by his threat-by-tweet today, is nothing new, neither during his administration (and campaign) nor throughout the history of our nation.
 
One needs to look back no further than the final quarter of the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st Century to see modern-era examples of presidents using responsible journalism as their foil.

A February 2017 Boston Globe piece notes that Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each found attacking responsible journalism – or at least bypassing it to speak directly to the American people on their own, unfiltered terms – necessary either to achieve their agendas or combat scandals.
 
But if you did choose to peruse the entire history of the United States, you’d find examples of Chief Executives going after the press in even more troubling ways. As famed First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams pointed out at a May 6 event at the National Press Club in Washington – the 2018 Missouri-Hurley and Price Sloan Symposium – there have been at least three other examples in our history of even more serious threats from presidents against the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press:
 
  • President Theodore Roosevelt compelled his Department of Justice to prosecute publisher Joseph Pulitzer for his newspapers’ coverage of corruption in the construction of the Panama Canal.
  • President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War, so he could, at least in part, jail Union newspaper editors who he thought were not unsympathetic enough toward the Confederate States of America.
  • President John Adams supported, and signed into law, the Sedition Act, which permitted him to jail newspaper editors.
Abrams’ argument was that President Trump has been “more hostile to the press than any of his predecessors in American history. More hostile, even, than the Nixon Administration – more hostile than any prior administration.” The perceived transgressions of Roosevelt, Lincoln and Adams were, he said, essentially one-offs, and not indicative of their overall status in history.
 
Which brings me to an interesting academic study highlighted this week by our friends at the Poynter Institute, concerning why many people use bulls*** to explain their points of view or attempt to influence others.
 
Yes, bulls*** has an academic definition: “Communications that result from little to no concern for truth, evidence and/or established semantic, logical, systemic, or empirical knowledge.” 
 
In other words, as study author John V. Petrocelli of Wake Forest University states, “... people appear to be especially likely to [bulls***] when it may be perceived as acceptable or relatively easy to pass — when they are not held accountable or when they expect to justify their positions with like-minded individuals.
 
However you term President Trump’s often “Fox & Friends”-inspired attacks on responsible journalism, you must agree that they are landing punches with a significant segment of America’s population.
 
To that I say, in reference to the president’s tweeted threat today to revoke the press credentials of journalists with whom he disagrees, or whose stories he finds inconvenient to his personal or political agendas…
 
Here we go again.
 


 


 
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