We have been speculating about it for weeks, but now it has been confirmed: whether legitimate or not, the purported Russian hacks are being used as cover by the U.S. government in order to covertly and seriously infringe on the freedom of the media, giving the government unprecedented control over what media you have access to.
In the wake of the “fake news” scare, as well as new revelations about Russia’s role in the election, bipartisan support for an amendment has been put forth which would get rid of the current bipartisan broadcasting board in charge of international media and replace it with a president-appointed executive.
According to The Washington Post:
“The new executive would hire and fire senior media personnel and manage their budgets.”
“The Obama administration — perhaps anticipating a Hillary Clinton presidency — supported these changes. Now its outgoing public-diplomacy officials will have to hope that Mr. Trump chooses an executive committed to the U.S. broadcasting tradition of independent and reputable journalism rather than a political loyalist or alt-right ideologue.”
Though this law is set to affect only international media created by the U.S. at outlets like VOA and RFE/RL, it is the first step toward overt censorship of our free media by the government, and it should make us all very concerned.
“The Broadcasting Board of Governors is the largest public diplomacy program by the U.S. government, reaching an audience of 278 million by broadcasting in 100 countries and 61 languages.”
Both Politico and Washington Post note that the new reigning executive is likely to be Stephen Bannon, Trump’s right-hand man and former leader of Breitbart, a blatant conspiracy theory faux news site.
The amendment is being backed by both President Obama and Hillary Clinton thanks in part to the “fake news” scare, inflamed by the violent actions of one conspiracy theorist who fired shots in a D.C. pizza shop based on #Pizzagate speculations.
Like in many other instances, President Obama made presidential decisions without someone like Trump in mind. In the hands of someone rational, this decision might not have been as severe. It is presidential malpractice to not protect the nation from every type of executive, rather than simply hoping that whomever has their hand on the button makes the right choice.
We cannot allow ourselves to become so blinded at the prospect of dangerous media that we allow the censorship of media of any kind. Without complete freedom of the press, both online and in print, we are not a democracy.
With an incoming demagogue like Trump, our free and open press may be all we have left and we have to protect it at all costs.