Monday, February 29, 2016

Trump And His Supporter Use Media, Hate It, And Are Trolled By It

Donald Trump wants to weaken First Amendment
protections for the media. It's a dangerous idea. 
Say what you want about Donald Trump, but his relationship with the media is......complicated.

I agree with the pundits who say he would have never gotten this far in his inprobable, successful and many say scary success in his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. President.

After all, he's gotten so, so much free media. People love a train wreck, a controversy, so he's been great for media outlets as people tune in to watch, read or hear the latest outrageous Trump remark.

I'm not sure the media is to blame for Trump's rise or not, but it's something to consider. And Trump should be grateful for all the free 'advertising' he's gotten because he's constantly on the news.

The media attention on him isn't always fawning of course. There's lots of journalists, pundits, comedians, social media wizards and the like who can't stand Trump, who point out all his hypocrisies, bad ideas, racist comments, xenophobia, greed, and ego.

Trump, needless to say, is not a fan of people who even question him. Just ask Megan Kelley, the Fox News anchor who had the gall to ask him vaguely pointed questions months ago in a Republican debate, and Trump still hasn't gotten over jabbing at Kelly on Twitter.

Which leads me to one of Trump's dangerous ideas. At least I think it's dangerous and so do a lot of other people.

He would weaken libel laws to make it much easier to sue media outlets, and win.

According to the Associated Press:

"The changes envisioned by the celebrity businessman turned Republica front-runner would mean that 'when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,' he said at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas.

Trump added that, should he win the election, news organizations that have criticized him will 'have problems.' He specifically cited the New York Times and The Washington Post."

First of all, if a journalist knowingly broadcasts something that is false and said with malice and can harm a person's reputation, that person can sue for libel and likely win.

You can't sue and win if what is reported is true, or is opinion, you're covered. In other words, you'd open yourself up to a legitimate lawsuit if you accuse Trump of being a child molester, because he is most certainly not. He has not definitely not committed any kind of crime like that.

However, if you broadcast an opinion that his idea to build a wall on the Mexican border is stupid, you're covered. The First Amendment guarantees you can criticize a public figure's positions on any topic he or she discusses.

The Associated Press goes on:

"First Amendment advocates condemned Trump's suggestions.

'His statement shows why we need libel protections,' said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. 'Trump gets offended, he gets upset and he wants to sue to retaliate. That's not a good reason to sue someone.'"

Since freedom of speech is in the Constitution and the Supreme Court hs repeatedly endorsed the legal standard, Trump would not be able to change the law through Congress or via executive order. You'd have to amend the Constitution.

The press freedoms we have protect the nation basically from tin pot dictators. If the public learns about politicians and other public figures via an unfettered press, they can vet these candidates, learn about any red flags, and assess for themselves whether they want to vote for a particular person or not.

Also, if the press can freely report on unethical and illegal activity by any public official, that bad behavior can be stopped.

If the First Amendment protections weren't there, politicians and others could get away with anything.

I'm not saying Trump is suggesting loosening the libel laws so he can do bad things. He's not. He just doesn't like getting his ego bruised. But still, his idea is dangerous.

Of course, under the First Amendment, the media can use satire, jokes and other methods to highlight a public figure's foibles.

This was on full display this weekend, when Trump approving re-tweeted a quote that, as it turned out, was said by 20th century Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

It turns out the web site Gawker had created a Twitter bot that posts quotes from Mussolini, but attributes them to Trump. They wanted to see if Trump would re-tweet or otherwise embrace them.

Sure enough, over the weekend, Trump approvingly re-tweeted the Mussolini quote, "It's better to live on day as a lion that 100 years as a sheep."

Trump later defended using the quote on Meet The Press, essentially saying Mussolini was what he was but the quote is good.

Trump's supporters are subject to jokes, too. A video hosted by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, has him sending wwomen posing as "Fox News Girls" to political events to ask Republican voters about Trump and others.

The questions the "Fox News Girls' ask are cringe worthy to say the least. They make up outrageous, made-up policy positions they say liberals voiced and ask Trump supporters to comment on them.

People will believe anything, apparently, as the video shows.

Here's the laugh out loud video:

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