One of the most important ingredients for a healthy democracy is a free and open press. History has been marked by nefarious and corrupt leaders who, over time, abuse their power to clamp down on civil liberties and control the national press.
Journalists serve as a check on any regime. People may not always like what they have to say, but investigative reporting is what prevents a dictatorship.
In nations across the country, the press serves as an extension of the government. In those cases, instead of receiving the truth, the public is hearing propaganda that bolsters government influence. It sedates and essentially brainwashes people, and creates an environment that allows a government to run amok.
This is a divisive time for America. There are people who loathe our president and adore the press; and then there’s people who revere our president and abhor the press.
I’m not using this post to tell you how you should feel about the president. But we should all be thankful that America possesses an open and independent press that is able to inform the public of things they otherwise would never know. It’s one of the most important tools that keeps our government from breaking the law.
And that’s why the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is such a big deal. Founded in 1921, the event celebrates the First Amendment and the free press, and serves as a lighthearted evening that reminds us all that, at the end of the day, the White House and the press corps are allies.
Until today. Because Donald Trump didn’t go.
The list is endless, but this yet another reminder that our president does not care about protecting the fabric of our democracy.
Last Saturday’s event, nicknamed the “Nerd Prom” – which happened to coincide with Trump’s 100th day in office – was hosted by Hasan Minhaj, who you would only recognize if you are a frequent watcher of the Daily Show.
I have no insider information, but I saw Minhaj as a top candidate to replace Jon Stewart upon his departure. He is young, funny, energetic, and brings an outside perspective unique to most Americans. The job ultimately went to Trevor Noah, who is doing a nice job in his own right, and I’m glad to see that both men have found success.
Nonetheless, Minhaj has some pretty damn poignant things to say at the close of his speech, and I think it’s important for all of us to hear. I’ll share with you a snippet.
“We are in a very strange situation where there’s a very combative relationship between the press and the president. But now that you guys are minorities, just for this moment, you might understand the position I was in. And it’s the same position a lot of minority kids feel in this country. You know — do I come up here and just try to fit in, and not ruffle any feathers? Or do I say how I really feel?”
I don’t really have much more to add.
And know that now, more than ever, is the time to support journalists.