Dear Media: Trump Has No Authority to Undo Birthright. The Supreme Court Says So

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Dear Media: Trump Has No Authority to Undo Birthright. The Supreme Court Says So

This is a master class in how not to frame a story.

This is even worse, as NPR's tweet is simply factually incorrect.

CNN followed the NYT's cowardly lead in leaning on the word “unclear” to do more work than is required.

The AP fell prey to this brain-disease too, but at least they had the sense to delete their disinformation.

Trump woke up this morning, and in a clear play to his white supremacist base, said that he plans to issue an executive order revoking the birthright citizenship awarded to everyone born in America by virtue of the 14th Amendment. If you are a consumer of major media, you may think he has the ability to do this.

Spoiler: he almost surely doesn't.

Per the UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT in 18freaking98:

The evident intention, and the necessary effect, of the submission of this case to the decision of the court upon the facts agreed by the parties were to present for determination the single question stated at the beginning of this opinion, namely, whether a child born in the United States, of parent of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States. For the reasons above stated, this court is of opinion that the question must be answered in the affirmative.

In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the highest court in the land ruled that the 14th Amendment cannot simply be circumvented by legislation or executive order. It's an amendment. To amend it, you must go through the arduous process of amending the constitution. Simple legislation or executive orders are not enough. The way that the New York Times and especially NPR described this authoritarian power grab by Trump would get them failed out of the sophomore-level political science class where I first learned about this famous Supreme Court case. This is more than just embarrassing. It's dangerous, as The Atlantic's Adam Serwer detailed on Twitter.

Libby Watson summarized what's at stake perfectly over at Splinter:

This is important. [Axios's Jonathan] Swan's antics are not just annoying and embarrassing fodder for bitchy media Slack channels. This is not some journalistic feud. It matters. Whether or not Trump is wholly talking out of his humongous ass on this particular matter, his administration is counting on the existence of a dutiful, subordinate press that prizes scoops above principles, that will consider Both Sides of the matter of whether the administration can write off the citizenship of millions of Americans and frame it as a Debate that Experts are having.

The vast majority of journalism produced by mainstream media (defined as any organization which falls under the umbrella of the six conglomerates that own 90% of our media) rests on the ethos of “both-sides journalism” that isn't actually journalism. It's PR for bad ideas which cannot stand on their own. Trump legally cannot do what he said he wants to do, yet our mainstream press does not challenge him, because they are more interested in presenting politics as a civility play between two (and only two) sides rather than the truth: that it's a literal fight for life or death, especially for the poor and minorities. Here is New Yorker staff writer, Adam Davidson, describing both-sidesism from his personal experience.

It’s hard to look at mainstream outlets as the final arbiters of the truth anymore. Fascism is here, and outlets like the Times are describing fascists in more flattering detail than the fascists describe themselves. The modus operandi of bothsidesism in mainstream media leaves it wholly unprepared for Trump and the Republican Party’s authoritarian takeover, because it doesn’t allow them to say that one side is clearly worse than the other (let alone the fact that there are more than two sides to American politics).

In the days of yore, there were plenty of journalists who understood that their job is to investigate power, and that is why legends like Edward R. Murrow are remembered as the avatars of journalism that they are. Today’s mainstream media is filled with sycophants who refuse to challenge power, and instead, simply repeat whatever their scoop-masters tell them to and fraudulently call it “journalism.” We are being led down a dark path by not just Trump and the Republican Party, but by a mainstream press run by too many cowards either unwilling or unable to describe our increasingly fascist world.

Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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