This paper is about former US President Donald Trump and the media. Trump famously announced that the media entails fake news (Sullivan, 2020). He tends to say this when the media is reporting something negative about him (Sullivan, 2020). The paper, therefore, focuses on scrutinizing Trump's behaviour online, on Twitter. This is done by assessing his tweet from January 11, 2017, and the meaning behind it (Figure 1).
At the same time, the paper will analyse the philosophy of media ethics. Through the Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, media ethics will be explained in relation to Trump's tweets (Dooremalen et al., 2007). In the end, the paper will reflect on the consequences of the outcome of misrepresentation of the media online, by a powerful person like Trump.
How Can Trump's Tweet About Fake News Be Analyzed By Kant’s Moral Philosophy?
Throughout Trump’s presidency, the media was ambushed many times by the former President (Sullivan, 2020). Trump addressed the media in probably the most unconventional manner, in comparison to the previous head of state (Sullivan, 2020). He has a tendency to share his opinions on various topics with his favoured means of communication, which is online. He often is inclined to use social media platforms, such as Twitter as illustrated in Figure 1. Trump, specifically, focused that tweet on the media. Because they were the ones challenging the former president on his misconduct, throughout his time in power (Sullivan, 2020).
Trump's manner of retaliating was by labelling not one specific news story as fake (Sullivan, 2020). Instead, he publicly characterized all published news as fake (Sullivan, 2020). The example in Figure 1, demonstrates clearly one of the times Trump had an outburst, during his Presidency. He had explicitly used his private Twitter account to announce: ‘Fake news - a total political witch hunt’ (Figure 1). The tweet is insinuating, that Trump believes that the media is a controlled source, which quest is to persecute people in politics (Sullivan, 2020).
Trump’s approach, to addressing the problems he is facing with the media, is intimidation (Sullivan, 2020). He does this online on platforms like Twitter. His intimidating approach is unnecessary since the media is in line with media ethics (Miles, 2017). According to U.N. Human rights experts, Trump is even causing a much bigger problem (Miles, 2017). Trump’s outburst on Twitter, implies malice towards freedom of speech (Miles, 2017). Rules such as freedom of speech, which Trump is threatening, have been part of universal laws for a long time (Miles, 2017). Even moral philosophers, for example, Immanuel Kant, have dealt with universal laws (Dooremalen et al., 2007). Kant believes that for universal laws to exist, humans are moral and adhere to two elements (Swazo, 2021). The first is that every human has a conscience. The second element is that everyone is rational (Swazo, 2021). This implies, furthermore, that human beings are able to make moral decisions regarding their behaviour (Dooremalen et al, 2007). Kant however, suggests an important but limited solution towards reason (Dooremalen et al, 2007). Particularly, this includes limits to freedom of speech and when it comes down to exercising moral judgment (Swazo, 2021). This is elaborated on further in the following quote:
‘Human reason, in one sphere of its cognition, is called upon to consider questions, which it cannot decline, as they are, as they presented by its own nature, but which it cannot decline, as they transcend every faculty of the mind’ (pg. 138, Dooremalen et al., 2007).
Kant’s philosophy proposes issues, which are being dealt with today, specifically, with Trump. But in his philosophy, Kant is extremely optimistic and believes it is virtually impossible for one to do the right thing for the wrong reasons (Dooremalen et al., 2007). Nonetheless, in the case of Trump's fake news tweets, it is vital to assess what Kant would think.
On the one hand, it could be assumed that Kant would consider this a non-ethical approach of Trump, to tweet such a hostile message (Figure 1). Considering the fact that the message further discloses that; ‘Trump’s statements are indeed reckless, but they are consistent with a troubling trend of hostility toward open and honest government’ (Miles, 2017). On the other hand, Kant’s moral philosophy suggests an opposing view surrounding this issue. According to Kant’s moral philosophy, as long as the person has a conscience and is rational, their behaviour is justified (Swazo, 2021). This might be contrasting with the former statement made by the UN Human rights expert.
