The Atlantic

The Press Doesn’t Cause Wars—Presidents Do

Trump’s claim that journalists can incite conflict isn’t borne out by the historical evidence.
Source: Library of Congress

President Donald Trump escalated his battle against the news media this weekend. “The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE,” he wrote. “I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!”

Some of these claims are no less alarming for Trump’s frequent repetitions. But the last of these claims is not only novel, but simply wrong. Political leaders cause wars, not the news media.

Although the press has routinely been blamed for some of the United States’s most controversial conflicts, the historical evidence demonstrates that the power to make wartime decisions rests in the Oval Office and on Capitol Hill—not in the newsroom. Yes, the news media has the power to influence public opinion and to focus attention on particular threats, but

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