As catastrophic elections occur, disasters take place, and dictators rise, the presence of journalists has always been imperative in documenting history, and essential to maintaining democracy. With the rise of Donald Trump in the United States, the human rights of journalists looks to be in the line of fire from Trump’s right-wing supporters.
The Daily Beast‘s Brandy Zadrozny reports that at a Trump rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, one zealous voter’s t-shirt caught the public’s eye. The back of the shirt, previously Tweeted by Reuters, reads, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.” The shirt, worn by a 58-year-old white man living on the Tennessee-Georgia border, also shows two smiling white people beside him.
Zadrozny gives the man the pseudonym “Bob,” who regularly uses the Internet as his ultra-conservative platform. “On Facebook, Bob reads and shares fake news stories, like the one with the headline, ‘Judge Orders Investigation Into Obama’s Fake Social Security Number’, and complains that the ‘mainstream media’ isn’t reporting it,” she explains. “He also posts photos of the confederate flag, and links to conservative country songs…he thinks Obama is a turd, Ronald Reagan is a hero, and according to his twitter feed, he’s voted for Trump.”
Bob represents the quintessential, disgruntled white man involved in the American election who views Trump as a savior. To him, journalists who defy what Trump is saying with research, in-depth analysis, and facts is an opponent to be eliminated. Bob’s investment in political white supremacy is only a symbol of Trump’s fan base who are supporting this brand of new-wave fascism.
“Violence, or its understood spector-in general and against journalists specifically-has been a troubling element throughout Trump’s campaign. Now, in one photo, a Trump supporter and his guffawing peers were leaving little doubt about their understanding of the Republican candidate’s not-so-subtle message on the media: Journalists should be silenced. In fact, journalists should be hanged from a tree, until they are dead, for doing their jobs.”
Throughout Trump’s horrific campaign, the presidential-elect has gathered faithful followers partially by shunning media presence on his speaking tours. Journalist report violations of their rights at Trump gatherings from his supporters, from severe verbal taunts to physical assaults.
“Trump’s disdain for the media has been vocal and unrelenting. Reporters covering Trump campaign rallies have been forced into a gated area, where they were literally pointed at and criticized by the candidate during nearly every speech,” says Zadrozny. “Trump has praised Putin’s tendency to kill journalists and political opponents with whom he disagrees with as ‘leadership'”.
Throughout American history, journalists who interrupt the status quo have faced grave political opposition from the status quo; radio reporters such as Mumia Abu Jamal, a former Black Panther, sits in prison fighting for his life. Gary Webb, the investigative journalist who uncovered the link between the crack era in the United States and the Iran-CONTRA affair, suffered a tragic fate in his quest to expose truth.
Journalists must not waver in the face of threats such as these. We owe it to our communities to continually expose truth, regardless of the right-wing Trump supporters who seek to silence us. Our voices are more critical now than ever. As there has always been repression, there will also always be resistance. In the words of political thinker and freedom fighter Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”