United States President Donald Trump just issued an unprecedented media blackout for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The media blackout bans all employees of the EPA from speaking to the media.
Calling the move “unprecedented” is a bit unfair: Vladimir Putin has silenced dissidents with media blackouts in the past, and media blackouts have become a favorite tool of dictators throughout history. The fact that this took place in a first-world, democratic country, however, is significant.
Let’s take a look at some of the key issues you need to know about Trump’s media blackout of the EPA and what it means for America.
Trump Signed the Orders on Tuesday
Trump issued the media blackout on Tuesday, January 24.
Trump claims that the media blackout is “temporary”, and that it will be lifted once the transition team gets into place.
The media blackout, generally speaking, forbids employees of a particular agency from communicating with the public or press in any way – like through social media, interviews, or press releases.
It’s More Than Just a Media Blackout
Trump isn’t just preventing the EPA from speaking to the media. His executive order also forbids EPA staff from awarding any new contracts or grants.
In other words, it ties the hands of the EPA and prevents critical government employees from doing their jobs – at least for the time being.
The move is seen as “part of a broader communications clampdown within the executive branch” reports USNews.com.
EPA Staff Are Rebelling Against the Actions
One of the crucial jobs of the EPA is to oversee the National Park Service, the organization that protects millions of acres of pristine wilderness across the United States.
Ever since Trump – who insists that climate change is a myth – was elected, staff at the NPS have been launching mini-rebellions against the new leader.
The NPS generated applause on Twitter on Trump’s inauguration day this past Friday when it retweeted images highlighting the difference in crowd sizes between Obama’s inauguration and Trump’s inauguration. You can view those images here.
Then, on Tuesday, a specific National Park “went rogue” when it started to tweet objective facts about climate change. South Dakota’s Badlands National Park Twitter account issued three tweets explaining the effects that climate change is having on our atmosphere.
One tweet discussed how the pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million. In December 2016, that had risen to 404.93 ppm – the highest levels in hundreds of thousands of years.
Another tweet described how the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher today than at any point in the last 650,000 years.
By 530pm, the tweets had been deleted. The National Park Service claimed that an ex-employee had posted the tweets, and that’s why the tweets were deleted.
In response to these tweets, part of Trump’s EPA media blackout expressly forbids EPA employees from using Twitter.
Trump’s Media Blackout Prevents Americans from Learning About Dangerous Road Conditions
Trump’s media blackout of the EPA has led to some unintended consequences. Many National Parks are located in snowy, hazardous areas of America, where visitors need to stay frequently updated on road conditions.
Unfortunately, due to Trump’s media blackout, national parks like Mount Rainier National Park are unable to issue road condition updates through Twitter, and announced they were moving updates to their Facebook page until further notice.
No Scientific Studies Will Be Released Without Being Reviewed by Trump Staff
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced further details about the EPA’s media blackout.
Specifically, Trump announced a mandate that all EPA scientific studies and data “undergo review by political staff before public release”.
The implication here is obvious: if government organizations find data that makes the Trump regime look unfavorable, then the studies will either be edited or blocked from publication.
Other Media Organizations Have Been Given Blackout Orders
Trump’s rocky relationship with environmental organizations is well-documented. That’s why his strict attitude towards the EPA isn’t exactly a surprise.
However, the new media blackout isn’t just for the EPA. Other federal organizations have received similar gag orders.
Staff at the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Research Service, for example, have received orders not to issue any news releases, photos, fact sheets, or social media posts, reports an Associated Press reporter.
The Transportation Department also received similar orders, as did the Interior Department.
As mentioned at the top, it’s not unprecedented for a country to censor objective objects – it’s just unprecedented to see it so prevalent and so openly discussed in a first world democracy. Stay tuned for more information about Trump’s media blackout of the EPA as we move forward.