Mount St. Joseph University

Opinion: What If There Were No ‘Enemy of the American People’?

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Josh Zeller

For some time now, President Donald Trump has been well-known for his war against the media, but his Feb. 17 battle-tweet brought it to a climax: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
 
Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, and whatever you think of President Trump and his policies, the falsity of this statement cannot be denied. For one, it would be difficult to argue that the media is not the specifically targeted enemy of President Trump. The terrible fights he got into at the Feb. 17 press conference attest to this. As for the second part of his tweet, the only kind of media that should be deemed antagonistic to society is state-run, as in countries that suffer under the tyranny of totalitarian dictators.

So what, then, does President Trump want at this point? A complete abolition of the media? He of course hasn’t said this, and probably never will. But what if that were the case? This would of course mean that all media, including those outlets which are perceived as pro-Trump, would have to go. Without in-depth, investigative reporting, all we would have is President Trump’s word, which would be the equivalent of a state-run media organ.

FactCheck.org recently analyzed President Trump’s Feb. 24 speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference, and found several false claims. One example concerns the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Trump said could create 42,000 jobs. However, the State Department has said that while it may create many temporary jobs, only 50 workers would ultimately be needed to operate it. That same website also subjected Barack’s Obama’s final press conference to scrutiny, examining his claim that the 2011 nuclear treaty he signed reduced the nuclear stockpiles of both the United States and Russia. However, while the United States has followed through with this (reducing by 24 percent), Russia has increased its number of nuclear warheads by 17 percent. Whether intentionally or not, political figures of every ideological persuasion—human beings in general—lie, and without a watchdog to bark in alarm at false claims, the idea of our age being “post-truth” becomes not just a danger, but the reality. As an American citizen, this is incredibly frightening to me. But as editor of Dateline, specifically, I find the idea of a society without the media to be isolating and deadly to creativity.

Our student newspaper publishes work from students of a wide variety of classifications and majors, on an even greater variety of topics. We are inclined to spend time around people who are like us, so that one clique tends to be separated from and ignorant of another. But if I, as an English major, can read about what Biology students are doing, I don’t feel so separated from them anymore. If our writers didn’t get to report on the life of the campus and its community, then the Mount would feel divided and distant. The same goes for our nation at large. A total absence of the media would be so incredibly isolating, would plunge us back into our colonial days in terms of connection and communication, when individual states thought of themselves as sovereign rather than united.

Dateline also publishes reviews of films, books, and music, as well as opinion pieces like this one. This requires our writers to develop the creative faculty of their thinking through reading, listening, viewing, and research, which I believe is enriching to an educational experience. Certainly, you come to college in order to learn, and obtain a degree, but this might become incredibly stale without extracurricular involvement in clubs and groups like Dateline, where you can exercise your creativity by assessing the high and lows of Lady Gaga’s latest album, reviewing one of Neil Gaiman’s classic novels, or giving a critical judgement of an Oscar-nominated film. Transitioning to the national level, just imagine if all of the entertaining and beautiful writing of film, book, and music critics went away? A large part of our culture—its vibrant and witty capacity for criticism—would perish upon its departure.

Maybe President Trump is trying to say that only some of the media is the enemy of the American people, namely those outlets which he has made into his own enemies. But I’d like to cry “slippery slope”: as one media organization is blacklisted, it will become easier and easier for the present administration—whose good graces are not difficult to lose—to gradually do the same with the others.