So just how intolerant have we become?
We live in a society that was founded on ideals and perspectives. We make educated decisions every day based on information, data and facts. But just the facts that we deem relevant? The facts that match our ideals? Do we ignore or punish those who disagree with us, or have a different point of view?
That’s exceedingly intolerant.
And now, in a move that sounds very un-American, President Donald Trump has raised the possibility of starting “our own Worldwide Network” to counter news spread internationally by CNN.
Trump said via Twitter on Monday that CNN “has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair and false way. Something has to be done.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what he had in mind.
State-run media is propaganda, pure and simple. And for any American to think that is the solution for the schisms fracturing our nation would be saying that the governments of Russia, Hungary, Venezuela and China are doing things right.
Trump’s proposal sparked heated debate. One group, the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, tweeted that the idea is one “widely popular with dictators around the world.”
Others noted that Trump’s tweets were not out of character for the president, who has obsessed over TV coverage of his administration.
Ahead of the 2016 election, speculation swirled around the possibility of a “Trump TV” channel, should Trump have lost his bid for the White House. Such a network never materialized, although Right Side Broadcasting Network, founded by Trump supporter Joe Seales, became something of an unofficial online version.
“The use of TV networks as soft power is not a new obsession, although maybe expressing it in this way is,” tweeted Emily Bell, founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.
She noted that both Trump and his 2016 Democratic rival, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, have weighed in on the topic and that Clinton “made a speech in 2011 worrying about China and Russia and their networks in this respect.”
But what started out as a finger in the eye of CNN now potentially threatens freedom of the press in America — a tenet of the U.S. Constitution.
The president’s attack on CNN International came nearly a year and a day after his last broadside against the global network. He tweeted after Thanksgiving 2017 that “@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly.”
“The outside world does not see the truth from them!” he said then.
CNN’s public relations team fired back on Twitter at the time: “It’s not CNN’s job to represent the U.S to the world. That’s yours. Our job is to report the news.”
Last month in Washington, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that “if you’re overseas and you watch CNN International, you know the Russians don’t have to run any propaganda television.”
“There’s no more anti-American network than CNN International,” he charged.
But Jessica Heslam, a columnist for the Boston Herald, this week noted that “Creating his own global TV network would be an incredibly huge and costly undertaking, media experts told me yesterday, and taxpayers would foot the bill.”
The fear is that Trump might latch on to what already exists: Voice of America, the government-funded, nonpartisan news organization created in 1942 to “broadcast accurate, balanced and comprehensive news and information to an international audience.”
VOA, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the largest U.S. broadcaster and covers news around the world, reaching 236.8 million people weekly in 45 languages through the internet, radio and television broadcasts, according to its website.
VOA never intended to compete with U.S. networks but instead is meant to be a reliable and independent news source for people around the world who need it, Al Tompkins of the journalism think tank Poynter Institute told Heslam.
“My fear is that at some point he may get the idea that Voice of America can be what he’s envisioning,” said Tompkins, who teaches how to be nonpartisan at the VOA. “I trust that that will never happen.”
The president can’t get his facts straight on Twitter. How could we trust he would do any better with a taxpayer-funded network? We can’t; we mustn’t tolerate it.