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The Fake News Awards: An Ominous Attack on the Free Press

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

Donald Trump is engaged in a war against “Fake News.” Although, in his mind, “Fake News” means any sort of criticism against him, regardless of its veracity. Although there is obviously some widespread misinformation about him, Donald Trump is most certainly not engaged in a battle against fictitious news stories. If he were, his preferred news source might be NPR, not Fox News (whose consistent viewers, according to a FDU Public Mind Study, scored lower in a current events questionnaire than viewers who watched no news at all). Fox News, undoubtedly, perpetuates far more biased information than the other major news networks, so, if the president were keen on restoring truth to journalism, he would detest the deliberately deceptive partisanship of Fox News.  

To give you a sense of the other news sources Trump supports, while appearing on Infowars, Alex Jones’ radio talk show, he complimented Jones’s “amazing reputation.” Alex Jones, for context, once introduced a conspiracy theory that the gut-wrenching Sandy Hook massacre was a government hoax where no one was killed (prior to Trump’s appearance on his show). In all of the false reports that I have seen, no story is more heartless, baseless, and absolutely detestable. Exploiting the murders of innocent school children to stir up controversy and garner attention for a radio show is utterly reprehensible, and no one who does such has an “amazing reputation.”

In actuality, Trump’s attacks on CNN, the New York Times, and other reputable news sources serves as a means to delegitimize the media as a reliable source of information. The free press provides a key tenet in maintaining our democracy, offering an often unrecognized system of checks and balances between representatives and their constituents. By corroding the inherent dependability of the free press, Donald Trump has created an environment where (at least to his supporters) he is the sole dictator of what’s true and false. News sources that support the president are rewarded with retweets, while news sources that cover him negatively are attacked relentlessly, permanently branded with a Scarlet Letter-esq “Fake News” tweet.

The parallels between Trump’s actions and previous authoritarian fascists are alarming, to say the least. Both Hitler and Stalin rose to power by instituting a state-controlled press, and modern-day dictators, such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolás Maduro, have already used the term “Fake News” to quash criticism from their own respective journalists.

Trump’s recent Fake News Awards are perhaps the climax of his attacks on the press. A collection of “Fake News” sources, listing Op-Eds that incorrectly predicted the future and retracted stories as “Fake News,” the awards were nothing more than a callous attack on the media.  The issue here is not that the stories were incorrect — it’s that Trump has forever tarnished the reputability of these news organizations with his tweets. An act undermining our democratic processes — whether it be our right to free elections, right to free speech, or right to free press — is an attack on our country, and must be treated as such.

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