Forgive me for not forgiving Donald Trump.
Words mean things and when he tweets his daily attacks at journalists and other people, it puts them in actual danger.
That’s not in the job description of the “Leader of the Free World.”
When you elevate people like Alex Jones and attack the New York Times for biased reporting, you show your hand. Trump doesn’t really believe the media is biased against him. He is merely trying to weaken the media because facts have not been his friend.
I understand that it is politically expedient for Trump to attack those who point out that he campaigned against Goldman Sachs and has filled his cabinet with their colleagues. I know that he needs to distract from the fact that he nominated a Secretary of State who received the Order of Fellowship award from Russia — a country with whom Rex Tillerson has developed close business ties and for whom he fought against sanctions when the Russians invaded the Ukraine.
None of these things sound anything like the garish populist promises Trump made during the campaign. When facts aren’t in your favor, you have to attack the messenger.
But his politically motivated attacks on the credibility of journalists is no laughing matter and it should not be condoned.
There are real lives, jobs and freedom at stake.
It isn’t excusable.
There are 259 journalists in jail right now for simply doing their jobs. Despots in other countries have tools beyond Twitter they can use to fight the free press.
Another 45 members of the media have been killed doing their jobs or because they did their jobs in 2016 alone.
How many politicians have been jailed to preserve your right to know the truth? How many of them have given their lives to make sure a story is told and told correctly?
Trump and his lackeys are playing a deadly game. It can’t continue.
As someone who has personally been the target of two legitimate death threats and numerous threats from idiots lashing out with immense keyboard courage, I don’t find it nearly as excusable as many of those who echo the President-elect’s attacks on the media. Once you have had to have a conversation with your wife about how to protect herself and your young child if these threats become real, you don’t see the innocence in Trump’s intent.
There are plenty of news outlets on both sides of the aisle that will speak to whatever narrative you want to hear.
But the vast majority of journalists are credible and make every effort to highlight facts and describe events without any regard to whether those who receive the report want to hear it or not.
When someone attacks members of the media, it is an attack on the free flow of information in society. It is fine to sit in donut shops and talk about why you believe a news story is incomplete or why a columnist is dead wrong with one of his opinions.
You have that right.
The great thing about newspapers is that you have the opportunity to respond on those very pages with your own opinion about what the news story should have included or espouse an opinion you believe is more correct.
You need to know that when someone tries to damage the free press, your access to it is damaged as well. If you don’t like the liberal bias you think you see in the media, you’ll love the bias of a state-run media established for the express purpose of providing you with all of the propaganda you care to consume.
This is not a joking matter. Forty-five people have given their lives and almost 260 more are behind bars because they tried to serve their readers well.
It is time to look past the “Commander in Tweets” attacks and see the media for what they really are. You won’t like everything you read. We don’t like telling some of the stories.
But without a fact-based press free to report without fear of repercussion, society will suffer. Don’t let your own bias in either direction ever cloud that reality.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.