Freedom of the Press

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – Constitution of United States of America

Image result for trump press  political cartoon

Can anyone guess what today’s topic is? That’s right- the media! Firstly, I wanted to define a couple terms:

  • News: newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events
  • Fake news: deliberately published hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news

Fake news is not a label to be thrown around lightly. Discrediting journalists and the media without a cause is dangerous (and, historically, has preceded dangerous times in our world, i.e. the Holocaust). Attacking the media because you don’t think they are treating you fairly is stupid, petulant, and insane. The President of the United States (especially when that President is a white male billionaire) doesn’t get to play the victim card. Remember when Trump was campaigning, and he said once he was in power he would act presidential?  LOL.

Part of the job of the President is to be held accountable by the media (and by extension, by the people). I get that the media is a super convenient target for someone like Trump- someone who is so egotistical, narcissistic and completely insecure. It feels like a SNL skit, considering how many blatant lies the Trump administration has told, and yet claims fake news is rampant and only being perpetuated by the media (the whole birther nonsense, the Bowling Green Massacre, the size of the inauguration crowds, Trump lying about how he supported the Iraq war, his fake standing ovation at the CIA HQ, VOTER FRAUD, his relationship with Russia, claiming the cancellation of the meeting with Mexican President Nieto was a mutual decision, honestly there are so many- I suggest you read more here).

It’s beyond hypocritical and completely unethical for Trump (and his team) to be perpetuating lies, and then attacking journalists for reporting the truth. When Fox and CNN are aligned, you know there is something seriously wrong in the world. Banning news outlets like CNN and the NY Times from press briefings is unacceptable, and it’s un-American. You don’t get to pick and choose who reports on you, especially when you are involved in some shady shit. It’s even more insane when you consider that Trump himself is one of the biggest bullies and trolls around.  It’s surreal that this is the state of the United States of America. It’s hard to reconcile the ‘greatest nation on earth’ with the fact that we are moving further and further from the Utopian democratic union we all pretend to be. We’ve literally been downgraded on the democracy scale to a ‘flawed democracy’. Is that what making America great again looks like? Flawed? Angry? Divided?

It’s easy for me to sit here and blame Trump for all of this (and trust me, I do), but this is bigger than just one man. We allowed this to happen. The media played a massive role in getting Trump elected, in fact, his presidential bid really only started after the media attacked him at the Media Correspondents Dinner years ago.  Sarah wrote about her issues with current state of the media a few months back- and it’s truer than ever. Yes, we need to demand accountability from the media and our elected officials, but we need to hold ourselves accountable too. We need to become a more active and engaged citizenry. We need to avoid letting anyone tell us ‘facts’ and we need to seek them out for ourselves. We the people, need to be an engaged populous. We need to be able to cut through the bullshit and rhetoric to find the truth. No matter what side of the spectrum you fall on (misleading the American people happens on the right and the left), informing yourself is a universal step in actually making America great. If we want to be a strong nation, we need to be a strong people. We need to be educated and informed on issues and the state of the world. We need to demand our government make information not only accessible, but digestible. You shouldn’t need an advanced degree to make sense of our legislature. We need to be better, our journalists need to be better, and our President needs to be better. However, we only have direct control over ourselves, so I am pledging to keep myself as engaged and aware as possible in regards to our government and place in the world.

Stay woke.

-Kate

 

 

 

 

My News Addiction

This has been one hell of a week. Tuesday night around midnight after watching hours of CNN tracking the election results, I resigned myself to the fact that Hillary was going to lose. I went to bed, unable to watch any more. I had seen enough. And that sums up how I feel about this whole election season, and even beyond that about the whole past year or so of tragedy after tragedy on the news. Terrorism, racism, sexism, homophobia, genocide, xenophobia, the refugee crisis, poverty, mass shootings, shootings of unarmed black men, protests, climate change, weather disasters: it feels like the whole world is coming apart at the seams. And I’ve seen enough. And I’ve come to that conclusion many times in the past year. But I always continue to watch anyways, glued to my TV screen, computer screen or phone constantly hitting refresh to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I stumbled across a post on Medium the other day called “I Quit the News. Consider it Too.” My initial reaction was “Isn’t this just escapism and intentional ignorance masquerading as virtue?” But then I started to read it. And as the author recounted all the time he had spent consuming news about this election and how none of it mattered, I realized that I also had been completely consumed by it. I had obsessively gathered information thinking that somehow I was enriching myself. But really, I was distracting myself and feeding my overwhelming addiction to a continuous stream of content. I was buying what the media was selling: drama, heartache and a detachment from reality.

Contrary to how some people feel though, I don’t fault the news media, at least not entirely. I think it is impossible for them to deliver us what we demand and simultaneously produce good quality journalism. We demand 24-hour coverage. We demand all the information. We demand sensationalism, drama and enough doomsday content to satisfy our sick fascination with violence and misery. We demand to be entertained. And then we recoil in horror that a shallow, empty-headed reality TV star was able to rise to the highest office in our country, as though that is not perfectly representative of our culture and our illness. Are you not entertained America?

Let me be clear: I am not saying we deserve Donald Trump as our president. He exploited people’s fears and prejudices and party loyalty and used them to propel himself to power. And that must be condemned, in the loudest way and the most clear-cut terms. But if we don’t at least admit the part that we played in all of this then how can we ensure it will never happen again? How many of us secretly hoped he would run for president, just for the pleasure of seeing that spectacle and for the hope that he would crumble in front of our eyes?

I have felt my own addiction to the news and specifically to negative news becoming stronger in the last few years. I have felt myself cling to any and all information assuming that bad information was better than no information. I watched CNN’s election results coverage for 5 hours on Tuesday night. I literally sat there and watched John King draw inane circles all over the map like an elderly dementia patient trying to find Waldo for 5 hours. And for what? Why did I feel that I had to know the instant that anyone else did who won the election? And why after I knew the results the next day did I spend hours trying to find an article or a news piece or anything that would make me feel like I had some measure of control or understanding over the situation?

I’ve come to the conclusion that information is not always power. Being informed about what is happening in the world is important and it’s part of being a conscious citizen, but maybe we’ve taken it too far. Why does the media sensationalize the news and bombard us with horrific story after horrific story at all hours of the day? Because we keep reading and listening to it. And then we ask for more. We perpetuate the idea that when it comes to news we want quantity over quality, drama over reality and instant disembodied information over thoughtful analysis.

So I’m on a news hiatus until I feel I can consume the news responsibly again. When that time comes, I intend to read the news in the morning and then wait the agonizing 24 hours before I receive another piece of news. Just like the good old days.

-S (yeah I’m going to sign my posts S because I wish I lived in Gossip Girl)

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