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Critics against the Presidential Alert System should focus on the benefits

President Donald Trump’s access to the system is not indicative of an authoritarian issue.

The Presidential Alert System has been in place for over 20 years, so Trump's recent usage of it should not be criticized.

The Presidential Alert System has been in place for over 20 years, so Trump's recent usage of it should not be criticized.

Illustration by Grant Hermanns

Illustration by Grant Hermanns

The Presidential Alert System has been in place for over 20 years, so Trump's recent usage of it should not be criticized.


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“The only reason to vote for a democrat is if you’re tired of winning!”

Critics of the new Presidential Alert System fear that President Donald Trump will overuse the system, abuse this executive power and constantly send out unnecessary messages, much like he does on Twitter.

With this system, the president now has the power to send a text message at any time to all Americans simultaneously.  

Despite some recent backlash, the system makes sense in today’s society where mass communication is driven by social media and the internet. Seeing that there are specific protocols advising the president to only use the system in the case of an extreme national emergency, the system should be successful and effective.

The new system is part of the Emergency Alert System, which was established in 1997 to give the president the ability to address the nation in a national emergency. As Americans became more reliant on smartphones, Wireless Emergency Alerts were created by the Bush Administration in 2008. Once it became operational in 2012, the WEA allowed messages such as Amber alerts and weather alerts to be sent directly to your phone.  However, these alerts were localized and often not paid attention to.

The recent presidential alert, which was likely sent to your phone as a test on Sept. 20 at 2:18 p.m., was the first message sent directly from the president to nearly every single smartphone in the United States. The alert system is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has established protocols for the president to only use the system in the case of an event such as a missile launch warning, a terrorist attack or a weather emergency.  Additionally, the 2006 Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act prohibits any cellphone user to opt out of these alerts.

Especially over the past six weeks, the inability to opt out of the alerts has caused severe concern from millions of Americans. As a result of the current polarized political sphere, the people arguing against the system are anti-Trump advocates.  

Critics of the system fear that President Trump will send out useless messages that they do not agree with nor want to see on their cellphones.  In fact, the United Press International says that three New Yorkers have filed lawsuits against Trump, declaring that the system is a violation of free speech. The suits also stated that the system will further assist Trump’s rise to power which has been facilitated by his spreading of disinformation into the public sphere.  

Therefore, protestors are not necessarily criticizing the concept of the system itself, but rather the fact that it gives President Trump more potential executive power.

Despite these opinions, the system does not actually increase the power of the president nor does it allow for a more authoritarian rule from the Trump Administration. In regards to the ability to communicate directly with the American people, this is not a significant change. Every president has been able to do so since Franklin Delano Roosevelt used Fireside Chats, in which he gave a series of radio-broadcasts to the nation discussing relevant American topics starting in 1933.

The ways in which Americans receive information has transitioned from radio and television broadcasting, to the internet on a cellular device. The only difference with the Presidential Alert System is that it has adapted to these modern realities and has allowed for the president to provide emergency information to the people as efficiently as possible.

If the president follows the FEMA protocols in place, then there is no reason why the system will not benefit the American people and increase the safety of the nation overall.  

Even if President Trump were to begin to abuse this potential power, I’m sure there would be such backlash from the agencies running the system, the government and the American people that the system would be immediately restricted. Although it may seem dangerous to put this power at the fingertips of Trump, the system will likely be successful and used for only the correct purposes by presidents in the future.  

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