Un-American Activities, by Tyler Smith
In a recent tweet, President Trump heavily suggested that NBC “and the Networks” should have their licenses revoked. That it was in the form of a question doesn’t really matter. A sitting president toyed with the idea of shutting up media outlets because they were reporting what he dubbed “Fake News”. Something like this is a harrowing prospect, whether or not it could ever actually get done.
Now I’m as suspicious of the media as the next guy. I absolutely believe that there is a liberal bias in most news networks; with so many higher ups and on-screen talent identifying as Democrats, it’s kind of inevitable, no matter how hard they try to be objective. Am I frustrated by this bias? Sure. But at no point would I ever want anybody to be silenced, regardless of how outlandish I might find their claims to be.
Of course, if a media outlet tells an outright lie, there are libel laws in place to fight them. I don’t much like the idea of the Most Powerful Man in the World stooping to such a thing, but it is an option. Another option – and I would wager a much better one – would be to publicly refute any claims you deem phony not merely with a statement of disagreement, but with the actual facts. When you don’t, it’s fair to assume that you don’t actually have any facts that might dispute said claims. And to silence your critics is to further suggest that they’re onto something and you have no way of arguing with them.
There is also the third option of just staying silent. There will always be people that are against certain public figures, just as there will always be people that are for them. A seasoned politician would just move on. That’s the nature of politics. But, as has been well-established, Trump is not a seasoned politician. If he were, he wouldn’t issue what essentially boils down to threats against people and organizations that he doesn’t like.
There are a lot of things that frustrate me – and that I probably even hate – about President Trump, but his flagrant disregard for civilized public discourse might be the biggest. He does not think about what he says before he says it. Some might consider this a “shoot from the hip” attitude, but that suggests that he will take precise aim at some point. Trump doesn’t do that. He lashes out at any individual or company or organization that has the temerity to question his methods, and casually suggests the most un-Constitutional of responses. He does this without seeming to realize the rhetorical power that a president has. There are people out there that are so on board the Trump Train that they’ll find themselves agreeing to behavior that they never would otherwise. Most people are not in favor of actual censorship, but if their political idol suggests it, then, hey, maybe it’s not actually such a bad idea.
I just said that Trump doesn’t realize the power that he has, but that might be me being generous. It’s feasible that he knows exactly the kind of power he has over those that follow him. This makes his behavior and offhand comments even more sinister. It suggests, as many of us have already deduced, that Trump was never interested in anything more than his own glory. And if he has to destroy various civil liberties in order to retain that glory, he has no qualms about that. In doing so, he has continually shown himself to be ignorant of what it is to be conservative, what it is to be president, and indeed what it is to be American.