This evinces the fact that Trump then needs to be labelled as a psychopath to be wrong, which is claimed by the moral philosophy of Kant (Swazo, 2021). In other words, for Kant to consider a person to be wrong they need to not bear these two elements (Dooremalen et al., 2007). Psychopaths have no conscience and, therefore, lack reason (Swazo, 2021). Trump's actions may showcase a lack of these two elements, just as psychopaths do (Swazo, 2021). Since Trump is trying to threaten freedom of speech and, thus, is at the same time, consequently trying to destroy the intrinsic values of a democracy (Miles, 2017).
The Outcome Of Kant's Moral Philosophy & Trump's Dilemma With The Media And Twitter
Most are familiar with the fact that Twitter is a social media platform that offers direct communication between everyone. It is a platform which offers 280 words to be tweeted, in the little box on the main page. Twitter encourages users to follow the rules, at the same time, regardless of the freedom the platform offers. If these rules are broken, users can be banned by Twitter (McCluskey, 2022).
Exactly this has happened to Trump after he was warned multiple times by the platform for breaking the rules. According to TIME, the former President runs a risk of continuously creating a hostile environment online (McCluskey, 2022). Hence, Twitter banned Trump and many other social media platforms followed them, therein after (McCluskey, 2022). If this ban is fair or not, is hard to determine since freedom of speech is a complex universal law. The issue is that the rules for free speech have insufficient or unclear boundaries, to what is considered right or wrong. It is therefore difficult to judge when something is offensive or what should have a limit.
The other issue that comes hand in hand with the previous, is that it is challenging to decide who can make these appropriate verdicts, regarding free speech. For example, Kant’s moral philosophy, as mentioned beforehand, is in genuine alliance with Trump’s behaviour online. But if this implies that society needs to accept Trump's behaviour, is unclear.
Another problem is, that the consequence of the outcome of Trump’s actions might be immeasurable. This is because his confrontational tweets are destroying the intrinsic parts of democracy. Thus, maybe the only solution that could be offered is, that it is time to label Trump as a psychopath (Swazo, 2021). In this case, it is possible to label Trump as unreasonable and requires a conscience. Until these two elements are innate, he ought to stay out of the public eye. This includes that the ban, on social media platforms against him, should continue.
In fact, he cannot be designated, as a person that is able to determine whether the news is fake or not. Thus, this relates to the fact that his tweets are not true and are a misrepresentation of the media. The meaning behind his tweet is pointless since this is not an accurate scientific fact (Figure 1). Therefore, it is possible to conclude, that it is absolutely unnecessary to have him on a platform, such as Twitter.
Conclusion: Trump May have lost the fight against the Media
In conclusion, Trump’s tweet about fake news put forward Kant's moral philosophy. This analysis indicated that Trump is considered to be a threat to the intrinsic values of democracy. Hence, Elon Musk's decision to let Trump back on the platform is possibly a bigger mistake than expected (McCluskey, 2022). Because apparently, Musk considered Trump's return as a win for free speech (McCluskey, 2022).
According to Kant's moral philosophy, this would have made sense. Since Trump can be considered to have a conscience and is reasonable. Nonetheless, it can be argued that Trump’s hostility towards the media has demonstrated somewhat psychopathic behaviour (Swazo, 2021). This implies that Trump possibly has no morals. The dilemma of these complex problems cannot be taken lightly. Constant reevaluation and reassessing are necessary, to determine the case of Trump and his use of social media platforms.
Dooremalen, H., Regt, H. C. de, Schouten, M., & de Regt, H. C. (2007). Exploring Humans: An Introduction to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Boom Lemma. Pg. 123- 144.
Donald J. Trump on. (2017, January 11). Twitter. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/818990655418617856
McCluskey, M. (2022, October 28). What to Know About Trump’s Twitter Ban, Now That Elon Musk Owns the Platform. Time. https://time.com/6225997/elon-musk-trump-twitter-ban-future/
Miles, T. (2017, September 1). Trump’s hostility towards media has a purpose, U.N. human rights expert says. U.S. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-censorship-idUKKCN1BC4J0
Sullivan, M. (2020, April 13). What it really means when Trump calls a story ‘fake news.’ Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/what-it-really-means-when...
Swazo, N. (2021). Trump’s Inducement of America’s Banality of Evil. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356977760_Trump's_Inducement_of_America's_Banality_of_Evil