The war against the free press began under Donald Trump and the Republican Party, but now that the GOP is no longer in charge, Democrats are ready to pick up where their predecessors left off.
Trump’s self-declared war against the news media, or as he liked to call it, the “Enemy of the American people,” began during his 2016 campaign when he promised to “open our libel laws” to make it easier to sue the media “and win lots of money” — a threat he renewed in January 2018.
Trump followed through on his warning in October 2019 when lawyers representing him and his reelection campaign (Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.) sent a letter to CNN threatening to sue the network for its so-called anti-Trump bias. I documented at the time how this was just the latest example of the extreme steps Trump was willing to take to void the First Amendment.
Thanks to Donald Trump’s war against the “Fake News” media, attitudes about freedom of the press took a serious unconstitutional turn, even within the so-called conservative Republican Party. For example, an August 2017 poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of The Economist showed Republicans overwhelmingly supporting Trump over the media.
To make matters worse, when asked if they “supported or opposed permitting the courts to shut down or fine news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate,” nearly 50 percent of Republicans favored shutting them down, and over 50 percent favored fining them.
Amazingly, the cult ignores Trump’s threat to the Constitution and defends him even to this day because, according to some, Trump is a “true conservative” and “the media IS the enemy of the American people.”
But what happens when the names are changed? What happens when, under the law of unintended consequences, Democrats are the ones deciding what is or isn’t real news? A Reason.com article by Senior Editor Robby Soave might just provide the answer.
Today two Democratic members of Congress sent letters to the presidents of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Cox, Dish, and other cable and satellite companies implying that they should either stop carrying Fox News, One America News Network, and Newsmax or pressure them to change their coverage. According to the lawmakers, these conservative channels are responsible for promoting misinformation and political violence.
“To our knowledge, the cable, satellite, and over-the-top companies that disseminate these media outlets to American viewers have done nothing in response to the misinformation aired by these outlets,” wrote Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both of California.
Released in advance of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Wednesday hearing on “Disinformation and Extremism in the Media,” the letter makes clear that some lawmakers do not want television providers to let their customers watch conservative news channels. (emphasis mine)
Eshoo and McNerney asked the companies to explain the “moral and ethical principles” that influence their decision-making when deciding which channels to carry, and they requested information about how many viewers tuned in during the four weeks before the the Capitol riots on January 6, 2020 and what steps were taken to “monitor, respond to, and reduce the spread of disinformation.”
But wait, there’s more. The letter was also sent to Roku, Amazon, Apple, Google, Hulu, and other digital companies that distribute cable programming. Is it a coincidence that Amazon, Apple, and Google are some of the “Big Tech” companies targeted by Nationalist Republicans? I don’t think so.
The motivation behind this war on the free press has nothing to do with truth or the Constitution, and everything to do with the Republican/Democrat duopoly’s desire to silence the voices of their opposition and the lengths they are willing to go to destroy speech they don’t like.
Trump threatened CNN. Republicans threatened Big Tech. And Democrats are threatening cable and satellite companies. Neither party has any problem abusing their power to curb the speech of their adversaries, which is precisely why the Founding Fathers decided that government does not — and should not — have the power to compel or censor speech.
If America doesn’t wake up, and fast, not only will we be witnesses to a successful war against a free press, we could see the creation of a government-sanctioned news media to combat what the duopoly refers to as “misinformation.” Last month, we learned about this Orwellian idea from the darling of the Democratic Socialists of America, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC).
In a post on her Instagram account earlier this week, AOC announced that Congress will be looking into the creation of a commission designed to what she called “misinformation” in the media. She revealed the plan after a viewer asked her if the Democrat Party was looking into creating any “truth and reconciliation or media literacy initiatives” to help with “healing” the country following the QAnon insurrection on Jan. 6.
“I can say there is absolutely a commission being discussed, but it seems to be more investigatory in style, rather than truth and reconciliation.
“So I think that’s an interesting concept for us to explore, and I do think that several members of Congress — in some of my discussions — have brought up media literacy, because that is part of what happened here and we’re going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so that you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation.
“It’s one thing to have differentiating opinions, but it’s another thing entirely to just say things that are false,” she continued. “So that’s something that we’re looking into.” (emphasis mine)
Someone should tell AOC she’s a little late to the party when it comes to the war against a free press.
Lindsey Graham teamed up with Chuck Schumer in 2013 to create the “Media Shield Bill,” legislation designed to help government decide what types of media deserves First Amendment protection:
“Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves. Is any blogger out there saying anything—do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.”
There were serious adverse implications of the Graham/Schumer legislation; Andrew Ferguson of the now defunct Weekly Standard had this to say at the time:
The act will go a long way toward establishing a government-sanctioned journalistic class. There will be, on the one hand, approved reporters who are immune to certain kinds of governmental inquiry, and, on the other hand, everyone else, those less exalted citizens who, faced with the same governmental inquiry, would just have to suck it up. The act is a classic restraint of trade, protecting favored journalists from the pressure of competitors who lack the proper credential. (emphasis mine)
If the duopoly succeeds, we will soon see the day when the war against a free press results in a government-sanctioned news media that will decide what is or isn’t fake news and who is or isn’t a “real” journalist — turning the news media into an propaganda arm of the government instead of the independent guardians of the fourth estate.
We can’t allow that to happen!
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.