Since I wrote 3 Scientists Explain Why Facts Don’t Matter, the discussion around facts, fiction, and alternative facts has exploded. With Trump casting the press, except Fox News, as the opposition party, his constant tweeting of “facts not in evidence” or as the less delicate among us call them – lies, and the Constitutionally questionable executive orders signed in this first week, fear of losing our democracy and freedoms is more palpable than ever.
What can we do?
Standing with 175,000 of my new best friends on the Boston Commons last Saturday, my thoughts bounced around from hopeless to hopeful and back again. Looking at a sea of people so motivated by clear and present danger of this new administration, I kept thinking “Democrats have no power in Congress, so no matter how much we don’t like it, we’re stuck.”
“All the speeches, signs, and pink hats in the world can’t change anything.” Is there any hope that a few, principled Republicans will have the courage to reject the insanity? No. A better question. Is there any hope that a few principled Republicans will have the courage to uphold the Constitution?
And then the hopeful thoughts started. While every one of the issues at stake is important, not all are equally important to us individually. Like anything else, change happens when motivated people take action and mobilize in more ways than marching. So, where to channel that action?
For me, there are two things, voter rights, and freedom of the press. Those are the big ones right now, and they both can be helped with grassroots efforts.
We have 21 months to identify those states where voting laws have been and are being adopted that aim to discourage voter turnout. We can come up with an easily mobilized action plan to render them irrelevant.
All states have public records of registered voters – Rs Ds and Is – and a record of who voted in what elections. Data is power my friends. When you know who isn’t voting, and who isn’t registered, it’s easy to come up with a strategy to change the turnout.
Election day in the US is the only day on which we are all truly equal. One Person, One Vote. My action proposal – One Person, One Voter (or more). What if we pledged to recruit at least one new voter or non-voter, make sure s/he is properly registered and has the right ID, stay in touch, and personally see that s/he gets to the polls, or gets an absentee ballot and help to fill it out if need be? We could double, triple, quadruple voter turnout.
Freedom of the press
There are so many things happening right now that I never imagined possible. But, an assault on our most basic freedom guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution, is the most unimaginable of them all.
Gag orders. Dissemination of lies from the White House Press Secretary. Wholesale firings of knowledgeable, career workers. The vilification of every news agency delivering critical coverage. How do we stop it?
Report, Not Repeat
This is tougher. News outlets have to adjust to the post-fact, delusional world of Trump-derland, and change how they report. What good is live coverage if you are giving voice and power to lies? What if you don’t publish and repeat every tweet and speech? What if you slow down, like Keith Olberman suggested, engage a time-delay long enough to fact-check content, and then air the content complete with cited correction?
Do not participate in the Trump propaganda gameKeith Olbermann
Or what if you just didn’t repeat anything that wasn’t based in fact. What if you called lies, hmm…lies? What if fair and balanced didn’t mean creating false equivalencies? What if all journalists, pundits, and commentators took a pledge to Report, Not Repeat?
Writing his opinion in the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne, Jr. said it clearly, “When confronted with untruths, all journalists have one and only one choice: to call them what they are. They cannot, without misleading the public, pretend that there are two sides to a purely factual question. Further, they need to avoid vague language about facts being “in dispute” when there is absolutely no question about what the facts are. Partisans might well emphasize some facts over others. But facts themselves aren’t partisan.”
Ratings, subscriptions, circulation, distribution, website views. Is this change really such a big risk? The fact-friendly public is hungry for it. The Trumplodites are not your audience. They are watching Fox, reading Breitbart, and listening to Rush.
So here’s what we simple folk can do to encourage our keyboard warriors – pay for the content we can trust. Buy the online and print subscriptions, support and encourage broadcast news, support the advertisers who support the publishers we can trust.
Vote every day with your wallet
This is an extension of supporting real publishers. You can support advertisers whose actions align with your beliefs, and you can boycott those who don’t and expose them. Just today a petition to ask Amazon to stop advertising on Breitbart came over my Facebook feed.
On January 20, 2017, more than half the country went through the Looking Glass. And we’re going to need all our wits to go back through – before there’s nothing left to go back to.
So now I ask you, what are you prepared to do? Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.