Trump continues to vow an overhaul of America’s libel laws… in an obvious effort to silence those who disagree with him. His distrust of the current standards indicate a deeply flawed understanding of true free speech. Combine this with his disdain for a free press, and dangers not seen since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 begin to emerge.
I can’t define sedition, but I know it when I hear it…
Jefferson warned his people of these dangers… “that if the acts before specified should stand, these conclusions would flow from them; that the general government may place any act they think proper on the list of crimes and punish it themselves whether enumerated or not enumerated by the constitution as cognizable by them: that they may transfer its cognizance to the President, or any other person, who may himself be the accuser, counsel, judge and jury, whose suspicions may be the evidence, his order the sentence, his officer the executioner, and his breast the sole record of the transaction…”
Trump and his corrupt administration would determine what speech is libelous… Truth would become subjective rhetoric rather than objective fact. Discourse would be stifled and the country force fed Trump’s propaganda.
Jefferson wanted more for his people and expected more of his government…. “…and will furnish new calumnies against republican government, and new pretexts for those who wish it to be believed that man cannot be governed but by a rod of iron: that it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism”
To stop destroying our liberty
There is nothing particularly dangerous in Donald Trump’s hatred of the media… Presidents have always disliked and distrusted hostile press coverage. What separates Trump’s rhetoric from his predecessors is his insistence that the free press is a threat to the American people.
No, Mr. President, the press is not an enemy of the people… nor should they be in the business of supporting your agenda(whatever that may be.) You are free to criticize the press at your convenience, but you can never limit it in the name of the People.
Jefferson had a contentious relationship with poor press coverage… and experienced plenty of “fake news” during his presidency. Despite his frustration, Jefferson never doubted the necessity of a free press; he trusted that the American people would be able to sort through the vitriol and nonsense to find the truth.
“And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
The current administration continues to assail the press and critics utilizing their free speech rights… The President’s minions disingenuously claim that he is merely “fighting back.”
Only those who approve
Trump does not believe in civil discourse…. If he does not agree with something, or it challenges his actions, he feels it is illegitimate and should not exist. This is tyranny.
George Washington warned his fellow citizens about the dangers of losing free speech…
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
President-Elect Trump continues his war on the free press… clearly what he seeks is capitulation and endorsement from America’s media. No doubt, he envies Putin’s veneration from the docile Russian press.
Only those who approve
Not only does power corrupt, it causes us to forget our most basic principles… Jefferson said to Washington in 1792:
The virtuous will not fear a free press
“No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defense. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter.”