The alt-right media’s incredibly short-sighted support for a candidate who wants to persecute journalists amounts to playing Russian roulette with two bullets. Assuming that Donald Trump loosens libel laws and enforces a new standard for the mainstream media, the alt-right will become more emboldened than ever. This would create a more dangerous environment for journalism in all its forms, including the alt-right media.
Let’s call them the alt-right. No, this isn’t normalizing them. Generalizing a whole group of people based on that group’s radical fringe is not something to be taken lightly. It forces people into shadows, isolates them, and allows the majority to be further radicalized by the minority.
That being said, the alt-right media need to take a moment of self-reflection to ponder what they are bringing upon themselves through their open vitriol of mainstream journalism and by supporting a candidate that seeks to lock up many professionals in the field. To be clear, the mainstream media elected Donald Trump just as much as the alt-right did; both sides agree on this. For those against Trump, it was the billions of dollars of free air time given to covering him. Those for Trump see his success stemming from mainstream media ignoring and incensing millions of working class white people who felt left behind by globalization.
Donald Trump has expressed interest in softening libel laws in the past and despite a mollified tone in an interview with The New York Times, he has not ruled out loosening libel laws. If he manages to do this, which according to The Washington Post is unlikely, it will be a crippling blow to those wishing to hold Donald Trump accountable for the rest of his term. It is going to be an extremely hard four years if every time a journalist brings up the Donald Trump rape allegations, they are served with a suit. However, this is what happens when laws become politicized in favour of one set of beliefs over the other.
Changing laws based on a president’s is insanity. Laws have the potential to outlive us all, and when a ruling establishes precedent, it paves the road for future decisions to be made along the same lines. The decision on Roe v. Wade established precedent to make abortion legally available to women in the United States.
If President Trump is able to win a libel case against journalists, the precedent for future presidents to do the same is established.
To think that future presidents would not pursue this avenue to suppress criticism if it becomes common practice under a Trump presidency is naive and foolish. Guantanamo Bay, The Patriot Act, and Extraordinary Rendition all continued under the Obama presidency. When the president is given tools to enforce their rule, they are loath to relinquish them.
We are looking down the barrel of a system where, when a new sheriff arrives in town, the criminals become the police, and the police become the criminals. Those who would report libel to Trump are now the ones being reported for it. Laws must serve everyone, and if Trump has his way, libel will become a noose around the neck of all journalists based on the whims of the electorate of the day.