Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump regularly called media that disputed his claims “fake news.” On Twitter, he denied empirical data that contradicted his depiction of America being at the mercy of violent, job-stealing, radical immigrants. Employing such tactics with social media allowed him to garner the amount of support that delivered him to the presidency. Trump is using these same tactics to censor governmental agencies. This became painfully obvious when the Badlands National Park was asked to take down tweets that conflicted with Trump’s views (as seen to the right).
But now a week into office, Trump’s tirade against truth is not only irresponsible, but dangerous to our democracy. It’s worrying when fiction is accepted as fact. However, it is much more worrying when our president tries to cover up facts. Recently, Trump prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from speaking out publicly, thus covering up scientific research. All of this was in response to the Badlands National Park Service tweeting peer-reviewed evidence on climate change. According to The Independent, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture were banned from issuing press releases, writing blogs and engaging in social media, unless approved by the Trump administration.
Due to the media’s influence on public opinion, it has been called the fourth branch of government. The media has the basic responsibility of supporting democracy by providing this platform. It has shaped the way that our politics have functioned, prompting discourse and providing exposure. Most, if not all, information about politics is given to the average citizen through media, whether it be the press or social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Though government may use media to inform the public and shape opinion, it is meant to act as a mirror, reflecting public sentiment for all to see. Social media as a whole is meant to be the people’s check against the government, to express approval or disapproval of government ongoings through presentation. It is media’s duty to be accountable for presenting the truth, whatever it may be.
Government may affect media to an extent, with its laws meant to protect against libel and lies. However, that is about as far as government should go in regulating. Government intervention in media is harmful to democracy. Through meddling with the message and closing the public’s eyes to views that weaken the stances of those in power, true democracy ceases to exist. Trump displays an understanding of the power of social media, and perhaps, even a fear of it turning against him.
Social media already has done just that. People proudly and regularly post their negative views of the new president. As we continue to fight in defense of truth, it is clear that the public will not remain silent in Trump’s flawed democracy.