If you want to understand how bad things have gotten on the right in America, a new Ipsos poll published today on The Daily Beast should scare the living daylights out of you. According to the poll, almost half of self identified Republicans believe that president Trump "should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Reported the Beast:
A plurality of Republicans want to give President Trump the authority to close down certain news outlets, according to a new public opinion survey conducted by Ipsos and provided exclusively to The Daily Beast.
The findings present a sobering picture for the fourth estate, with respondents showing diminished trust in the media and increased support for punitive measures against its members. They also illustrate the extent to which Trump’s anti-press drumbeat has shaped public opinion about the role the media plays in covering his administration.
Furthermore, 48% of the Republicans polled believe president Trump's statement that the news media is "the enemy of the American people”:
Republicans were far more likely to take a negative view of the media. Forty-eight percent of them said they believed “the news media is the enemy of the American people” (just 28 percent disagreed) while nearly four out of every five (79 percent) said that they believed “the mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly.”
The notion that the media is unfairly targeting Trump is almost entirely a product of his consistent lying -- the more he lies the more responsible media outlets calls him out on it. He then claims they are willfully misrepresenting him, leading to his supporters hating the outlets reporting it. It is a vicious circle with no end in sight, and the status quo is extremely worrying. It is worth remembering that the GOP controls all branches of government, and almost half of their supporters want the president to have the power to shut down outlets they don't like.
Alex Jones, The Government, and Freedom of Speech
There is a legitimate debate over Facebook, Spotify and Apple's censoring of Alex Jones's site 'InfoWars', but it must be remembered that they are private companies with legal terms of service that cannot be violated. If they deem InfoWars to be in violation of those terms, they have every right to kick Jones off their platforms -- a position I happen to agree with. However, it is one thing for private companies to censor speech on their platforms, and another thing entirely for the government to have the right to shut down news media outlets it disagrees with. This would ostensibly include outlets like CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post -- vital news organizations that have the resources and manpower to actually hold the White House to account for its actions. Trump has already declared these outlets "the enemy of the people," creating a terrifying environment for journalists to work in. CNN's Jim Acosta for example, was subjected to extraordinary abuse at a Trump rally recently, and other reporters have been barred from the White House for asking "inappropriate questions". It isn't hard to see where all this could lead.
The Fire in the White House
The United States is could face an unprecedented assault on the First Amendment should there be a Reichstag like event that gives Trump an excuse to wield his executive power. His consistent attacks on the press should serve as a very obvious warning as to whom he will go after if he is given the chance.
“I grew up during the time of the Cold War,” Karl Rove told Mediaite recently. “That is a phrase [calling the media the "enemy of the people"] that was used by Stalin against the enemies of the Communist regime. I think the president would be well advised to tone down the rhetoric.”
When Karl Rove is telling you to tone down the rhetoric, you can be assured the rhetoric really is that dangerous.