To those that know me this comes as no surprise, but I disagree with President Donald Trump. We have different opinions on nearly everything it seems–which is a reflection of my views, not the Cigar’s–but last week, something interesting happened. I actually somewhat agreed with him.
On Friday, Feb. 17 Trump tweeted, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” And he’s right, the “fake news media” is absolutely an enemy to Americans.
Now, I do not agree with calling those specific news outlets “fake,” but we’ll get to that later.
Let’s take a look at the word “fake.” It means untrue, illigitimate or counterfeit. If you’re having trouble, a recent NPR article by Danielle Kurtzleben suggests you use “fake” as an adjective in front of “gun.” When you hear the words “fake gun” it negates the fact that the gun is legitimate, or real, and highlights the difference between a gun that can injure you, and one that can’t. Now put the word “fake” in front of “news.”
Inherently, the purpose of news outlets is to be factual and accurate, essentially anything but fake. Calling the news fake is a huge problem. Kurtzleben writes, “When Trump calls news fake, then, that word implies that the news isn’t serving its basic purposes: It means that the story is intended to serve something other than the public good, and that the author intended to falsify the story.”
Throughout the course of the 2016 election, “fake news” meant that there were people intentionally publishing false stories about candidates on both sides of the aisle. That really happened, where websites like “abcnews.com.co” cropped up to deceive people for whatever reason. But calling well established news organizations “fake news,” especially some of the most reputable outlets in the country–who do make mistakes from time to time, but do not go out of their way to publish false stories–is so incredibly dangerous.
Let me reassure you, no journalist with integrity wants to falsify information to deceive the American people. Our government was founded on a system of checks and balances within the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The officials we, the people, elect to serve us in our highest offices check and balance each other, but who checks on them? How do we know that our government officials aren’t using the power we gave them to further their own interests?
We know because of the “fourth estate.” This is better known as journalism. Every single day journalists ask difficult questions, search for facts, and report them back to you, the American people. Because that’s how democracy works–journalists report back to citizens on what their elected officials do in office so that citizens can make educated choices about who they should vote for to run our country.
With that in mind, it’s alarming that the President calls media organizations, who are arguably some of the most reputable outlets in the world, “fake news media.” People listen to the President when he discredits news organizations for doing their jobs–which are to question and expose governmental wrongdoing. This “fake news” rhetoric Trump spews fosters immense distrust from the people who benefit most from news: us.
Make no mistake, when the leader of the free world criticizes the news media, he’s doing it for the betterment of himself and not the people. This is the exact opposite of what a journalist does–a journalist questions the government for the good of the people.
If we lose the media, through distrust, through discreditation, through our society abandoning the core principles that we were founded upon, we lose our democratic society. We, the people, lose all tethers we have to our government as we know it, and relinquish our power to have a voice in our government.
So yes, Mr. President, “fake news media” is the enemy of the American people, because they set out to deceive us. But real journalism is a hallmark of a true democracy.
On second thought, maybe I don’t agree with him after all.