Are we watching the downfall of the First Amendment before our eyes?

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It may seem like a few harmless and even comical tweets now, but how long until we’re facing more serious and possibly irreparable threats to the First Amendment?”

I’ll be blunt: as a student journalist and an American citizen, I’m concerned about the future of the First Amendment in this country. You know, the one that guarantees freedoms of speech, religion, and the press?

  There’s no single, huge incident that serves as my source of concern. Rather, I’ve noticed a series of small, almost unnoticeable red flags here and there. This is more concerning. If someone in the government were to propose the repeal of the First Amendment, people would be up-in-arms in no time. But the smallest digs at the First Amendment could lead to our freedom of speech disappearing without us even noticing.

  Some of these digs can be seen through our current President and his rocky relationship with the press. One of President Trump’s favorite phrases is “FAKE NEWS!!”, and that’s undeniable for anyone with a Twitter account. In fact, Trump has tweeted using the phrase “fake news” and similar phrases 163 times during his presidency thus far.

  There’s one important pattern that’s worth noting: Trump only cries “fake news” when news outlets speak  negatively about him, even if what the news outlet is saying is objectively true.

  For example, on Dec. 12, 2017, Trump tweeted that “despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia-so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met. FAKE NEWS!”

  Although it’s not explicitly stated, it’s clear that Trump is referring to sexual assault allegations against him that are coming to light again after the recent wave of sexual assault victims coming forward and speaking out against their assaulters. While Trump admits these accusations are false, he admitted to and even bragged about sexually assaulting women in an interview with Billy Bush back in 2005. This is just one case of Trump calling real facts fake news.

  As much fun as it is to mock Trump and his seemingly incessant use of the phrase “fake news,” it’s important to note the dangerous implications of these supposedly harmless tweets. It’s the job of the press to inform the public, even if it paints political figures in a negative light. That’s the whole point of freedom of the press. What Trump is trying to do is create distrust between reliable news sources (such as the New York Times and CNN) and the American public.

  At some point, the American public might no longer view major news sources as reliable. Without the trust of the American public, how can the press hold Trump and others like him accountable for their actions?

  Trump has also been known to speak out against people exercising their first amendment rights.

  The most prominent example of this was Trump’s response to NFL players kneeling for the national anthem. The NFL decided that players could kneel or sit for the national anthem without penalty, and Trump responded by tweeting, “The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!”

  I’ve made my stance on kneeling for the national anthem clear in the past: the players are kneeling as a form of peaceful protest, which is protected under the First Amendment. Trump’s tweet implies that he believes that players should be punished for expressing their First Amendment rights. It’s concerning when anyone implies this. It’s terrifying when the President implies it.

  As a whole, Americans should take note of what is happening. It may seem like a few harmless and even comical tweets now, but how long until we’re facing more serious and possibly irreparable threats to the First Amendment?

  Freedom of speech is an integral part of our democratic society in the United States. Don’t let it be quietly swept away.

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Are we watching the downfall of the First Amendment before our eyes?