If you listened closely to liberals, you’d assume that in Wednesday’s press conference, President-elect Trump had screamed, stomped his feet, and thrown a series of small, pointy objects at a CNN reporter. You’d surmise that Trump had stormed off of the conference dais, cursing and complaining about “bad press”, a modern-day Caligula second-guessing whether he should have appointed Rick Perry or his horse to a cabinet position.
This begs the question: Did they actually watch the press conference (hint: the answer is usually “no”)?
One of the beauties I’ve heard is that “by decrying CNN, Trump is threatening free speech!” Another claims that “Trump associating CNN to Buzzfeed is like comparing Time Magazine to the The National Enquirer“. Indeed, if Time had lifted a rumor about Justin Bieber eating a crap-filled birthday cake and shouting “Down with capitalism!” from the pages of the Enquirer, then yes, it would be the same.
In analyzing whether Trump’s criticism of CNN is a threat to free speech, it helps to contemplate what the concept of free speech actually refers to. Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro does a good job of explaining the nature of law and order, highlighting that law must be backed up with a gun. In other words, a law has no power unless the government is willing to use physical force to compel you to follow it. The right to free speech is similar. The Constitution essentially states that you have the right to say whatever you want and not be shot by the government for it (nowadays we might replace “shot” with “prison time”).
So, when we ask whether Trump has threatened free speech by refusing to give CNN a question, we are essentially asking: Is Trump using the government to forcefully silence CNN?
No. He is not. So the argument is moot.
How many dozens of reporters were in that room, all haggling for a question?
“But CNN may have had a question that I wanted to hear!”
Yeah, they did. 80 other reporters did. Trump can take questions from whomever he pleases. So it’s no surprise that he chose to take questions from the news agencies that did not spread terrible, untrue rumors about him. An entitled CNN reporter, Jim Acosta, had no right to shout and be rude when not granted a question.
Well, he had a right. If screeching and interrupting other people is the liberal idea of “free speech”, fine.
But ignoring someone, and then calling them a name when they continue to be rude, is free speech as well.
We all have a right to free speech. We also have the right to be criticized based on the words that come out of our mouths. CNN had the right to slander Trump by Buzzfeed proxy, as close to libelous slander as it was. And Trump had the right to call CNN #FakeNews because of it.
Unless one of the parties justifiably ended up in the cold confines of a jail cell, nobody’s free speech was inhibited.
If anybody tries to argue Trump’s press conference reaction with you, feel free to repeat the above line again and again until they exercise their first amendment right to tell you to shut up.