Trump tears down many important institutions, including the press

Posted 24 March 2016 at 12:00 am


From what I recall, Thomas Jefferson once said, “If I had to choose between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.”

Much has been said about how the media has favored Donald Trump with free coverage, estimated to be worth as much as $1.6 billion. One expert estimates Trump has received 23 times as much coverage as Bernie Sanders.

Why does he command so much attention? Just one of the reasons is that he has a lot of money. Reasonable, or not, that gives him credibility. More relevant to the media’s fascination with all things Trump is that he is a sensational character. One never knows what he is going to say next. The news people treat him as a curiosity, though he is clearly more than that. Wacky comments from prominent people sell regardless of how ridiculous they are.

But Trump’s curious ability to draw coverage and enthrall the adoring disenchanted is not my focus here.

As Jefferson was suggesting, a vigorous free press is vital to a democracy. We might as well not have a republican form of government without the news media. Was it not Jefferson who included free speech in Amendment 1?

Though tearing down the institutions of government has become the calling card of the right, especially in the past seven years, it has become an obsession with “Citizen Trump.” He has made it his mission to cast doubt on everyone from the foreign policy makers to the generals advising the President.

One of the more troubling aspects of Trump’s candidacy is his apparent determination to ridicule and delegitimize the press. In his efforts to undermine respect for the media, he has frequently berated them collectively and individually, even suggesting the libel laws may need changing to permit candidates to sue the press when the coverage doesn’t suit them.

Imagine the damage he does as he gives credence to popular distrust of the media. “These are bad people, folks.”

Trump’s ire isn’t confined to the “liberal” media. It isn’t reserved for Fox News. He seems to be an equal opportunity disparager. Though some may think that is encouraging, to me it is rife with troubling implications. Separating fact from fiction is hard when you refuse to listen to anyone.

For democracy to work, people must be informed. Once the media is thoroughly discredited, those who come to distrust it have another reason to ignore a vital part of citizenship. While people who live in a dictatorship have an excuse to be uninformed, being an ignorant participant in the democratic process can eventually destroy a republican form of government.

Candidate Trump’s followers will make a huge mistake if they allow his unfair comments about Fox’s Megyn Kelly and CNN’s Katie Tur, among many others, left and right generally, to be an excuse for going into the November election seriously underinformed.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent