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Trump’s Attacks On The First Amendment Don’t Remotely Compare To Bush’s (Or Obama’s)

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President Donald Trump is triggering liberals and would-be warriors running the Hashtag Resistance grift.

He’s obliquely floated the idea of using the IRS as a political tool against the National Football League because black athletes won’t give in to his bullying. He’s successfully cajoled ESPN into chastising and censoring Jemele Hill. His ranting has emboldened Jerry Jones into keeping his players upright for the national anthem–and the rest of the NFL may follow suit.

Sure. Yes. Of course. All of the above is bad. It’s very bad. Not just the first moves–frequently speeches, interviews, tweets–made by Trump. But more so the secondary moves made by those in Trump’s crosshairs. The response has been to give in just a little, to cede an inch and hope for comity–not realizing that If You Give A Goon A Hand Job, He’ll Keep Asking For More.

As CNN‘s Gregory Krieg notes, “Giving in to Trump will not earn the NFL and ESPN a reprieve. Quite the opposite. If anything, their apparent weakness will only invite further attacks.” And that’s assuming the NFL and ESPN actually want to oppose Trump in any meaningful sense. The scarier–and likelier–read on all of this buckling to Trump is that his media enemies are more or less in agreement.

But enough about Trump’s verbal barrages. His attacks only work because his enemies are cowards, stupid, or pretending. Oftentimes those attacks are the smooth-brained ravings of a decadent couch potato with no real appreciation for anything other than how to set the discourse. They make liberals wilt like the lilies they are and provide opportunities for hucksters and grifters to appear brave and better.

One of those hucksters is swamp creature Steve Schmidt. He worked for Dick Cheney and then under Karl Rove on George W. Bush‘s re-election campaign. On Wednesday, he crawled out from underneath the rubble of satire and expressed his very serious disdain for Trump’s semi-threat against NBC’s broadcast license. Schmidt tweeted:

Sometime after Schmidt’s ahistorical pearl-clutching warmed liberal hearts, his feigned outrage was called out by journalist Eoin Higgins. Higgins tweeted:

Yep. The United States bombed journalists. Explicitly. Because it didn’t like their coverage. Starting with Al-Jazeera‘s Kabul branch during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Thankfully no one died during that attempt to silence critics. But then the U.S. did it again and again.

The next time the U.S. went on the record to bomb journalists happened in Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On April 8, 2003, U.S. bombs killed Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayoub. Two other journalists died in that attack as well. The U.S. attacked Al-Jazeera multiple times after that. Bush and then-British Prime Minister  Tony Blair even met to discuss bombing Al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar. They decided against it.

And then, of course, was the July 12, 2007 attack which killed Reuters journalists Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen–memorialized by Wikileaks in the “Collateral Murder” video.

These attacks were not errors, oversights or even unintended-but-expected collateral damage–the journalists killed were explicit targets and they were targeted by the United States military while U.S. civilian leaders complained about the coverage coming out of Iraq.

And it just got worse and worse. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “at least 150 journalists and 54 media support workers were killed in Iraq from the US-led invasion in March 2003 to the declared end of the war in December 2011.”

The United States doesn’t have to worry about international war crimes charges for various reasons, but like an uncharged Hollywood executive, the crimes still occurred–and they still remain seared into the victim’s flesh; they still trace outlines of injustice through the memories of those honest enough to appreciate the reality of U.S. history. The history here is bipartisan. It all set the stage for Trump.

(So, while we’re here it’s worth mentioning Obama’s attacks on the First Amendment as well–he went after more journalists and leakers using the antiquated and authoritarian Espionage Act of 1917 than every other president before him combined. This attack on the First Amendment stretched from harassing the Associated Press to surveilling Fox NewsJames Rosen. It of course included charges against Edward Snowden, the torture of Chelsea Manning and a secretive grand jury for Julian Assange. Obama even personally requested the former dictator of Yemen keep journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye imprisoned. The dictator complied.)

Outrage is in vogue for liberals and resistance grifters and hoodwinkers like Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), but as the rehabilitation of Bush-era officials continues apace, let’s not confuse Trump’s histrionic virtue-signaling and the complicity of corporate media with genuine attacks on journalists and Freedom of Speech. And let’s certainly not fall into the trap of using one to excuse the other.

[image via screengrab]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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