Trump, Protest, and the Press

Francesca Butler gives an overview of Trump’s most recent attacks on human rights and assesses his threat to freedom of speech.

Shocking news seems to arise ever day about the latest appalling thing that Donald Trump has said. But more than empty remarks, since his inauguration Trump has proved himself to be a very real threat to human rights and freedom of speech. Trump’s latest is his unconstitutional travel ban which suspended all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries as well as suspending the US Syrian refugee programme, something which has sparked mass waves of protest in the US and the rest of the world.

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Masses of protesters at JFK airport on Saturday

The protests led to the #DeleteUber campaign which began after Uber continued to provide lifts at JFK airport, undermining the NYC taxi drivers’ strike. Drivers from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance refused to pick up airport passengers between 6pm and 7pm on Saturday in solidarity with protestors of the immigration ban. The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, who will advise Trump on economic issues, has been accused of co-operating with Trump surrounding the protest. It is, however, reassuring that an attempted attack on protest has been received with more protest.

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Women’s March in Washington DC

Earlier in the month, the Women’s March showed tens of thousands of women and allies around the world marching to make the statement that they would resist Trump’s extreme sexism. Many signs referenced Trump’s infamous taped brag about being able to grab women without their consent (the release of which he claimed to be “illegal”), as well as his attacks on women’s health and reproductive rights. Following the protests Trump removed US funding to any overseas organisation that offers abortions, even if the organisation provides those specific services with their own funds.

Donald Trump has announced a “running war” on the media. Whereas having a cautious and critical mind-set towards the media as an individual is undoubtedly a positive thing, announcing a war on the media in its entirety and viciously attacking any report which might show Trump in an unfavourable light is an incredibly worrying stance for a president. A total of six media workers are facing 10 year prison sentences and fines of $25,000 after being arrested while covering the Trump inauguration.

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The war on media has coincided with Trump’s war on climate change with the recent ban on the Environmental Protection Agency from sharing information with the public. The ban included news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds and social media content. However, the order has been rescinded following a Twitter trolling of the president by the National Park’s Service. Nevertheless, the move shows how far the president is willing to go and his worrying power with regards to limiting the media.

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A 2012 Tweet from Trump

Another alarming factor is Trump’s incessant lying, flooding the media with more and more shocking statements, and leaving the public confused about what can be believed. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Splicer, went to argue the case that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the “biggest ever,” leading to the concept of “alternative facts” introduced by Kellyanne Conway in defence of Splicer. It is the sort of thing we are used to hearing about in relation to dictatorships like that of North Korea or Maoist China. Other alternative facts from Trump include the alleged 3 to 5 million illegal votes in the November election, Trump’s standing ovation from the CIA, the claim it was almost impossible for Christian refugees to enter the US, and the “dramatic increase” in federal workers under Obama.

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Fittingly, in November Oxford announced the word of the year was Post-Truth, an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Not trusting politicians is not a new phenomenon, but it has been taken to new heights with President Trump, the concept of truth becoming almost irrelevant.

Terms like “post-truth” and “alternative facts” have an eerie ring of Orwell’s ever-relevant 1984. Are we coming into an era of doublethink? The 9,500% increase in Amazon sales suggest that many other people are wondering the same thing. The protests are a reminder that there is still at least some sanity.

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