Editorial: ‘Fake News’ claims a danger to democracy

Since the 2016 election, one thing has been made very clear in President Trump’s administration—his opposition to the press, at one point even going so far as to tweet, “the FAKE NEWS media,” citing specifically The New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS and CNN, “is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” For the President of the United States to openly claim that the majority of journalists in the United States are not only dishonest, but the enemy of the nation, is stunning and incredibly disturbing. The continuous efforts of the president to delegitimize credible media spits on the First Amendment and shakes the very core of American democracy.

On Wednesday evening, Trump announced his Fake News awards, an attempt at showcasing the failings of the errors of mainstream journalists, and ultimately perpetuate a distrust of media, except for FOX News, of course. While diminishing other media outlets, Trump very often champions the conservative-leaning network.

The unsettling trend we see from our current president is that any negative reporting about him is quickly disregarded as fake news. He sits on his Twitter and whines about the media not acknowledging his administration’s accomplishments, repeatedly citing job growth. However, the president neglects to inform the American people that the unemployment rate has been dropping steadily for years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in January of 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.8 percent, which declined steadily each year to 4.8 percent in January of 2017, the month Trump was inaugurated. The president questions why the media is not praising him, and these numbers he boasts, but the fact is that this is not news. These numbers he boasts have been a long time coming. The press is not his own personal public relations firm, as he seems to wish.

Another startling trend that has seemed to pop up since Trump’s election is how the American people, on both sides of the political spectrum, have seemed to adopt this ‘fake news’ phrase. On any comment section of a news article, ‘fake news’ seems to be the most popular rebuke. The issue is that, keeping in step with the president, people are seeing anything they don’t like or agree with and immediately diminishing its credibility. The issue is simply that the truth is not important anymore.

Stephen Lyons of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “as of Jan. 10 of the this new year, President Trump has made 2,001 false or misleading claims, or an average of 5.6 per day, according to The Washington Post.” This is why the First Amendment exists.

The press works as the watchdog to protect the American people from corruption and oppression. Journalists work to seek truth and report it, and with a president that actively tries to dismiss fact as fiction, the American people should be cautious.  Ultimately, the press is working for the American people. They don’t work for the president or any other state entity, and there’s a reason for that.

It is more important than ever for Americans to be media literate. Social media has opened up the floodgates for actual fake news, and so it is essential for consumers to be able to decipher between what is truly real, and what is fiction.