Archive for January, 2017


fight-truth-decay-man-with-signBetween the alt-fact efforts of new White House communications director Sean Spicer, and the shutdown of public communication from many federal agencies — EPA in particular; science-oriented offices in general — an obvious pattern is developing. The new WH is shutting off dialog, and keeping public eyes off of government agency work.  In some ways this doesn’t surprise me; Republican administrations seem to be less open than Democratic ones. Though the Obama administration was not as transparent as many hoped, it certainly did open the cyber doors to lots of input, as well as real life efforts to communicate with the public.  I expected it to swing back to a more closed system with the incoming administration, but it’s been much more severe than I anticipated.

The key to how this goes from here will hinge on how the press and the social-media-using public decides to get information out.

Social media is strong, and a major part of how the average citizen shares information about what is happening in the public sphere, but it’s still sort of figuring itself out. Thankfully I’m seeing my friends catch fake news more often, challenge poorly researched assertions in articles, and using the strengths of the medium to share what we are all observing.  But it’s not perfect, and we’ll need to up our vigilance in weeding out the bad info from the good if it’s to be effective in a time when gaslighting seems to be the norm coming out of the Trump administration.

And the press has to be vigilant as well, and in this area, huge swaths of the American press have been pretty damn lazy over the last few years.  Fortunately for those of us reading their work, Trump and his minions have both pissed the press off and committed themselves to such such stupid, obvious falsehoods, that many journalists are ready to start digging in, and the ones who already were taking all of this seriously are getting support for doing so.

Trump is engaged in a misinformation campaign. This is partly a strategy to allow the GOP to make sweeping partisan changes, and partly in service to Trump’s massive ego (juxtaposed next to a constantly crumbling sense of self worth). And it wears us out, public and press alike.  Whether its intent is to numb us through a ever-renewing cascade of laughably stupid and/or outrageously offensive statements, or that’s just the convenient natural consequence of all of the tweets and press statements and odd moments at the podium, the effect is the same: silencing us by making us weary of absorbing the blistering stupidity of it all.

But we can’t allow that.  As consumers of journalism, or as the creators of it, we can’t let ourselves be worn down.  And we can’t forget that while the press and us, its audience, is the target of this effort, the war is on objective truth.

It will be tempting for a lot of journalists to buy into the idea that they are the ones who are under assault. But they will do their jobs if/when they recognize that it is the truth that is under attack and the goal is to create the kind of chaos where anything is possible.

LeTourneau asks her fellow journalists to help us all avoid a world where, given that the truth is impossible to ascertain, there no longer remains any avenue, or point to trying to find it.

So, the press has to find footing in a very unsteady stream.  I suspect this will only work if the press divorces itself from, for instance, relying on WH press office statements to determine fact, which have become talking points without basis in subtance. The press will need to look elsewhere. This will be hard, this will be expensive, and it relies on public support, in paying the bills the media incurs just to get the job done, and in demanding careful journalism.

The key is to keep our vigilance going. We cannot allow ourselves to be silenced, nor can we afford to let the press be silenced.

 

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This painful moment, and powerful concession speech…

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and this awful, awful sham of a man taking an oath of office…

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sparking this amazing outpouring of resistance and empowerment…

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even in my town, Eugene …

and in tiny towns like Newport, Oregon (I intended to go to this one, but had to take care of my respiratory health instead, dammit)

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…. maybe I’m ready to start writing again.

I have been writing, in a way.  I comment on facebook and at Wonkette; I spit out thoughts in a sentence or two, an exchange of written sentiments pinging back and forth among people online.  But I haven’t been “writing,” and I should have been.  After the election, I was sucked dry and overwhelmed by rage and grief. Just getting through the day without stewing over the great losses to social justice, to health, to the security of our future, coming down the raging rapids that Trump’s election unleashed… it’s been too much, over and over again.

Taking refuge in the hubbub around the holidays has been a relief; the PNW ice storms likewise, strangely enough. Something concrete to focus on; something to deal with right now, with tangible and visible effect. Play in the snow with the granddaughter. Clean up the branches in the yard. Seal the crack under the door. Make hot soup.

And all the while, reading reading reading, trying to wrap my brain around the social changes that this administration advocates.

What sparked this post was someone else taking the time to write something she felt important enough to focus on in more than a sentence or two tossed out on social media.  She said, among other things: “A bit of perspective: as things change about how our system works in the upcoming days, months and years: write it down. Keep a journal of this period. This will help us keep perspective and prevent the normalization of possible upcoming events”

That is what my journals and blogs have generally been about: what am I noticing, how am I reacting, what thoughts are being sparked by what I’m seeing/ hearing/ reading.

And sadly it occurs to me that I better make hard copy of pretty much everything that I put down.  But more importantly, I need to make my own record of what is happening.

Yesterday many things happened.  But I’ll note one:  The Gag Rule is back in place, and stronger than ever, affecting not only family-planning facilities across the world, but HIV- and ZIKA-prevention programs as well.  And as has been memed constantly since it was made public:

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