- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President-elect Donald Trump is the mainstream media’s master troll on Twitter.

By simply tweeting, Mr. Trump is directly speaking to the press and has the ability to change the 24-hour news cycle to whatever his desired narrative is, in a mere 120 words. It’s masterful.

On Tuesday morning — seemingly out of nowhere — Mr. Trump tweeted: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail!”

Flag burning hasn’t been a discussion topic anywhere — headlines in all the major papers have been about speculation on his Cabinet picks, and what role his former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway may play in his administration. Hot topics in The New York Times and The Washington Post have discussed potential conflicts of interests with Mr. Trump’s businesses and his White House.

But now, the media is talking about flag burning — and editorial writers are furiously defending why Americans should be allowed to desecrate the flag — a very unpopular point of view.

It’s trolling at its best.

Are Mr. Trump’s tweets “dangerous” like many in the media makes them out to be?

Hardly. He’s just talking to them — the press. Only 16 percent of Americans are even on Twitter. He uses the social media platform to speak directly to the elites from New York to Washington, who then amplify and freak-out over his every word.

And that makes the press look bad.

Take, for example, the flag-burning comment. As Charles Cooke at the National Review rightly points out, laws against flag burning are popular with the American public — just not the ruling class (or courts). This election has always been about the elites versus the populous, the insiders versus the outsiders. And Mr. Trump continues to exemplify this divide with his tweets.

“Putting people in prison for speaking is tyrannical in almost every case,” Mr. Cooke writes about Mr. Trump’s flag tweet. “And stripping them of their citizenship is so far off the charts that I’m not really sure where to begin (it’s also unconstitutional: see Trop v. Dulles). That journalists and other political commentators have almost all reacted with horror is a good thing.

“But it’s worth pointing out that unless those who are opposed to Trump on this are careful, they’re going to make the same mistake they’ve been making all year (myself included): That is, they’re going to assume that the views held by themselves and their friends are representative of the country at large. They’re not,” Mr. Cooke adds.

Flag burning is a heart-tugging issue that even late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia lamented over.

Mr. Scalia loved to talk about the famous 1989 Texas v. Johnson flag-burning decision, which ruled flag burning was indeed allowed under the Constitution. Mr. Scalia was the fifth and deciding vote in the case, and a year later he voted against a federal law that banned flag burning in United States v. Eichman.

“If it were up to me, I would put in jail every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag,” Mr. Scalia said last year at a Union League event moderated by Princeton University’s Robert George. “But I am not king.”

Neither is Mr. Trump. And he’s never suggested he’s one — though the media has — it’s a narrative they love to frighten the American people with. Mr. Trump simply lays out his opinions on Twitter, and the press treats his rhetoric as rule.

Maybe they should just report on what is actually going on — who Mr. Trump is appointing, what he’s laid out as his priorities in his first 100 days — none of which include flag burning. When and if he does something that’s inappropriate, challenge him.

It’s time the press stopped freaking out over Mr. Trump’s every tweet and started reporting on his actions.

Or not.

Because in the end, it’s only them who looks bad.

Mr. Trump, master troll.

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