Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
SPOTLIGHT: What does the US President actually say about press freedom?
BIG PICTURE: When 300 newspapers denounced Donald Trump’s anti-media rhetoric last Thursday, he replied via his Twitter account. Shortly past 10 am, he declared:
There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!
Two days later, he tweeted a similar message:
…..Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police. If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed. I get used to it and watch with a grain of salt, or don’t watch at all..
First, he affirms his commitment to freedom of the press. Next he points out the obvious: the press is, indeed, free “to write and say anything it wants.” If the US were being run by an actual dictator, that wouldn’t be the case. Dictators send the secret police to drag critics off to prison in the middle of the night. Nothing remotely like that has happened to television station owners, newspaper reporters, or even self-indulgent actors such as Robert De Niro.
In the second tweet, Trump forcefully condemns censorship. He calls it dangerous. He says his own response to poor quality journalism is to “get used it and watch it with a grain of salt.” Alternatively, he doesn’t watch it at all.
These are precisely the options open to each of us. Changing the channel. Unsubscribing from newspapers after decades of loyal readership, as a friend of mine has done recently. Taking everything with a grain of salt. And golly, has that become necessary.
The same day Trump issued the second Tweet, the Washington Post ran this headline: ICE arrested a man driving his pregnant wife to give birth. She drove herself to the hospital.
If one were deliberately writing propaganda to make Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel appear barbarous, that’s a difficult headline to beat. But it’s profoundly misleading. In fact, there was no urgency. The pregnant woman wasn’t in labour. Her water hadn’t broken. Instead, she was on her way to a pre-arranged C-section.
Afterward, the Post updated its news story, adding a vital piece of information. The husband “is a Mexican national wanted in Mexico under a warrant issued for homicide charges.” Just a small matter of alleged murder.
Oh, and both he and his wife are residing in the US illegally. I personally know a Canadian who was ejected from the US when it was discovered her student visa had expired. Years ago, my own spouse was required to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to temporarily work in America. Significant paperwork was involved, and low-level friction was normal whenever he crossed the border.
If you are not a US citizen and your documents are not in order, you get kicked out. That’s how it works. There’s no atrocity here.
But the Post and other media outlets can’t seem to help themselves. Their overriding concern isn’t reporting the news impartially. Instead, every blessed thing gets twisted. No opportunity is lost to bash Trump.
Am I the only one who finds the meme, distributed via social media a few years back and posted at the top of this page, so startling now?
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