Don’t tread on us

Gianforte and Abbott incidents affect everyone, not just media

Considering how brazenly Donald Trump declared open season on the media during his presidential campaign, then grew more combative in the White House, it was only a matter of time before someone answered his challenge.

That man now has a place in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On the eve of the congressional special election in Montana last week (May 25), Republican Greg Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly body-slamming a journalist who asked a question he didn’t like. Gianforte was captured on an audio recording but won the seat anyway, replacing Ryan Zinke, Trump’s pick for secretary of the interior.

His acceptance speech included an apology to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, though people in the crowd laughed when Gianforte said, “I made a mistake.” Someone yelled back: “Not in our minds!”

The next day, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made sport about shooting journalists. Toting a paper target as a demonstration of his marksmanship, Abbott pointed to the holes and joked (purportedly) that “I’m going to carry this around in case I see any reporters.” He was at a shooting range after signing a bill that slashes the state fee for a handgun license; a reporter, naturally, witnessed and tweeted the remark.

Obviously, as a media organization, the CN&R worries about attacks on the profession and fellow professionals, whatever level of intensity.

You—reader, citizen, human—should worry, too.

Knowledge is power. That’s why authoritarian regimes replace independent media with propagandists. Marginalizing journalists, branding legitimate newspapers and broadcasters as purveyors of “fake news”—that stigmatizing is the first step toward clamping off those who could uncover uncomfortable truths.

“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but most certainly without freedom the press will never be anything but bad.” Albert Camus’ words are especially important as we find the First Amendment challenged by a president with seemingly too much to hide and too many followers willing to feed off his frenzy.