Table of Contents
Photo: Journalists being attacked by police/Hollywood Insider
The continued false narrative by President Donald Trump attacks press freedom causing the police to violently assault journalists leaving them bloody. This has got to infuriate Americans who value their freedom above all. The first part of this article series focused on an analysis of the meaning behind the police attacks on the press covering the Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. This second part will look at the precedents of this moment in the political milieu and final thoughts on press freedom, liberal thinking, and the responsibilities that come with rights. Read Part 1 here: No Press Freedom in USA Anymore, Police Attacks/Arrests Journalists
The vilification of media as Donald Trump attacks press freedom
As stated in the first article, the president has openly expressed his backing for police violence, as well as taking what’s happening as an opportunity to continue his constant attacks on the press which has by now become a hallmark of his public relations. Before going further into this, it is important to note that Trump’s self-proclamation of being on the side of “law and order” ironically highlights his continuous disregard and disdain for the rule of law and his self-serving understanding of the role of the President. However, it also betrays that in a form of politics based upon the state of exception as governing paradigm, the phrase means the uncontrolled force of the officers of the law who are now serving as the private soldiers of the executive branch, working through violence to keep the racial-capitalist order intact. Added to this, of course, is Trump’s failure to put necessary policies in effect and the constant misinformation he keeps on disseminating about Covid-19 which has cost the lives of over 128,000 people, a number which keeps on increasing at alarming rates.
Trump has been attacking the media in all sorts of ways, dating back to the pre-election period of 2016, and he has made sure to express his contempt at every opportunity. To be precise: Trump has threatened to sue journalists, targeted the media in his rallies, verbally attacked journalists at press conferences, made the press a regular object of hate in his Twitter posts, slandered press members, and as such, created a whole campaign of defamation around news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, but also Huffington Post, Washington Times and New York Times.
This is not merely the backlash of personal conflict, or, at least, that’s not how Trump wants to portray it. Trump’s stance and discourse as such go against the very principle of FREE PRESS, as he declares the media to be not only his enemy but “the enemy of the people,” making the idiom “fake news” his principle weapon against any form of reporting that disagrees with his perspective, words, actions, and policies.
However, it would be wrong to attribute Trump’s lengthened attacks on the media to his personal shortcomings. By shutting off public debate and discourse and delegitimizing any opinion that is against his governance, and replacing them with KNOWINGLY false statements, his strategy to unthrone facts as the basis of truth has been successful. Committee to Protect Journalists’ extensive special report on the Trump administration and media from April 2020 concluded that “attacks on press credibility endanger US democracy and global press freedom.”
The report sums up its findings as such:
“The Trump administration has stepped up prosecutions of news sources, interfered in the business of media owners, harassed journalists crossing U.S. borders, and empowered foreign leaders to restrict their own media. But Trump’s most effective ploy has been to destroy the credibility of the press, dangerously undermining truth and consensus even as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to kill tens of thousands of Americans.”
What we see in the streets are the embodiments of the president’s open hostility against the press as the fourth pillar of democracy. If the press is the enemy of the state, there is little to be surprised when forces of the state attack reporters, journalists, and photographers. And they definitely don’t need to be “too nice.”
In short, Trump’s incessant attacks on media since before his presidency has not only enabled him to advocate for false claims and erase over his misdeeds, it also installed ignorance and obstinate injudiciousness as virtues. Moreover, Trump keeps on using his social media accounts to pump up racist, misogynistic and violent vitriol, as such normalizing hate speech that is now cheerfully taken up and turned into action by white nationalists and other militant far-right groups. In a sad irony, when he gets checked for his hate and lies, he threatens the very platform where he writes and presents himself as the victim of censorship, a book-case study of fantasized victimhood coming from the man holding the office of US President.
Limits of Liberal Thinking
It is of vital importance to recognize that Trump’s concerted strategy against the media and for his sole claim to truth is part and parcel of the fascist politics being set in place piece by piece. It was a grave mistake by mainstream media to portray Trump’s policies merely as signs of an incompetent, narcissistic, impulsive reality-star-became-President, as these policies showed themselves to be tactical moves to normalize and implement a form of rule that supports the interests of the financial elite while coddling racist sentiments and actions.
ACLU has filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis over the targeting of journalists by the police. Even if such actions result positively, it is hard to say they will be enough to bring success to the struggle, as long as the logic and activity of policing are kept intact. The preceding analysis shows that our imagination has to go beyond the limits of liberal thinking, as the current system not only brought Trump to power, but it will continue to widen the wealth gap, to uphold white supremacy, to install violence and destruction for many both in the US and abroad, whether Trump is in office or not.
NBC’s Ed Ou was pepper sprayed, hit with a baton and projectile fired by police in Minneapolis. Here’s what he looked like after the incident (Photo credit: Chandan Khanna/AFP) https://t.co/JZGn9F5Q5V pic.twitter.com/ZvSKxGC5FX
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) June 3, 2020
Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou reflects on the power of the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis and his experience being attacked by police. pic.twitter.com/E0w4KDSL9N — CBC News: The National (@CBCTheNational) June 10, 2020
Right Comes with Responsibility
If we are serious about the political importance of protecting the right to free press, we also have to bring back into the conversation the responsibility that comes with this right, which is perhaps the only way to develop this concept critically and radically. Mainstream media in the US has served to keep the hegemony of the neoliberal ruling class, whitewashing the injustices and inequalities that the system creates, calling for the taming of struggles against systems of oppression. It has been a major contributor to the notion that capitalism is the only system for democratic rule, and championed the discourse that reduces democratic participation to voting while upholding the racial-economic system that precedes and will outlast Trump’s presidency.
Let’s be clear: the fascist moment of today has a multifaceted history and an alarming trajectory for which Trump is the present manifestation. This means that the system that brought him into power will still be here even after his demise unless radical changes are put into place. These changes are what Abolitionists are asking for initially to provide safety and to bring power back to communities, with their demands for defunding the police, demilitarizing communities, dismantling structures of incarceration, and investing in community self-governance.
The media’s responsibility is to support this imagination and work of freedom and amplify the voices that advocate it, giving it priority and making it accessible to wider audiences. It has the responsibility to be loyal to this historic moment and not let it die away, where professional politicians from both parties just want everyone to go back home so that they can go on with business as usual. The US media also has a responsibility to get its head out of the sand and recognize that the struggles of the oppressed everywhere in the world need to be highlighted and supported, by fostering connections through their own networks.
SPEAK UP CONSTANTLY TO MAKE BLACK LIVES MATTER – beyond the trend. CLICK HERE for ways to support Black Lives Matter
All of this means taking a SIDE. It means that the media doesn’t get to talk about racism, the violence of policing, the rising fascism, or the prison industrial complex ONLY when it’s trending or convenient. It can no longer afford to look away if it is to be taken seriously and seen as a supporter of democracy, and not just the mouthpiece of power. Truth is not a neutral thing; it is always the object of political contestation. The way to honor the right to free press is to keep fighting for the truth that comes in and through the knowledge of those who resist. The responsibility that comes with the right to free press is to support and urge action, which goes beyond going to the voting booth.
General Resources for Press Freedom
Reporters Without Borders: https://rsf.org/en
Committee to Protect Journalists: https://cpj.org/
Freedom House: https://freedomhouse.org/
Can the United States of America still claim to be great while the President openly calls for attacks on journalists and press freedom? The police attacking journalists violently has been witnessed all across the United States of America. The people that quote the Consitution to carry guns seem to forget the SAME Constitution when it comes to FREEDOM OF PRESS.
An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”
Angela Davis, “Freedom Is A Constant Struggle”
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