Open Nav Contribute

Words Matter: When the President’s Attacks on the Press Inspire Others to Act

“Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down.”

 

These were the words uttered by a Michigan man as he called CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. “I’m smarter than you, more powerful than you. I have more guns than you. More manpower. Your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours,” he said.

 

Inspired by a catch phrase coined by President Trump, and one that has been used in countless attacks over the past year to discredit the legitimacy of the press, this man felt emboldened to act upon his frustrations. Thankfully, the FBI was able to intervene before it led to violence, but it remains a significant reminder of how impactful the President’s words can be in energizing his base, either to the benefit or detriment of the people.

 

In a recently released report by the PR firm, Edelman, the 2018 Trust Barometer states that mistrust in the United States is increasing rapidly. A majority of Americans — 63% — are unsure of the credibility of their news sources and 70% voiced concern about the weaponization of fake stories. Edelman continued, “The root cause of this fall is the lack of objective facts and rational discourse.” As mistrust continues to grow, it can become easy for opportunists to exploit this anxiety for their own purposes.

 

Many people would say that biased or even outright falsified reports are to blame for this loss of trust. It’s not hard to point out mistakes in reporting or editorial decisions that seem to favor certain angles in news stories. Media bias is real, and we shouldn’t hesitate to point it out. The danger comes when public figures use mistakes to undermine the credibility of the press and dismiss legitimate reports. President Trump’s escalating rhetoric against journalists and the media in general are just that — attempts to silence and undermine unflattering news.

 

The reality is that most news reports from established outlets are generally accurate and only marginally slanted by the opinions of the author. And when similar reports appear across several reputable outlets, we can have confidence that they are all circling the same thread of truth. The news media is not perfect. Luckily, our Constitution doesn’t need it to be.

 

The Founding Fathers understood that a free press was necessary to a functioning democracy. But they also knew that a free press could have biases or even make mistakes. The genius of the Constitution’s first amendment is in ensuring that we have a thriving market of ideas and facts for the citizenry to consume, analyze, and use to make informed decisions. Outrage, anger, and threats against the press don’t make for better reporting. They only threaten to diminish an essential component of our democracy.

 

The president’s anti-media rhetoric isn’t aimed at actually improving the quality of the media. On the contrary, it’s an attempt to animate and mislead his strongest supporters and convince them that no one should be trusted but the president himself. As world-renowned human rights activist Garry Kasparov says, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

 

A hallmark of effective presidential leadership should be the ability to inspire respect for our institutions and constructive civic debate, not agitating supporters to the brink of violence. Stand Up Republic and Stand Up Ideas are working together to promote and highlight the noble and necessary service journalists provide around the world. The courage they display in spite of the dangers and risks associated with the nature of their work should be honored, not discouraged. As Edelman stated in the 2018 Trust Barometer, “Silence is a tax on the truth. Trust is only going to be regained when the truth moves back to center stage. Institutions must answer the public’s call for providing factually accurate, timely information and joining the public debate. Media cannot do it alone because of political and financial constraints. Every institution must contribute to the education of the populace.”

 

This change is only possible if citizens remain civically active and engaged in defending these institutions against baseless attacks. We hope you’ll join us in highlighting the many ways journalists have changed the world for the better. You can join the conversation with us on twitter using the hashtag #FreePressFreeWorld.

 

The next time someone attacks the press, you can explain exactly why a free and open press is essential for an America that promises liberty and justice for all.

Statement on Putin’s Arrest of Opposition Leader Alexey Navalny

Earlier today, Vladimir Putin took yet another extraordinary step away from democracy and toward dictatorship by arresting his last remaining legitimate political opponent, Alexey Navalny. Although Putin already ensures his electoral victories through farcical vote counts and fixed poll results, the arrest of his opposition shows just how fearful and jealous he is of his power.

 

Every autocrat, no matter how strong they might appear, is terrified of their own people. Putin is not Russia, and the Russian people are tired of the corruption and the senseless aggression of his regime. They want their rights respected just as any other people do. But Vladimir Putin has made the Kremlin an extension of his own power, and wields it to silence and oppress Russia and its people.

 

Navalny’s arrest is not just an abstract example of authoritarianism across the globe. It is a stark reminder of the importance of America’s commitment to liberty. Our own founding fathers enshrined the principles of freedom into our Constitution, empowering the citizenry to guard against government overreach. Our dedication to these principles at home serves as an example to people around the world who yearn for freedom, a reminder that they are not the helpless subjects of their leaders. All men and women are by nature free, and they can, and must, demand a government that respects their rights.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Seventy-three years ago today the surviving prisoners of Auschwitz were liberated. Today, we commemorate the event through International Holocaust Remembrance Day, remembering the countless Jewish and other victims of the Nazi regime’s brutal persecution and genocide. We stand with others across the globe to both honor the victims and remember the evils that can occur when power is used to divide and control.

 

Adolf Hitler rose to power by exploiting the fears and socioeconomic insecurities of the people and subsequently used the government’s power against its own. He widened ethnic and religious fissures and turned his people against Jewish and other minority communities. The more than 6 million casualties from his pogrom are a horrific testament to the dangers of hatred and divisiveness.

 

As Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This day of remembrance must also be a day of commitment; commitment that we will never allow hatred and division to again take such a firm grasp on humanity. #WeRemember so we never again repeat.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

America was founded on ideas which, at the time, constituted a radical new perspective on natural freedoms and the relationship between government and the governed. The people were considered free citizens rather than subjects of a king. Today this way of thinking hardly seems controversial — It’s considered so obviously true, so self-evident, that we often take it for granted.

 

The Founding Fathers issued the Declaration of Independence because they conceived the world in a way that differed from virtually all traditional modes of thought at the time. But as radical as their vision was, it fell well short of the true promise of liberty and equality. Through slavery, reconstruction, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, and even today, our nation has relied on the voices and deeds of everyday Americans — of all races and creeds — to march forward the dream of freedom for all. Our history is replete with the stories of men and women who rose to become heroes for liberty, equality, and justice. Today we celebrate the life and legacy of one such man: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 
  It should seem absurd that in 2018 we would need to explain why all men and women should be treated equally. It should be second-nature to us now, and yet it was not long ago that MLK had to do just that. It’s tempting for some to write off inequality, particularly racial inequality, as ancient history. But many uncommon heroes who marched in Selma, faced down police brutality, and sat at lunch counters despite abuse continue their activism today for good reason. Dr. King and many others bravely faced violence, and even death, to call on their country to live up to the standards set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Today we remember his courage, zeal and sacrifice. We honor him by recognizing that achieving and maintaining equality is of the highest moral imperative and must be a never-ending quest.  

Sadly, the principles for which King and others fought are still under assault today. Peddlers of hatred and division seek to undermine racial equality and pit Americans against Americans. One need only look at the disgraceful white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville last year to see the violence and hatred that some still wish to instill in our great nation. On this MLK Day, let us all redouble our commitment to liberty, justice, and equality.

 
  Those who would drive a wedge between us — who attack others on racial, gender, or religious lines — they would create a weaker America. For some, that is precisely the point; to make profit or seize power through division and conflict. Instead, we must seek strength through unity. Dr. King showed us all that a united America will always be stronger than a divided one. He opened the nation’s eyes to a basic truth: for America to be just, all Americans must be free; and if America is truly free, it will intrinsically be just.   Please join us today in remembering and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not only for his efforts to promote equality, but for his enduring legacy which has called so many Americans to action, and thus so greatly improved our country.