In an increasingly digital world, social media has emerged as a new soap box for public figures to speak from. Particularly in politics, outlets such as Twitter and Facebook have proved to be valuable tools for rallying supporters from areas across the United States. However, President Trump’s use of Twitter has been notably different than his political counterparts, and has led to a string of events that have brought to question what the future of the media is in politics. The new debate sparked by President Trump has proven to be an interesting challenge in the quest for meaningful political coverage.
From his personal Twitter account, President Donald Trump tweeted a video on the morning of July 2nd in which he is shown wrestling someone with the CNN logo edited onto their face. It was not until July 5th that CNN was able to correctly identify the creator of this video as Reddit user “HanA**holeSolo.” The user has since publicly apologized and deleted his other posts on the site, claiming that he has “the highest respect for the journalist community.” CNN has chosen not to publish the user’s identity based on his actions following the event. CNN has since faced criticism for their decision to not identify the Reddit user responsible for the video, with many claiming that they blackmailed the user in exchange for his cooperation. The organization vehemently denies that they threatened the person responsible for the video.
Trump addressed this tweet days after posting it, claiming that “CNN has really taken it too seriously, and I think they’ve hurt themselves very badly,” but issued no apology for the tweet. However, this tweet could have real consequences for American journalists already being criticized for spreading supposed #fakenews. How can Americans be expected to trust news organizations that the president himself is hostile towards and condemns as distributors of intentionally false information?
What do we make of this?
This event and others like it show that there are real implications associated with the gathering of news in an administration and political climate that is hostile to the media. Journalists face a real threat in doing their jobs, a reality that Americans are just starting to come to terms with. The perception is that in a culture that so prizes free speech and freedom of the press, threats to journalists are not present in the United States. Trump’s increasingly aggressive tweets and comments demonize one of the country’s central tenets.
In a culture of “fake news,” where does that leave the media? If they are able to find their way through the noise, they can serve as a valuable tool for the American people. If not, Americans will find themselves in a country that has freedom of speech in name and not application. In the days, weeks, months, and years to come, the media will face a culture of distrust. It is imperative that they find a way to assert themselves as an essential part of the American political process.