The health of a free and unintimidated press

Pete Vernon at Columbia Journalism Review on Trump’s attacks on the press:

As Trump has ratcheted up his media criticism, his supporters have been given the opportunity to show they’re getting the message. A trio of rallies provided scenes of hostility toward journalists doing their jobs, leading to frightening—and increasingly dire—predictions. The New York Times’s Bret Stephens wrote Friday about a threatening voicemail he received, in which the caller said, “I don’t carry an AR but once we start shooting you f—ers you aren’t going to pop off like you do now. You’re worthless, the press is the enemy of the United States people.” Arguing that it’s only a matter of time until one of Trump’s devotees takes the president at his word, Stephens concludes, “We are approaching a day when blood on the newsroom floor will be blood on the president’s hands.

It would be soothing to be able to think that ragey attack speech is inert, but it’s not possible.

Speaking about the venomous scenes from Trump’s Tampa rally, MSNBC’s Katy Tur explained that viewers were only getting part of the story. “What you saw and still see on TV, those boos and those taunts, are only part of it. What you do not see are the nasty letters, or packages, or emails, the threats of physical violence. ‘I hope you get raped and killed,’ one person wrote to me just this week,” Tur said. “So if anyone in the administration cares about the safety and security of journalists, the health of a free and unintimidated press—and by extension our democracy as a whole—please say something to your boss, your dad, your commander-in-chief, before it is too late.”

I know from various Twitter harassment-campaigns that lots of people are willing to make violent threats, and no I’m not confident that every single one of them is just venting.

Below, more on growing fears about the impact of Trump’s words.

  • In their own words: On Sunday’s Reliable Sources, CNN’s Brian Stelter played a clip of a threat broadcast on C-SPAN, in which a caller threatens to shoot Stelter and his colleague Don Lemon.
  • “The enemy of the people”: NPR’s Scott Simon compared Trump’s language to that used by dictators throughout history, adding, “if the president had called reporters nosy, cranky, contentious, or smart-alecky, many reporters would have laughed and agreed. But calling them—us—enemies of the people is the kind of curse made by tyrants.”
  • From words to action: Citing a study by German researchers about the link between politicians’ words and violence against journalists, The Washington Post’s Rick Noack sees parallels to the current state of discourse in the US.

From Barack Obama to this.

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