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viewpoint

Call me fake news

| Tuesday, October 30, 2018

I am angry.

Over the course of my columns for The Observer, I have tried to be as agreeable as I can possibly be to both sides of the political aisle, in terms of allowing and encouraging dialogue between them. That being said, I am a journalist and I have the privilege of free speech to challenge the status quo and question things within the political and cultural sphere when they are questionable or go against moral, ethical and political “codes” that I establish and adhere to as part of my societal inheritance. I am not afraid to address conflictual issues because I want to show my readers the various sides and angles of issues I tackle and explore. But I try not to delve into political tit-for-tat because I believe that clouds people’s judgement and makes them fall back on platforms that hinder discussion. Rest assured I won’t be doing that here. But I am angry.

I am angry that the character and words of our president have inspired an enraged and lonely man named Cesar Sayoc to send pipe bombs to the political opponents of our president, including CNN headquarters. I am angry that people such as Mr. Sayoc find validity and identity in our president. I am angry that the previous sentence is even possible while discussing a president of the United States. I am angry at the bastardization of free speech and the simultaneous attacks against free speech that our president wields.

I am a journalist. I am a member of the media that Donald Trump lumps into the blanket label of “fake news.” CNN headquarters was one of the targets of the bomb suspect and I feel an obligation to write on behalf of my fellow journalists in the nation. We are observers, we are the ones who are the conscience of politicians. We are the ones who lend a voice to the governed, the “body” that sets us apart from countries where people exist in a censored world tailored to the desire of the government. A thousand justifications may be given for this right to report, for the right to free speech. From social contract theory posited by John Locke which states that the people can decide if their government is adequately representing them to the constitution of this nation, the right of free speech is such an important, taken-for-granted right that it feels ridiculous to even have to write about this. That is because the stakes of free speech are beyond the simple justifications one would posit in a high school history course. Arguments constructed upon the tenants of John Locke and constitutional rights sound hollow when confronted with the reality that a bomber acted upon the free speech and ideas of Donald Trump.

In my American Politics class last year, one of the standpoints toward hate speech (and yes, this what I am characterizing Trump’s rhetoric as at this point) is to let people say what they want because eventually that opinion will “burn” itself out by the sheer absurdity of it. I am frightened because the exact opposite trend has occurred so far. People are becoming emboldened to act dangerously after listening to the midnight political regurgitations of our president. Where once extreme and violent free speech might be failed attempts to rally or demonstrations that lacked attention and ended soon after, the words of Donald Trump have inspired a man to send pipe bombs to the political opponents of our president.

Let’s not trade discussion for pipe bombs, free speech for a homogenized brave new world crafted according to the image of a belligerent, myopic child of a president. Make no mistake. I refuse and have refused to engage in petty mudslinging that has become the norm of politics as of late. But one cannot stay silent anymore. People listen to Trump. They act on what he has to say. Free speech is a right granted to all, but we have to be careful when the free speech we promulgate is that of Donald Trump’s brand; brash, unpolitical rhetoric that is thinly disguised hate speech.

I cannot really propose a simple solution to the problems broached in this article. I am not entirely sure that they have one. What I can say is that I am a proud journalist, an observer to political, cultural and societal happenings in the framework of this nation and Notre Dame as well. I am going to continue doing what I love to do and what every single person has a right to do: register my views unapologetically and proudly. I implore everyone to search for and find their voice. Perhaps the voice of a nation can come together and drown out the destructive voice of our president.

Call me fake news. I don’t really care anymore.

Gabriel Niforatos is a sophomore who has diverse interests ranging from political science to music. When he’s not at school, he is busy hiking and running in the New Mexico mountain range. His email is [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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