On February 17th, President Trump tweeted that many media companies are “the enemy of the American people.” Our organization—as advocates for free speech and free press—believe that this claim runs counter to the very foundations of America.
On January 16, 1787, Thomas Jefferson sat down to pen a letter to Edward Carrington, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental Army and statesman from Virginia. In the letter, Jefferson wrote, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” In Article II of the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, anti-federalist George Mason wrote, “The freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.” Throughout the creation of our nation, freedom of the press was an agreed upon principle, no matter the side chosen. This is especially important for our organization since, as defenders of free speech and press, we often align with Jeffersonian ideals.
Active media has played a vital role in the birth of our nation, from the dramatic overrepresentation of the Boston Massacre to describing the new systems of governance of the newly formed United States in 1787. Likewise, the media plays an important role today as publishers of key information and as an extension of free debate. Now and always it has been true that the freedom of the press has just as much value as the freedom of speech.
To vilify those with whom you disagree is perfectly within anyone’s individual rights—to an extent. But to use the reach and access that is afforded to those only in the highest office in the land to actively try and turn people against an industry that is critical of them is a disgusting abuse of power. To use the office of the Presidency is all the more offensive.
We do no write this as a liberal or conservative organization. We do not hold a position for or against any member of the government, including President Trump, either. Our problem lies in that, by definition, we are a part of the media. Our work leads to the creation of content, and led to the creation of a platform on which we deliver news to all of you.
Of course, and we agree, the media will always make some mistakes—and there will always be those who write something outlandish for clicks, but that is not worthy of what we see as Presidential overreach. Whether President Trump means to or not, he is using a form of censorship we deal with every day on college campuses: de-legitimization. You can disagree without delegitimizing, like we can all disagree with each other without being dehumanizing.
As an organization run by members across the political spectrum, arguments are had about what we share and the sources they come from. But what we always push each other to remember journalists approach everything with their own predetermined biases: Breitbart, Wired, The Blaze, and HuffPo. All of them.
Except us, of course!