By Olivia Langen
Warning: written by one of the most dishonest people on earth
Through the course of Donald Trump’s race for presidency, the rift between fact and corresponding evidence mutated into a clear divide between fact and “alternative fact.”
Trump has repeatedly attacked the press who attempt to challenge his administration’s false claims. The events surrounding Trump’s inauguration serve as a prime case study for why journalism will be an essential tool for avoiding the post-fact era we seem to be hurdling towards.
On Jan. 20, The New York Times published a side-by-side view of the crowds at Trump’s and Obama’s respective inauguration ceremonies, where the 2017 turnout appeared miniscule in comparison. Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer countered this evidence at a press conference, saying that the ceremony actually drew “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration — period.”
This claim, made by our current White House Press Secretary, cannot be backed up by any evidence whatsoever. By constantly challenging journalists on verifiable data such as a crowd size, Trump forces writers to prove these facts over and over, thereby preventing them from actually reporting on his administrative actions.
As editor for Opinions at this paper, I will never be opposed to creating spaces for every opinion to be shared in a respectful, constructive environment. However, the administration’s claims that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the largest ever is not a matter of opinion; this is blatant misinformation.
What do we do when the spokesperson for the US government administration has no allegiance to the truth? As members of a liberal arts university, we are gaining many of the tools needed to sort through the mounds of information presented to us daily. So, use these skills to find the truths and the lies. Now more than ever, we need to stay informed.
On Trump’s first full day in office, he spoke to a group at the Central Intelligence Agency where he called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” then stated that there had been 1.5 million in the crowd at his inauguration, a number which was disproved by analysts at the New York Times.
Since the last issue of the Trail was published before winter break, the Trump administration has made steady attempts at discrediting news media and slamming journalism as a profession. After a long break away from publication, it is important to clear up this fog: authentic newswriting will never subject to “alternative facts,” unfounded evidence or manipulation of the reader. And, at this point, journalism is our best shot at protecting the state of our nation.
Since Trump’s election, there has been widespread fear of his using executive power to create racially or religiously discriminatory legislation. The recent executive order to temporarily ban the entry of anyone from seven predominantly Muslim countries is a case where this fear has become reality. However, losing faith in the government and the constitution to protect its citizens will only weaken it further.
On Jan. 4, NPR aired a profile on the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia, Omar Saif Ghobash. At one point in the interview, journalist Terry Gross asked Ghobash why he has remained so calm in the face of Trump’s talk of a Muslim registry and the possibility of banning the entry of Muslims altogether. Ghobash responded calmly.
“You know, the United States Constitution is really a remarkable document,” Ghobash said. “The founding fathers had this kind of wisdom that a demagogue could never come to power. And if a demagogue did happen to come to power, well, the power was sort of distributed in such ways that there was no way in which, you know, a demagoguery could be permitted.”
I do not include this quote to dismiss any fear or anger from Muslims in the U.S. or around the world, and Ghobash also assured in the interview that he did not mean to dismiss the weight of Trump’s statements. Ghobash’s constitutional perspective hopefully can serve instead as a restoration of our faith in a system that often seems bent, if not broken.
If the constitution is our safety net from demagoguery, then we need to fully equip ourselves with the protective rights that this document lays out for its citizens, especially the freedom of press. A commitment to maintaining the authenticity of journalism and investigative news is the best tool we have to safeguarding the constitution and securing the protection of Muslim Americans.
By dismissing the legitimacy of news media, the Trump administration dismisses a constitutional right. A democracy cannot function without public access to information. The public can’t resist if they have no idea what is going on.
The press is free for a reason.