In today’s political climate, the news-media industry is not a dinner-table-friendly topic.
On January 17, 2018, the first ever “Fake News Awards” was held by the White House, demonstrating that some Americans have lost faith in their news outlets. Further, according to a Pew research study, 11% of Republicans and 34% of Democrats trust national news. In the past, Americans have always united and respected the news industry. In recent times, however, it has furthered the divisiveness of the country.
Over the weekend, I watched Steven Spielberg’s The Post, starring Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post, and Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, owner of the paper. The movie was excellently executed, but, more importantly, struck me as an incredibly relevant story.
The Post tells the story of how the Pentagon Papers, a twenty year-long classified study by the department of defense about the Vietnam war, are leaked. The New York Times, one of the era’s leading national newspapers, is the first paper to receive the classified documents. After thorough analysis, the Times publishes some of the papers, and ultimately received a court injunction from the Nixon White House that prevented further publication.
At this point in the film, the Washington Post, a local newspaper at the time, obtains a copy of the papers. Graham struggles to make a decision over printing the papers, as she risks being held in contempt of court in order to uphold the first amendment. However, she “steps up to the plate,” and orders the papers to be published, despite adversary from the White House.
President Nixon’s real-life war against the Pentagon Papers was valiantly fought. On the secret tapes from the Oval Office, he repeatedly refers to the Times as the “enemy.”
Nixon’s dedication to the war against the media is clear, as he is willing to “fight with everything we’ve [the White House] got.” At times, violating the law is considered as a means to get revenge on Nixon’s “enemies.”
Does this war on news-media sound familiar?
It is often said that “history repeats itself.” Currently, history’s redundancy could not be more apparent. Like Nixon, President Trump appears to be consumed by the idea that news-media is the enemy.
In Trump’s tweet about the “Fake News Awards,” a link is attached that leads to the actual list of “awards.” I was shocked to find that the list, which is biased and poorly written, is located on the GOP’s official website. Under the list, there is a small paragraph of justification. It claims that, despite all of the negative “fake news,” Trump has driven American to success.
The success is measured by claims that “The President signed historic tax cuts and relief for hardworking Americans not seen since President Reagan.” Regardless of one’s opinion about the new tax bill, relief has arguably not arrived to “hardworking Americans.” As the bill has not been fully implemented yet, it would be impossible to see any of its alleged benefits.
Another “success” of the administration is that “The President has unleashed an American energy boom by ending Obama-era regulations, approving the Keystone pipeline, auctioning off millions of new acres for energy exploration, and opening up ANWR.” In other words, the White House is destroying National Parks in order to better the private sector. Although there is enough oil drilled to last another half century, the industry will now be able to access parks like the Grand Tetons and the Everglades and destroy endangered and plants, as well as the image of America.
Ultimately, by the end of the movie, the Supreme Court upholds the first amendment and rules that both the New York Times and the Washington Post have permission to print, thus thrusting the Post in national spotlight. In the end, American values like freedom, justice, and equality under the law are upheld, despite the White House’s vehement fights against the news-media.
In today’s world, the future of the news is unknown. For now, everyone must continue to hope that history will once again “repeat itself,” and that American values and constitutional protections will trump the current political climate.