Jonathan Kraut: Trump violates First Amendment


Freedom of the press – which has come to mean the freedom to report on and interpret information through print, on-air, and via electronic means – is one of the foundations of a free and open society.

Our founding fathers understood that controlling the press means controlling and manipulating information. They believed that control of information is tantamount to a dictatorship.

Where the truth is obscured by political consideration, so obscured are appropriate action and prudent decisions.

The First Amendment to the Constitution, seen as a holy contract with America by many conservatives, makes it clear the freedom of speech and of the press are to be sustained – “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. …”

It is not by accident that freedoms of speech and the press are in the First Amendment and not the Tenth. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1786: “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, not that be limited without danger of losing it.”

We often criticize Russia, China, Iran and other governments for abridging the freedom of the press. The right to protest and to challenge public policy and elected officials ensures disagreements are aired openly and encourages healthy dialogue.

Our founding fathers had no fear of open discourse – nor should we.

I think any news organization that promotes free speech and intelligent discussion is to be commended. I have to mention that The Signal newspaper, which some claim leans a bit to the right, has never changed a word in any of my articles or refused to run any topic based on political objection in the 13 years I have been honored to write this column.

It is a credit to The Signal and any news organization to allow unpopular yet thoughtfully prepared views to be presented.

But imagine the Santa Clarita City Council preventing the participation of specific news agencies and reporters at City Council meetings based on what they report.

How would you feel if you wished to address a local school board with your views but your proposed statement was pre-screened and your participation was denied if your comments questioned or challenged the board’s prevailing views?

As a community, we should be and would be outraged.

As we all should know by now, President Baby-Bully Trump is doing his best to villainize any press organization that fails to promote his messages and his views.

Just a couple of days ago, his press secretary excluded the L.A. Times, the New York Times and CNN from attending a press briefing. These agencies were being punished for making public embarrassing allegations, about top Trump officials that were leaked from inside the FBI.

So rather than punishing the leakers who work for the Trump administration, the news agencies who carried the news about the truth were prevented from participating, i.e., asking questions, of the already-embattled administration.

What perplexes me most is that conservative commentators, rather than being up in arms about this behavior which clearly is aimed at “taking away our freedoms,” are silent.

Freedom of speech and the press should be considered by the right and the conservative camp to be just as crucial to our democracy as the right to bear arms, freedom of religion, and the right to vote.

Dictatorships and Communist regimes thrive when they effectively “control the message,” control information, and shape the views of the governed, and do so without shame or regret.

President Baby-Bully Trump – thin-skinned and hot-tempered – is proudly doing the same.

Any administration that attempts to control the news by eroding access of press organizations that report unfavorably violates the tone, intent and specific rights as defined in our Constitution.

This president is going to find the courts will deem it necessary to put our democracy back on track and take a more active role in restoring the balance of powers.

Of course, Trump will gripe and moan about being told what to do by the judicial branch. But in the end I hope he and his administration will come to realize that as president he works for us and that we and the press do not work for him.

Jonathan Kraut directs private investigations and private security firms, is a published author, Democratic Party activist, and SCV Interfaith Council member. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.

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