Not the enemy

Where would America be without freedom of the press?

By now, President Trump’s attacks on the media are redundant. Depending on his mood, reporters are “the worst,” or “very unpatriotic,” or “the enemy of the people,” or “sick.” He ramped things up recently by saying, “What you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.” Trump continued, “Just stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people—the fake news.”

Ah, “fake news.” It’s a term POTUS casually uses to describe virtually anything he disagrees with and any media outlet doing its job—you know, reporting on the conflicts of interest and scandals that have embroiled his cabinet; new policies that have gutted longstanding protections for the water we drink, the air we breathe and our public lands; the investigation into his and his associates’ ties to the Kremlin, and his efforts to impede the probe.

At this point, it would be easy to tune out the president’s constant rebukes—to trigger the internal “blah, blah, blah” button. But that would be normalizing his attacks, so resist the temptation.

Indeed, there is nothing normal about this president’s rhetoric. His goal is clear: to delegitimize any person or entity challenging his narrative. Trump’s attacks are dangerous—to media big and small, including community newspapers like this one—and especially to the fabric of our democracy.

Knowledge is power. That’s why “reporting” in authoritarian regimes—like in North Korea and, yes, Russia—comes from state-run propagandists.

Unfortunately, though he’s an unmitigated peddler of fiction (over 3,200 false or misleading statements in about 500 days, as of May 31, according to The Washington Post’s Fact-Checker), Trump has captivated those who live in an echo chamber. We’ve seen the trickle-down effect here in letters to the editor—writers blindly parroting POTUS’ delusions.

This newspaper’s op-ed section may peeve readers now and then, but consider of all of the important issues the CN&R sheds light upon year after year: civil rights violations, corporate power run amok, political corruption, government incompetence.

Today, we join The Boston Globe and hundreds of other newspapers around the nation with a call to action. We ask that our readers—irrespective of political bent—stand up for the First Amendment. And speak up for it—don’t sit idly by when others regurgitate the president’s falsities and “fake news” claims; correct them. A free press is essential to our very way of life. On that we should all agree.

We are not the enemy. Not even close.