july4th76 / Flickr Constitution...
july4th76 / Flickr

Once again, Donald Trump is calling for “retribution” against the free press. Two years ago today he called the media the “enemy of the people” for the first time. That was a dark day for democracy and things have only gone downhill from there. He has treated the press as his enemy, complete with advocating violence against them on social media and inciting his followers to assault reporters.

Then there’s this eight second clip, depicting violence against CNN reporter Jim Acosta, which Donald Trump Jr. deemed worthy of retweeting, just last month. And don’t forget the clip of Trump bashing a suited man with a CNN logo for a head in the wrestling ring, or the Trump train running down a CNN reporter on train tracks, in a cartoon. No innudendo there.

Trump just doesn’t grok the fact that he swore an oath to uphold the constitution of these United States, and part of the constitution, right up there at the top because it’s so important, is freedom of the press. That’s what he swore to uphold. He is clearly oblivious that that is what he did, with his hand on two bibles, that windy January day. Au contraire. Trump thinks that it is his power that is supposed to be unfettered and unqualified, and that, if anything, the constitution is in the way of his power and accumulation of wealth, upon which there should be no restrictions, whatsoever. Trump just can’t comprehend that he is one hundred eighty degrees off base about his own job description, and that’s the problem, not the free press. Stonekettle posted an outstanding blog on this topic Sunday. Maybe if Trump would read this, he’d finally get a clue. Stonekettle Station:

By design, the President’s power is supposed to be restricted.

That’s what the presidential oath of office directly implies, that’s why it requires the office holder to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and not a political ideology, or the government, or even the country.

The fact that Trump does not understand this, is in point of fact utterly incapable of understanding this, is evident in every word he speaks and every action he takes from his assertion that the Press is the enemy of the people to his declaration of a national emergency to override congress and thus the will of those self same people.

Stonekettle goes on to say that the press, “is the only private enterprise whose rights are specifically enumerated in the Constitution,” without qualification, because, “the Press is the watchdog of liberty and the enemy of tyrants.” Indeed it is the enemy of tyrants, and that’s why Donald Trump hates it. The press holds him accountable and he wants to do exactly that with them, and he can’t. Trump’s vision of the role of the press is that of servile sycophant to him and stenographer of his wishes, and it makes him crazy that there is the other kind, people who speak truth to power and record fact. Not that the press is perfect, quite the contrary. Our press, like our government, is a reflection of who we are as a people.

The Press is free to publish articles at the highest levels of journalistic integrity or to print the alleged sexual escapades of popular entertainers. The Press is a private enterprise, a business – often (hopefully, if you work there) for profit – and so I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader which type of story actually sells more newspapers or garners a higher number of viewers on TV and the Internet. Fox News is popular with the right, because it tells conservatives what they want to hear. It’s the same everywhere else. The National Enquirer publishes stories of space alien babies, claims Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered by a hooker, or names Hillary Clinton’s Secret Lesbian Lovers, because that’swhat Americans want to read. Sex sells. Violence sells. Conspiracy sells. This is less a condemnation of the Press, and more a statement on human nature. Alex Jones isn’t popular because he’s talented or attractive or sane, he’s popular because he entertains the lunatic fringe – which isn’t so far out on the fringe any more. Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, these people aren’t “journalists” in any professional sense, but the Constitution doesn’t require any particular credentials to call yourself such.

Because the Press is a private enterprise, for profit, we get the Press that we want.

We get the the Press that sells.

We get the Press we deserve — just like government.

The Framers, the men who wrote the Constitution, they knew this.

Freedom of the Press is the only unqualified freedom enumerated in the constitution. Even the second amendment contains the qualifier, “being necessary to the security of a free state.” Not so the first. The principle of free speech, is illuminated in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 375-376, Mr. Justice Brandeis, concurring:

Those who won our independence believed . . . that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies, and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law — the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.

Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials. [emphasis Stonekettle’s]

This latter premise in bold is precisely what Donald Trump swore to uphold — and he’s without a clue. If you tried to explain it to him, he wouldn’t get it, because the meshes of his mind are way too coarse to parse together history and human nature, topics of which he knows nothing, and figure out how government impacts upon those matters, and what role it should play in the affairs of men. Trump is totally lost when it comes to the land of reason and philosophy, let alone humanistic concepts.  He can understand government and expression on a caveman level, of tribalism and propaganda, but to search for any deeper truths, let alone a way to bring people of disparate thought processes together, is utterly beyond his capacity.

It is supremely ironic that Trump is sworn to uphold our constitution and our highest ideals, when he is precisely the sort of character that the constitution was written to protect us from. Once again, Lincoln is quotable, “America can never be defeated from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we we destroyed ourselves.”

Now the war on the press, and on truth itself, goes into its third year.

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