Spicer assumes attack dog role against media
By Justin Sweitzer
Just days into President Donald Trump’s newly-minted administration, the real estate mogul-turned-president has already taken aim at forces obstructing staple objectives of his campaign, taking efforts to begin the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, roll back federal regulations and undermine the efforts of various media outlets.
On his first full day in office, Trump declared a “running war” against the media during a speech at CIA headquarters, and later unleashed his attack dog, press secretary Sean Spicer, on members of the White House press corps to criticize their coverage of his inauguration.
But as Trump transitions away from the campaign and adjusts to the presidency, his strained relationship with the press takes on a whole new significance, as his continuous criticism threatens to undermine free press, which is crucial to maintaining a well-functioning democracy.
Journalists’ role as a government watchdog can be traced back to the beginnings of democracy and played a crucial role in the success of the American Revolution.
The work of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine was critical in checking the power of the British government and spreading democratic principles throughout the Thirteen Colonies.
Franklin described how important it was to maintain a free press to combat tyranny, which he believed could result when the press loses support.
“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government,” Franklin said. “When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”
Journalistic publications and organizations have continued to fulfill their role as a watchdog throughout America’s history, breaking stories to hold the government
accountable to the citizens who voted politicians into power. But the success of holding powerful institutions accountable cannot be had without the support of the public—support which is being threatened in the early days of the 45th president’s tenure.
In Spicer’s first briefing, he claimed that the media was guilty of “deliberately false reporting” in an attempt to sew “false narratives” into the nation’s political discourse. His blatant attempt to erode the media’s credibility poses a direct threat to the public’s trust in responsible reporting. For figures at the highest level of government to repeatedly call into question the accuracy of journalistic practices that are rooted in fact-checking and obtaining multiple sources, is to set up a vacuum that the Trump administration, or any administration, can fill with one-sided propaganda to further a political cause.
If Trump and Spicer believe that the result of honest reporting did “lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration,” and that journalists should follow the direction given by the government, Americans need to be prepared to take action against an administration so hell-bent on concealing the truth.
As the primary interpreter between government propaganda and the truth, American citizens need to stand behind members of the press and the free flow of information to the public, or suffer the consequences on the president’s post-truth administration.