Fighting For The First Amendment Is Going To Be A Priority: Help Us Do It
from the free-speech-under-attack dept
Throughout the campaign, we noted how Donald Trump’s views on the First Amendment and free speech were horrific. While some of his supporters insist that he’s wonderful for free speech because he’s not “politically correct,” in almost every way he’s positioned himself as an enemy of free speech and the First Amendment (even the whole “political correctness” thing is misleading, because if you mention certain other words, Trump supporters seem to get just as worked up as the “PC police”). He (along with Clinton) promised to censor the internet and brushed off the free speech concerns about doing so, calling people who bring up free speech in that context to be “foolish people.” And, then of course, there is the long list of threats to sue his opponents for their ads, news organizations for their articles and other critics as well. Those are all protected speech. It didn’t help matters that his very first post-election tweet complained about protesters exercising their First Amendment right to assemble and protest, and the press for supposedly “inciting” them to protest.
In the past few days things haven’t gotten much better. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway threatened Harry Reid with legal action for criticizing the President-elect. Sure, Reid’s statement was hyperbolic and a bit ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than stuff that Trump himself said on the campaign trail. You don’t go and threaten people for expressing their opinions — especially when its people from opposing parties. That’s what dictatorial strongmen do, not those in a country that has the First Amendment. And, of course, Trump continued to use Twitter to get into a weird spat with the NY Times insisting (incorrectly) that people were unsubscribing because of its coverage of him.
— NYTCo Communications (@NYTimesComm) November 13, 2016
And then he insisted that the NY Times was lying in reporting on things he said about having more countries get nuclear weapons. Except he did say those things, and even the friendliest publication to Trump, Breitbart, reported on him saying it.
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) November 13, 2016
No, he’s not threatening legal action there, but selectively attacking and calling out certain publications — especially for their accurate reporting — is pretty ridiculous and again shows that Trump seems to have a serious inability to recognize that adversarial reporting on the government is kind of an important part of the freedom of the press.
And we haven’t even gotten to Trump’s promise to “open up libel law” to make sure that publications that reported negatively on him have “problems.” As we noted when he said this, while he can’t just “open up libel laws,” he can still create lots of problems for free speech and the First Amendment.
And that’s why people like Margaret Sullivan are arguing that this is our big First Amendment test. Some people have argued — including in our comments — that we should wait and see what Trump actually does. I think we should take him at his word. If he didn’t mean, then let’s see it by his actions. But in the meantime, it’s going to be important to guard our free speech rights carefully, because Trump and his campaign have so far showed almost no respect for them at all. As journalism professor Dan Gillmor said in a recent speech, journalists need to become activists for free speech.
At Techdirt, we’ve always considered ourselves exactly that: strong advocates for free speech and an open internet, and so much of what we talk about stems from that. And we plan to continue to do so, even though we’re quite small. I know I’ve seen lots of people suggest people subscribe to newspapers and some wonderful organizations like the ACLU and EFF — and we’re all for that too. But if you want Techdirt’s voice to keep speaking out on this as well, perhaps, think about supporting us as well.