The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has, above all, brought to the fore some very interesting questions about our assumptions concerning society and politics. Here, for example, is Peter Sterne on Politico, relating a story that explains why he’s frightened for the rights of the press under Trump:
[When reporter Jake Fischer was busted in a car with people engaged in potentially illegal activities along the border, lawyer Chip] Babcock filed an emergency motion in federal court, arguing that the reporter could not be indicted because the U.S. attorney general had not signed off. Under Justice Department policy, the attorney general—the top law enforcement official in the nation—must approve any indictment of a member of the media.
“There is no statute that says, if journalists break the law, they don’t have to pay for it,” Babcock told POLITICO, remembering the moment. “But there is a regulation that says, if you’re going to indict a journalist, we need the senior-most law enforcement officer of the United States to sign off on it.”
The first question that Sterne’s insinuations bring to mind is: Why should card-carrying journalists have special rights? These days, anybody can legitimately claim to be reporting on an illegal activity rather than engaging in it. Let a judge or jury affirm the person’s act was journalism, not crime.
Second: It’s impossible not to notice that Sterne’s fear is ultimately that Trump will continue to do the objectionable things that the Obama Administration has been doing. Sure, we’ve heard about those objectionable activities from time to time, but the cloud of budding fascism has hardly been looming throughout the work of mainstream journalists for the last eight years.
Their Obama adulation let us get to this place. Now, they have to get in the basket with the rest of us for the consequences, or to fight for rights for all of us.