Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

Danger lurks for First Amendment


On Feb. 17, I was declared an enemy of the American people.

That used to be a favorite Communist epithet, substitute “Russian” or “Chinese.”

On Feb. 17, however, it was the president of the United States who gave me this title.

I earned my apparent “enemy” status by committing the unpardonable crime of journalism.

I gather facts about recent developments and present them as news.

Sometimes what I report makes elected officials look good, sometimes not. Facts are funny that way.

President Donald Trump seems only to recognize as facts the bits of information that make him look good.

Here’s the danger, which I don’t think President Trump understands: How long will it be before he tries to prohibit the reporting of facts that don’t make him look good?

The danger lurks for the First Amendment (free speech, remember that? I wish along with conservatives that it would come back to our leading universities.).

Conservatives used the First Amendment for eight years to defame the country’s best journalism and to administer daily doses of pure contempt to an elected president, whom they portrayed as the downfall of liberty, even though Americans didn’t see much change in their daily routines.

That’s allowed when you have free speech.

And it worked. Now, however, some on the right seem bent on dismantling that same First Amendment.

I think the logic works like this: The legitimate press interferes with your right to adopt conservative views by reporting information that might influence you not to agree with them.

That becomes grounds for rejecting honest news coverage, calling it “fake news” when it makes you look bad.

The next step: You make reporting unfavorable information a crime.

Hello tyranny of the majority. Goodbye democracy.

What better way to start that effort than to call legitimate news media “enemies of the American people?”

How do we in the media respond?

We’ll do our job.

The presidency is the ultimate fishbowl.

President Trump is flailing in that fishbowl and we’re just going to continue watching and reporting the flailing as it splashes by, admittedly with some gloating now because we are human.

We’d fail in our duty if we didn’t, however.

Does Trump remember Gary Hart?

He was a Democrat in line for the presidency in 1987.

When confronted with the accusation that he was fooling around, he vigorously denied it and challenged the press to tail him.

They did, catching Hart and a concubine not his wife on a boat called “Monkey Business.”

The rest, especially Gary Hart, became history.

The reporters found the facts, and the facts were his downfall, not the messengers.

I hope that’s a lesson President Trump will learn soon.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: [email protected]


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