This morning President Donald Trump took his Twitter rants to a whole new level. He has New York Times fixation, and often criticizes their coverage of him (mainly because they call out his lies and don’t stroke his ego). He calls the paper “failing” despite it doubling subscriptions in 2016.
Today, the anti-Times obsession took a darker turn. Trump suggested changing libel laws, presumably to allow him to sue the press for political coverage that he doesn’t like. This is how dictators operate.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
Libel laws protect citizens from false defamatory speech. However, they apply differently to public figures, like politicians. This ensures that people who are important in public life can be freely covered by the press and freely debated by the public. Libel laws only apply to public figures if the standard of “actual malice” is met.
Trump’s suggestion that he will pursue expanding libel laws to equally cover public figures is worrying. It would allow the Administration to crackdown on any press coverage they didn’t like and sue media outlets that Trump (falsely) claims are “FAKE NEWS.”
America is a liberal democracy based on a Constitution ensuring checks and balances of government powers and basic liberties for citizens. Trump is trying to concentrate power in the White House and restrict the freedom of press and freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.
An American president is open to public scrutiny from all sides. This is foundational because it holds our elected officials accountable and ensures that any unsavory truths can be uncovered.
Dictators have the luxury of forcing media to push the party line and only give positive coverage. That is what un-American, egomaniac Trump aspires to.
The resistance has to step up if we want American democracy to survive the next four years.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.