By Dan Calabrese
Here’s how I think you can best explain this:
Between 10 and 15 percent of Republican voters would say yes to any question that starts with “Do you think President Trump should have the power to (fill in the blank)?” The same people would say no to the exact same question if you substitute “Obama” for “Trump.”
Then you get into the ideological warriors who are so infuriated with the left that they’ve abandoned all pretense of being for limited government of the Constitution, and have no problem with the use of state power to shut down any enemy on the premise that the left would do it to us, and we have to “fight fire with fire.”
That group is probably another 15 percent.
That still only gets you to 30 on your best day, though, so how did we end up with 43 percent saying this?
All told, 43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Only 36 percent disagreed with that statement. When asked if Trump should close down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, nearly a quarter of Republicans (23 percent) agreed and 49 percent disagreed.
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.”
Some of this, I think, is probably people who think there should be legal consequences for publishing flat-out falsehoods, as well as for poorly sourced nonsense that could have been easily identified as false if anyone was interested in checking. There is such a thing as libel, of course, but as Sarah Palin found out earlier this year it’s very hard to win a libel suit even when the media outlet was obviously both dishonest and malicious.
If you’re exasperated at the idea that these people can just say whatever garbage they want and they’ll never pay a price for it, I’m right there with you.
But since when do Republicans want the state exercising this kind of power?
First of all, let’s remember something: Not every Republican is necessary a limited-government conservative. There are plenty of people who vote Republican because they want to see their elected officials wield the power of the federal government to serve the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce as opposed to that of organized labor. These are the people who hate spending until it’s for Republican-friendly constituencies. Then they’re all for it.
Who will use government power to serve my interests? I’m for them.
And there are a lot of Republican officeholders who are only too happy to oblige.
Now about the media, yes, there should be a price to pay for the irresponsible use of their platform. But it’s not Donald Trump who should be exacting that price. It’s you, the readers and viewers. The ironic thing is, the free market has been largely doing so in recent years. Newspapers are struggling to survive and broadcast networks are bleeding viewers. The problem is that they don’t think their bias is the problem (and to be honest, it’s not the main problem; their business model is), and the alternative outlets that are cropping up are turning out to be just as liberal.
Because the culture of journalism remains a liberal culture, and the same people are just hopping into the new media and driving it like they did the old. When people try to start “conservative alternatives,” they end up being largely propaganda outfits who don’t really know how to report news.
It’s not an easy problem to solve, but that doesn’t mean we want presidents having the power to shut down media outlets. Not even presidents we like. And not even media outlets we don’t like. If you want to see the media punished, you do it yourselves.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!