Trump’s vendetta against the media jeopardises the lives of journalists

Image source: Common Dreams

By Giorgina McKay| @ggmckay11

A gunman opened fire on unsuspecting journalists at the Capital Gazette in Maryland, in the US, on June 28 in a targeted attack.

Suspect Jarrod Ramos allegedly had an outstanding feud with the newspaper over a 2011 report on a criminal harassment case, in which he was involved.

Mr Ramos unsuccessfully sued the outlet for defamation in 2012.

This latest tragedy comes in light of President Donald Trump’s constant anti-media rhetoric.

Trump has opposed the news media since first campaigning for presidency in 2016.

Most well-known for coining the term “fake news”—a phrase he deems “one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with”—Trump’s continuous antagonism towards journalists and media outlets such as The Times, CNN and NBC, has painted a negative image of the media in the eyes of Americans.

A poll in April reported three out of four Americans believe traditional news organisations report “fake news”.

UniSA journalism student Chris Dastoor said, “His base is pretty firm in supporting him. As soon as he comes up with any defense, no matter how erroneous or however incorrect it is, his base will just trust him on it.”

“So if he attacks the media for a ‘false report’ that’s actually correct, they’ll just believe him,” he said.

Trump has previously admitted to falsely vilifying journalists in the past.

In an interview with Judy Woodruff, 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl said Trump admitted to purposefully discrediting journalists.

“I said, you know that [anti-media rhetoric] is getting tired. Why are you doing this—you’re doing it over and over, and it’s boring,” Ms Stahl said.

“He said, ‘you know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you’”.

These words are all too true as a recent survey found that 42 per cent of Republicans believed that stories that were accurate but had a negative stance qualified as “fake news”.

“I think a lot of people just empathise because it’s the sort of thing where you’re in that situation where you’re trying to tell the truth and somebody who’s in a powerful position is just bullying you, and saying you’re wrong when you’re providing facts,” Mr Dastoor said.

“I think everyone has been in that position in their lives either in school, the workplace, or in social settings, and now it’s happening for journalists on the big stage.

“…a frustrating thing when they’re trying to hold public officials to account the same way they always do, and Trump’s just blowing them.”

While this is not the first case of a targeted attack against the media, Mr Dastoor believes this won’t be the last.

“I think there’s just a bit more political motive now that I don’t think it really matters whether you are a journalist. Anything that’s vaguely political is now going to be used as a battleground,” he said.

Mr Dastoor also believes Trump must take some responsibility for the Maryland shooting.

“He attacks the media so much and in a way that is promoting violence, and the problem is that a lot of people just buy into that, and buy into the ‘us versus them’ mentality,” he said.

“Obviously the shooter does take responsibility for it as well… but at the same time, [with] Trump endorsing this sort of rhetoric, it’s going to encourage people to feel that they’re justified in doing it [these actions].

“It’s that obsessive passion that got him out into the polls, but now that he’s president and now that things aren’t always going the way he wants, he still needs to find another way to fire them up, and it’s having these sort of consequences, and it’s what’s going to keep happening.”

Trump was briefed on the incident, but refused to publically comment.

However, he did tweet his “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families.

 

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