When I tweeted critical comments about Trump’s “license” idea, a follower accused me of practicing “literal-ism.” This is not new. As you know, we’re not supposed to take everything Trump says seriously. Sure, it’s more than likely his threat is nothing more than bluster. There is less of a chance that he’ll challenge the “licenses” of networks — whatever that means; networks don’t function on licensing tied to the veracity of their reporting, obviously — than there is that the GOP will pass any meaningful bill. It’s just more fuel for the corrupt symbiotic relationship between the president and the establishment media. Each side can now preen for a cycle.
But none of this changes the fact that presidents do have the power to undermine your privacy and destroy your life over free expression. It doesn’t change the fact, as we learned over the past eight years, that when presidents play around with authoritarian ideas for political gain, a faction of Americans — always a different faction, depending on who is speaking — are comfortable hearing it or offer rationalizations for it. All the while, we continue to abandon neutral principles for political gain. This is especially true on the issue of speech.