Corporate media outlets like CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times have recently claimed President Donald Trump attacks the First Amendment when he criticizes corporate media outlets for unethical journalistic practices and labels them the “enemy of the people.” Nevertheless, Trump has taken no legal action against any member of the corporate media (unlike the previous President), and has not advocated doing so. On the other hand, just this past month, the aforementioned corporate media outlets were actively involved in lobbying Silicon Valley tech utilities to censor independent media outlet InfoWars. Isn’t that an actual attack on the First Amendment?
The corporate media believes it should be free to spin the news to propagate its corporate message without facing any scrutiny. In addition, they claim, those who report news in a way that does not conform to that corporate message, like InfoWars, must be shut down. Anyone who criticizes such corporate activism, like President Trump, somehow violates the First Amendment. Ludicrous.
Obviously, the corporate media’s definition of a free press varies significantly from the intent and plain meaning of the First Amendment. Whereas the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law. . . abridging the freedom . . . of the press” — incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment to cover any governmental action (Near v. Minnesota) as well as action of a public utility (Marsh v. Alabama) — the corporate media have twisted these words to read “the President shall not discuss (on Twitter or at rallies) his dissatisfaction with the corporate news media.” Furthermore, the corporate media believes free press protections do not extend to those who use tech utilities that have opened themselves to the public, like YouTube, to report news in a way the corporate media dislikes. Such a view is completely antithetical to the First Amendment.
Yes, corporations like those behind CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times have First Amendment rights as corporate persons (covered in Citizens United) to endorse big tech’s censorship of independent news. However, in doing so, they are advocating for the denial of First Amendment protections owed to those independent outlets. Although the censorship in this case comes at the hands of non-governmental actors, the First Amendment still applies due to the public nature of the platform and the inability of the speaker to transmit his message through an alternative and comparable platform. On the other hand, when the President criticizes the corporate media, he is not calling for mass censorship or denial of any First Amendment rights. The corporate media’s incorrect insistence that he does, simply validates the President’s argument.
When the corporate media and big tech declares who can and who cannot exercise freedom of the press, it sets a dangerous precedent that significantly chills free speech and free press for everyone. In order to maintain a free society, such a view must be rejected. Thankfully, it appears President Trump understands.
President Trump’s statements above mirror exactly what I have written on this blog for the past 5 years. It captures the essence of my first editorial here. Many eyes have opened. Hopefully President Trump’s support for free expression and criticism of the corporate media can empower the citizens of the United States to think for and express themselves.