Since last week’s election, dozens of articles have appeared speculating what a Trump presidency could mean for any number of sectors – the economy, social security, healthcare, technology and the Internet, reproductive rights, foreign relations, and so on.
With the exception of Wall Street, which is already showing its jubilation over the deregulation of financial institutions, most of these articles have ranged from a cautious “we don’t really know” to glum.
How this presidency will affect writers has not been discussed at any great length. However, there are signs that do not bode well.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Trump has essentially declared war on freedom of speech, opening up the possibility of lawsuits directed at journalists who are critical of his administration (Washington Post). This is not just a violation of First Amendment rights, it is a green light to the potential abuse of power. In a recent article, The Authors Guild issued a strong warning:
“there is a risk that Trump’s veto power as president could endanger a pending federal free speech bill—the SPEAK FREE Act—from becoming law. This pending legislation, based on similar laws in more than half of our states, would allow federal courts to dismiss unfounded lawsuits filed solely to punish people for speaking out. It just so happens these types of lawsuits (know as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPP suits)—and the threat of them—have been a favorite Trump tactic.”
As president, Trump would attempt to overturn Supreme Court decisions protecting journalists from harassment lawsuits initiated by public figures. The first of these dates back to the Court’s unanimous 1964 decision in The New York Times v. Sullivan, which allowed free reporting of the Civil Rights movement. Not coincidentally, Trump named the New York Times as one of the newspapers he would sue.
Trump’s stance on copyright has not been formalized, but given the Trump campaign’s unauthorized use of copyrighted images, and the lawsuits resulting from his breach of copyright law, it would not be a stretch to conclude that reforming copyright law will not be high on Trump’s list of priorities.
1) WRITE. As writers we have an advantage over people who are not used to expressing themselves in print. The pen, in our hands, is mightier than the sword. We can write articles, communicate with our representatives and the media, and reach the public in ways that are effective and articulate. Above all, DO NOT SHUT UP! Self-censorship is the worst kind of censorship. Speak your mind, honestly and frankly, and without apology.
2) JOIN ORGANIZATIONS THAT DEFEND WRITERS. PEN America and the National Coalition Against Censorship are two long-standing organizations that defend writers and the First Amendment right to free speech. The Authors Guild, which is dedicated to defending the legal rights of authors, particularly regarding copyright, has also stated it will protect authors during the Trump presidency.
3) DONATE TO ORGANIZATIONS THAT DEFEND CIVIL RIGHTS. There are many organizations in the United States dedicated to defending the civil rights of U.S. citizens and residents. Here is a list of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations that need your support. You don’t have to give a lot – every little bit helps.
4) PARTICIPATE IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS. Half of registered voters did not participate in the last election. Democracy is a “use it or lose it” form of government. No matter how discouraged you may feel – don’t opt out. Do your research, understand the issues, ignore the hype, and vote.
5) ADVOCATE. Defend those who cannot defend themselves – the disabled, the undocumented, the impoverished. Sign petitions, call your representative, wave signs if you want to. This is the land of liberty, not the land of bullies, hate mongers, and pussy grabbers. Trump has done a good job of normalizing reprehensible behavior; it’s up to us to stamp it out.