Trump’s war on the media



Image courtesy of “Talking Points Memo”


The First Amendment has been endangered within the first week of President Trump’s inauguration. The press is the only institution protected by the First Amendment, for there can be no laws made “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The press inherited the role of the fourth branch of government, with the intention of keeping government officials honest by reporting on what they do.

People have misused the First Amendment by publishing what is known as “fake news.” Fake news has become a prevailing enigma in modern society, for the internet provides more channels for citizen journalists to publish news stories, regardless if they are supported by facts. The popularity of fake news can also be attributed to confirmation bias, which refers to people’s propensity to accept or reject information based on their inherent biases. Nevertheless, fake news can be spread more efficiently with the increased interconnectedness of the internet.

President Donald J. Trump has taken advantage of this enigma by rejecting journalists’ reports in favor for his own interpretation of the facts. According to the New York Times, Trump declared, “I have a running war with the media. They are the most dishonest human beings on earth” during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency on January 21st.

This comment was in response to a viral picture comparing Trump’s 2017 inauguration to Obama’s 2009 inauguration. The picture shows that Obama’s inauguration drew a significantly larger crowd than Trump’s did. Trump spent his first day of office disputing his inauguration crowd size.

At the CIA Headquarters, he spoke about his own interpretation of the facts: “I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people”.

Later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that these photos “were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall”, according to the Washington Post.

The next day, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway had an interview with Chuck Todd about Trump’s and Spicer’s rejection of the photos. When asked why Trump told Spicer to “utter a falsehood” his first time on the podium as press secretary, Conway replied, “What–You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that”.

At a Texas rally on Friday, Trump vowed to “open up libel laws, so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money” according to a video posted by Politico. “We can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they are protected”, he continued. “You see, with me they’re not protected.”

According to the New York Times, the First Amendment has weakened its protection of the press. The press relies on “the institutional media’s relative financial strength; the good will of the public; a mutually dependent relationship with government officials; the support of sympathetic judges; and political norms and traditions.” What used to bolster the press in its mission to inform the public has faltered: news organizations have been running out of money, the public has lost trust in the media, the Supreme Court has declined major press cases, and Trump’s new administration has broken the relationship between government and journalists.


Sources to fact-check news articles:


Article by Katerina Muraviyova, COM’19


“Charlie is still alive”

-Article by Alice Ferré

        On January 7, 2015, Islamist extremists Saïd and Chérif Kouachi attacked French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo‘s offices in Paris, sweeping away nine members of its team. Motives of their grudge were numerous publications of satirical drawings of Prophet Mohammed. In the aftermath, on January 11, two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a rally of national unity. 3.7 million people joined demonstrations across France.
The “Je Suis Charlie” phrase became an anthem for freedom of expression worldwide, and the newspaper received spectacular support from the international press. Wolinski, Charb, Tignous, Cabu, Elsa and Honoré became martyrs in the war against religious extremism.

This attack also debuted a series of others, spreading feelings of fear and helplessness across the country: the Hyper Casher, the Thalys train, the November, and the Bastille Day attacks, the Magnanville stabbing, and the Saint-Etienne du Rouvray church attack – amongst many other less mediated ones, in only two years.
Before this ongoing wave of terrorism, how could we make a fresh start without forgetting?

Some would argue Charlie Hebdo itself is an example of this demeanor. Indeed, the periodical did not lose its spirits and stands strong, not going backward in going forward. The newspaper answered the attacks with a cover of teary-eyed Mohammed holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign. The text above read “All is forgiven.” Charlie chose to fight back with its best weapons: cynicism and dark, crude humor.


It kept on this trend: the newspaper had published, in 2015, another controversial cartoon about the young child refugee Aylan Kurdi who drowned while fleeing Syria. A McDonald’s advert is next to him, with the caption “So close…” A second cartoon had for note: “Christians walk on water, Muslim children sink.”



In September 2016, Charlie had honored its reputation with a cartoon describing victims of Italy earthquake as Italian dishes – which sparked anger on social media. “Good taste has boundaries.” “All I would like to say is if Charlie Hebdo was bombed again I shall not be participating in the status ‘Je Suis Charlie’.

Charlie has always been controversial, even when the victim of events was Charlie itself.  On May 5, 2015, the periodical received the ‘Courage and Freedom of Expression Prize’ from the Pen Club International; but international recognition after the attacks was mixed. While six American authors boycotted the ceremony and launched a petition signed by 240 authors against the awarding, author Salman Rushdie strongly reacted to this petition.

Interpretations of this backlash against Charlie once again showed discord: a “moral and intellectual self-immolation of the American intelligentsia,” for Russian-American writer Vladislav Davidzon, or an understandable act as “this prize magnifies an offensive content that only exacerbates anti-Islamist feelings,” claimed French newspaper Marianne

On the other hand, some would argue that the newspaper is the mere shadow of what it was before the attacks. Parting journalist Zineb El Rhazoui considers it “has gone soft” on Islamist extremists. “Charlie Hebdo died on January 7,” El Rhazoui said to the AFP. She claimed that stopping Prophet Mohammed’s caricature equalled to surrendering and bowing in front of the enemy.

Contrarily, reporter Laurent Léger, who survived the attack but has been on long-term sick leave, told Agence France Press “Charlie should have stopped after we did the survivors’ issue after the attack.” He added that “the price has been too heavy to pay for the journalists and for normal human beings.”

Nevertheless, frowns and sermons were – and will remain – the newspaper’s trademarked reactions. The cover of this week’s Charlie Hebdo claims “2017, finally the end of the tunnel,” the tunnel representing the barrel of a gun, held by a bearded man.
For the two-year anniversary of the attacks, Libération paid tribute to the newspaper with a Charlie-style satirical cover depicting President Vladimir Putin, a neo-nazi, a cardinal, a jihadist, and a vulture, all saying “Zut.”; they are not all so happy that the newspaper is still thriving.


Charlie Hebdo is a punch in the face….
Against those who try to stop us thinking.
Against those who fear imagination.
Against those who don’t like us to laugh.