Donald Trump tweet (Feb. 17, 2017)

The great thing about social media is the ability to immediate communicate with the rest of the world. Before social media, electronic mail was used as a digital means of communication, where we specifically designate a recipient of our correspondence. Now, once you send out your message, it can be read by anyone and everyone. When politics is intertwined with social media, we get to see people’s immediate, impulsive reactions to news surrounding the Trump administration. It’s a fascinating case study.

In SLO County, the daily newspaper of record is The Tribune. The Tribune publishes syndicated content from other publications as a way to provide a glimpse of news and opinions that exist outside of our county. Since the national news cycle is dominated by news about Trump, The Tribune has published a lot of Trump-related content. That’s understandable. But local Trump supporters have expressed fiery disapproval on social media over The Tribune publishing unflattering truths about their dear leader.

Several Trump supporters have called for The Tribune to be shut down or run out of town because they publish “leftist propaganda.” Others inundated their comments sections parroting Trump’s “fake news” slogans. Some have sharply criticized The Tribune for publishing local opinions that are critical of Trump and claim the publication is contributing to politically charged hostility that we’ve seen nationwide. But according to a number of staffers currently employed by The Tribune, the publication has received an “unprecedented” amount of hate mail and death threats.

The idea behind the vitriol is that criticizing and fact-checking the President of the United States is somehow unpatriotic; that publishing so-called “fake news” and criticism about Donald Trump is dividing the country more than Trump’s unequivocally divisive rhetoric. They are defending someone who labeled those who didn’t support him during the 2016 election as his “enemies,” but if we question Trump, we’re being divisive. That’s concerning.

There are fascist undertones in this pursuit to silence and threaten dissent. Not every person who supports Trump engages in this behavior, but many do.

After the country learned that Trump would become president, people on both sides of the political spectrum thought it would be healthy to reach out to Trump supporters and ask why they voted for him. Maybe, just maybe we can find some common ground and move forward as a country, we thought. That’s not a bad thought, but how do we communicate with Trump supporters who have a hostile approach to facts and criticism? How do we communicate with voters who support a person that believes the free press is “the enemy of American people”? Trump just tweeted that:

How do we find common ground with people who don’t support our First Amendment rights?

Any attempt to bridge the divide should be applauded, but there’s a lingering sense of hopelessness. When the president makes remarks like that, it only motivates his supporters to exercise fascist ignorance.

Perhaps it’s time to fight back by subscribing to the free press. Subscribing to The Tribune is a good start.

Aaron Ochs is a columnist, marketing entrepreneur and founder of SLO Truth. Ochs is also involved in his community as founder of Save Morro Bay (www.savemorrobay.com).

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