The First Amendment May Be History Under Trump
Trump's administration has been at the helm for less than a week, and we're already seeing how they plan to treat the First Amendment, so I hope you weren't too attached.
One of my early concerns with regards to Trump's initial nomination was his tremendously big mouth. He had the biggest mouth. Believe me. It's no secret that people who desperately clamber for the attention of large groups are not generally fond of other people pulling that attention by speaking. This is a fine trait for a birthright tycoon or a reality TV star. It is not, however, an acceptable characteristic in a leader of actual significance. Trump seems to be having a hell of a time adjusting to this vicissitude of his station.
One of the most obvious affronts to our long-running freedom of speech by Trumplethinskin and his ilk is his recent gag order against the release of information from scientific researchers who are working on tax funded projects at the EPA and the Department of Agriculture. It is the decree of Trump that these two agencies and their employees not release any information through the press or social media in regards to scientific discovery. In addition to the gag order, all funding of EPA projects has been frozen. It's hard to dismantle all of those intrusive environmental protections when they're constantly using facts and statistics to show the public how critically important and time sensitive their work is.
It's easy to deduce the motivations behind gagging the EPA and the USDA. They are two of the organizations who serve to regulate billion dollar industries like oil, agriculture, and construction, serving as a thorn in the side of powerful corporations who are now far more represented in government than your average American citizen.
The next proposed violation of freedom of speech is a little more subtle by comparison, but is no less frightening. The government of North Dakota has put up a piece of legislation that would offer legal protection to anyone who ran over protesters with their car because they were startled and “accidentally hit the gas instead of the brakes.” That's a real thing that's happening right now, and you may wanna give yourself a moment to digest that.
In any other time, it would be easy to laugh off a law that seemed like it was written by a high school freshmen suffering from mercury poisoning. But we are not in normal times, and I don't feel the need to wear a whole through my keyboard explaining to you how that's the case. The fact that the CEO of ExxonMobil is the Secretary of State, and the head of the EPA is a man who has tried to sue the agency into extinction many times, should be all the evidence you need that things are extremely abnormal in the halls of government.
As for the bill (which has yet to pass), it pertains specifically to protesters. This is no accident. North Dakota has been inundated with protesters for several months in response to the invasive construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline. The now infamous water protectors have helped shine a blinding light on, not only the dangers that massive oil pipelines pose to the environment, but also how peaceful protesters are treated and lied about by over-zealous and abusive police. Time after time, the American public has been shown raw videos of events that grossly conflicted with the official reports of the authorities. This has caused considerable embarrassment to the people in power in that area, which is undoubtedly why the protesters are the target of this vicious and disgusting bill.
Next is the media. The evil, rabid, lugenpresse (a Nazi slur for the press that was chanted at a Trump rally). While fake news is a real thing that flies in the face of legitimate information, the newly appointed Commander-in-Tweet has decided that the term applies to news that he doesn't like. CNN, for example. A shitty news source, to be sure, but they're far from fake news. Fake news invents wholly fictional stories to intentionally mislead people, while outlets like CNN just fail to do any challenging or hard hitting journalism. Big difference.
Trump has stated that he would like to extend libel laws to the point where he could sue news sources who report unflattering stories about him, and famously corralled journalists during his rallies, having them removed and banned if they attempted to interview anyone in the crowd. These practices have not decelerated during his short time in office.
The Trump administration is currently working to overturn net neutrality, a law that bars internet service providers from causing certain sites to go slower or be less accessible. With the overwhelming majority of news and information coming from the internet, this is a critical measure. The importance of net neutrality is that it keeps corporate agendas from dictating what information the public has access to. But in Trump's world this is a threat. It seems that he would love nothing more than a state-run media, serving the public only what the dear leader approves personally.
Trump's dangerous rhetoric about the press has also reverberated to other authoritative agencies throughout the country. During the protests of his inauguration, six journalists were arrested for 'enticing a riot.' I don't know whether that's a bullshit term that DC cops came up with or if they just don't know how to spell 'inciting,' but the consequences are the same either way. The message has been sent that if you try to report on something that could potentially show the power structure as anything less than perfect, then you'll face 10 years and a $25,000 fine. That's not supposed to happen here. The government isn't supposed to dictate the information released by a 'free' press just because they don't like what's being said.
The last mandate that I'll cover here is on the topic of religion.
Our intake of refugees has been a subject of much debate for the last couple of years, spurred on by the conflict in Syria. To date, America has only taken in 18,000 refugees from the war-torn nation, falling humiliatingly short of the 1 million that Germany took in. Trump is ready to shut the door behind them. Unless, of course, they're part of a religious minority in the Middle East. That's code for 'No Muslims,' by the way.
The problem with the administration only allowing refugees of particular religious backgrounds into the US is that it constitutes a “religious test.” Yet another in the long list of Constitutional violations by this new brood.
While Trump and his base will scream at the tops of their lungs about the sacred importance of the Constitution, they seem to have no interest in understanding the document as a whole. They seem to get so aroused by the second article, that they skip right past the first one. This is unbelievably dangerous. It deracinates the very thing that ensures all other liberties remain intact. If we can't voice our outrage, then there's no reason left for people in power to concern themselves with the desires of the people who they pretend to represent. Silencing opposition is a favorite of places like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and so on. We are headed down that same path. It's completely unveiled. The new administration isn't trying to attach hidden riders on unrelated legislation to shut you up, they're just putting it right out on the table. I guess you can appreciate the honesty in that move, even if it pisses on the fabric of American values.
Refusing to resist these kinds of actions is as un-American a stance as the citizenry can take. No good comes from us surrendering our liberties, and this should be an easily bipartisan issue. Right or left, the First Amendment affects us all and should be protected with fervor.