Importance of Free Press in Wake of Violence and ‘Fake News’

Free speech in an era of pipe bombs and fake news

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, pipe bombs were sent to well-known Democrats, including former president Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the New York CNN office. As of now, there have been a total of 14 homemade PVC bombs intercepted in the postal system. None of the explosives have detonated, and there are no reported injuries.

The suspect has was identified as Cesar Soyac, a man from Plantation, Florida with a history of multiple arrests. He is an avid supporter of Trump, shown by the use of his Twitter account and the many Republican stickers placed on his white van. Soyac used his account to keep track of many Democrats who were also outspokenly anti-Trump. These facts indicate the attacks were done in allegiance to our current president, Donald Trump.

President Trump saw it differently. He tweeted the morning of Oct. 25, blaming the media for these attacks. “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” he said. The “fake news” he refers to is information that does not support his political agenda. This comes from a man who denies the mass scientific and social data, which provides possible solutions to the immense amount of issues in the United States. He silences the voices that do not match his own, and he is trying to manipulate the people of the country to end free speech, and have only his voice heard.

The victim shaming continued during a press conference on Oct. 29, when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that “The very first thing that the president did was condemn the attacks. The very first thing that the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts.” When reminded by a CNN journalist about the shaming tweet that the President sent less than a day after the first attacks, Sander completely denied it by saying “No, the president’s not placing blame.” However, just one day before the conference, Trump sent out another tweet saying “Actually, it is [the media’s] Fake & Dishonest reporting which is causing problems far greater than they understand!” Sander continued to criticize the media exclaiming, “I think it’s irresponsible of a news organization, like yours, to blame responsibility of a pipe bomb that was not sent by the president, not just blame the president but blame members of his administration for those heinous acts.”

In a way, these statements can be correct. Like most anything in this world, the power of media can be abused. With the increase in false information on the internet, people become misinformed and make decisions that might not be in their favor. However, the Trump administration is working to accuse the media of abusing its power of speech, projecting their abuse of power by controlling the less-informed.

CNN’s PR social media sent out a message after the conference had ended. “No…CNN did not say [President] Trump was directly responsible for the bomb. We did say that he, and you, should understand that your words matter.”

The reason for the attacks can only be interpreted the way one wants to see. Although Trump is known for his messages of hate or rather his lack of encouragement for unity, he was able to say words that stand to comfort the citizens of the U.S. “I just want to tell you that in these times, we have to unify,” he said. “We have to come together and send one clear, and strong message.”