Over the many years that we have been writing this article, when election time comes we normally have at least one, if not several articles written about how our elections are dependent upon the First Amendment. We usually muse that because of the First Amendment politicians are free to say what they want, whether true or not, and then the electorate has the ability to weigh those things and decide on their own. We usually opine to have a higher authority to determine what is true, would create censorship for those who had different opinions. In essence, why our democracy works is that all forms of political speech are allowed to be spoken and let the consumer (The American Public) beware.
We certainly are not backtracking from those beliefs, but this article is not based on that philosophy but rather on the threat to the First Amendment that Presidential candidate Donald Trump presents. It is terrible to hear him lambast Mexicans as rapists and murderers. It is reprehensible to watch him make fun of the handicapped. It is outrageous to have 1.5 billion Muslims categorized and treated differently by our country because of their religion.
But as to the tenets of this country, his worse affront is his relentless and unceasing attack on the press. The guardians of the First Amendment and the specific benefit of the same. Hardly a rally goes by in which Donald Trump does not call members of the media terrible, despicable, horrible and other demeaning adjectives. During these rallies, which are very reminiscent of the great dictators of the 20th Century, such as Hitler of Germany, Mussolini of Italy, and Chavez of Venezuela, his minion begin to chant as to the press, “lock them up, lock them up”. No bigger affront and threat to the First Amendment could be had.
Throughout our history, the counterbalance to Government has always been a free and unbridled press. The press is not a monolith. The press consists of conservatives and liberals, atheists and religious zealots, totalitarians and anarchists, fact based and opinion oriented people. There are members of the press that are pro-government and anti-government. There are other members of the press who support certain political parties, while others support none. But what the press has in common is that regardless of the ideology in back of that press, it has the ability, if not the duty, to be a watchdog, the watchdog, to make sure our Government does not run amuck. A mandate to make sure that our Government is for the people and by the people, and serves the people.
Donald Trump would violate the Constitution that he certainly does not understand in numerous ways. The religious test against Muslims is just a shining example, but so is his belief that a judiciary needs to have an ethnic test in order to judge. (Mexican American judges cannot judge him because of his stance on Mexican immigrants). His belief in the Presidency being all powerful with unilateral decision making is also a frightening concept against our Constitution.
Yet, none of his despicable tirades, his belief in the abridging of Constitutional rights, the essence of the Constitution, come close to his assault on the First Amendment. By his words and by his actions he believes that any negative press towards him requires that reporter to be silenced. In the Trump world, freedom of the press would be doled out by him for those he approved because he approved their message. In the Trump world reporters would be locked up if they don’t tow his line. In the Trump world reporters would have to fear for their lives and would have to modify their message so they would not run afoul of his views. In the Trump world, the unfettered press would be no more. Rather the press would live with fear of violence, of being locked up, of harassment.
We have watched and we have listened and even sometimes snickered at the buffoon that Donald Trump has become. But this buffoon still has a chance of occupying the White House. This buffoon may have the opportunity to silence the press which is the number one reason of why he is where he is today. Oh what a short memory Donald Trump has. He forgets that the press that he now hates, gave him billions of dollars in free advertising by putting him on the news each night to the exclusion of his 16 other rivals vying for the Republican nomination. This press that he abhors so much gave him total access to the print and the electronic avenues of mass communication so that his paltry 3% support blossomed to 40% and the Republican nomination. Donald Trump ran for the Republican nomination under the philosophyof, there is no such thing as bad press. As long as his name was in the news he gained popularity.
Now that we are in the general election where his words are actually scrutinized, as opposed to in the Republic bubble, he now chastises that press for giving him the exact same attention that he clamored for in the past. We are not unmindful that the press itself brings some of the criticism upon themselves. For example: Years ago we were asked to give a quote involving an adult bookstore that we represented. The reporter called us late in the afternoon and informed us that a group called MAP was going to be marching on our adult bookstore client. MAP stood for Mothers Against Pornography. When we were asked what we thought of this march, we replied “we support the marchers rights to march upon our store. We just hope that these same marchers would give our clients the same First Amendment Constitutional rights and allow them to exist.” The next morning the quote in the paper read “lawyers for the adult bookstore support the marchers”, never making reference to the second part of the quote, as far as our clients First Amendment Rights. When we contacted the reporter, we were told that the quote had to be cut in half for space purposes. Of course our client did not understand that excuse and the quote that was put in the paper certainly took away the full meaning of the quote as it was intended. It also certainly was an embarrassment to us. We did not call for the jailing of the reporter. We did not call for violence against the media. We simply made our own decision never to speak to this reporter and paper again and we didn’t.
Mr. Trump, if you do not like the press that you are getting, do not talk to those reporters. If you do not like the press that you are getting, you do not have to let them in your private surroundings. If you do not like the press that you are getting, then stop running for President. As a candidate for President and as President, every day of your life is under scrutiny by the media. Every day of your life is subject to be quoted and analyzed. Every day of your life is an open book. So as it was once said, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. In your case, Mr. Trump, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the race. But one thing you should not do is attack the media as an institution, which is the bastion of our democracy. There are good reporters and bad reporters. Honest ones and dishonest ones. But rallying your supporters against the institution of the press will not make America great again. It will make America not America. Whether you understand it or not, the press is that important to insure the greatness of America. That is why it is protected by the first of all the Amendments from would be tyrants like you.