Our president is way more than a bit unhappy with the major media. Most newspapers have been on his case since day one, peddling what he calls “fake news.”
This applies to the electronic media, too, almost without exception. They have attacked him every single day of his presidency, more than twice on Sundays. “Piling on” is forbidden in football, but not in the pressroom. The Donald could with some justice sing along to the tune of “Why’s everybody pickin’ on me?”
What can Mr. Trump do about this unceasing barrage of critical comment from these sources?
In some countries he could shut down the opposition press. For example, Hitler and Stalin head up our list of dictators forcing newspapers to end publication, but it also includes Cambodia’s Hun Sen, Sierra Leone’s Foday Sankoh, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic.
Also deserving “honorable mention” in this dishonorable list are Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev, Angola’s José Eduardo dos Santos, Peru’s Alberto K. Fujimori, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, Tunisia’s Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali, China’s Jiang Zemin, Venezuala’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. This, unfortunately, does not even begin to exhaust the litany of such occurrences.
It can’t happen here, you say? Not now, to be sure, and, hopefully, not ever, but based on Trump’s hysterical reaction to critical newspaper coverage, … well, all one can say is that people of good will should be aware of this “clear and present danger.”
Worse, tyrants have incarcerated, and even killed journalists who crossed their paths. Were this to occur in our country, we would only be following the pattern blazed elsewhere. Journalism is by no means a safe profession.
What, then, can president Trump do about this onslaught? How can he protect himself from the “lying media?” Simple. He can rely on one of the tenets of our great free enterprise system. No, not “sue ‘em”; virtually never is he actually misquoted. In virtually all cases, he is condemned out of his own mouth, or tweets. In any case, POTUS is certainly a “public figure.”
Rather, Donald Trump can make his case through competition: he can start up his own newspaper!
All he has to do is buy some newsprint, a bit of ink, a few trucks to make delivery, hire some journalists, editors and computer specialists, and by gum, he is in the newspaper business himself!
He certainly has the wherewithal with which to accomplish this task. If he can own golf courses and hotels while president, he can certainly also publish a daily paper. Nor, even, does he have to start from scratch in this regard. He may borrow a leaf from Jeff Bezos who purchased the Washington Post holus bolus, and buy up an already functioning newspaper of this own. Then, he can make that periodical “great again.”
Happily for the Donald the newspaper business is one of the economically freest in the nation. In Louisiana, florists and casket makers must attain licensing permission before they can ply their trades. Such situations apply in Wisconsin for manicurists, in Arkansas for makeup artists, in Missouri for athletic trainers, in Michigan for security guards. As well, hair braiders and Uber drivers are banned from practice in many states.
And this is to say nothing about licensing in more traditional cases, such as medicine, law, dentistry, teaching, accounting, veterinary, pharmacy, psychology, engineering and architecture.
But this does not apply, not one whit, to traditional broadsheet dailies. In that venue, entry is free. Not of course in the sense of costless. Renting a printing press, hiring professionals, buying paper and ink, ensuring delivery, all cost money. However, anyone may start up a newspaper with no by-your-leave from any governmental authority whatsoever.
So, stop whining, Mr. President. Get off your big fat rear end, and start up a broadsheet of your own.
Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.