Note: I’m posting about my political or social justice activities thoughts each week. It’s not an invitation to debate in the comments sections. If you yell at me online, I’ll just delete the comment. If you’d like to have a conversation about any of my ideas, I’m pretty easy to find. Let’s do it in person. I’ll buy the first cup of coffee. We’ll get along famously in person. In return, I promise not to yell at you online, too. Internet comments don’t solve anything.
Although it wasn’t the most active week for me, I was struck by a few thoughts that might shape how I view the impending Trump administration.
- Propaganda. A lot of people are calling it “fake news.” From now on, I’m going to have to call it like I see it: propaganda. So full of lies, so full of unrelenting awfulness of pretty much every stripe, that to call it “fake” or simply “clickbait” is naive. I’ve read some articles this week about what motivates these propaganda sites, and the common denominator seems to be an immense amount of advertising money. They are dangerous. There seems to be very little difference between what is found there and some more common examples of propaganda.
- HERE and HERE are two links to lists of propaganda sites you might want to peruse. I haven’t checked every one of the sources, so my keyword will be watchfulness. I must study where my news is coming from. I suppose there are some who will argue that we can’t trust any media source, but I’m not one of those people. The newspapers I subscribe to are The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Seacoast Online and The Nation. The news websites I’ve been visiting are: ProPublica, NPR, Mother Jones, Slate (HERE is an excellent article about what the roadmap forward may look like), and Salon. Newspaper sites I’ve been visiting include: The Des Moines Register, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The Kansas City Star. I’m sure all of these publications will draw ire from someone. That’s fine. What I would suggest is that it is imperative to read as much news from as many sources as possible. None of these sites are propaganda sites, no matter what their individual points-of-views or editorial flaws may be.
- I’m still astounded by the amount of craziness I see in the comment sections or pretty much any news article. It’s like the country has been holding back vast reserves of craziness and the levee has broken and it’s all flooding into the comment sections. And I know it was bad before. It just seems exponentially worse. Trump’s victory has emboldened those at the very edges in new and profound ways (THIS for example). It’s difficult to disengage from commenting. For instance, my school, The University of New Hampshire, came under fire this week from some alt-right hit squads for what a couple of our professors said in personal Facebook posts. You would have thought our faculty was burning copies of the constitution on T-Hall lawn. Our president issued a statement outlining our school’s commitment to dealing swiftly and severely with incidents of hate speech or hate assault. That’s a no-brainer, right? Isn’t that the way it should be? We had an African American student spit on and our response was to say, “these are things we will not tolerate.” But to read the comment section on our Facebook page? You’d have thought we were some vast liberal enclave that was systematically beating Trump supporters and expelling anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary (one commenter actually posted the latter). None of this, it should go without saying, is true. We are a relatively large and complex state university with students representing all points of the political spectrum. The worst thing about the comments is that it was glaringly obvious that most of the posters hadn’t even read the statement from the president. I can only assume they were working off of “hunches” about what a bunch of elitist college folk might say about hate speech. Worried about what colleges are doing to the kids? Come take a class. Come find out what is really happening.
- The one thing I haven’t done yet is make phone calls to my elected officials. I don’t know why this has been difficult for me. Mostly, I’m better on the page and I’ve never liked talking on the phone. But that’s a cop-out. I’ve read that letters and emails get filed and looked at according to some algorithm. So this week, I will try to do better to get on the phone. It’s a small action that I should get used to. It seems like I’ll have the opportunity to make many such phone calls over the next few years. The first phone calls need to be about the group of extreme (insane?) people filling out Trump’s cabinet. Throughout the election, I thought over and over that “he can’t get any crazier than he already is” and yet he did. Now, I keep thinking that “he can’t pick anyone worse than the last person he picked.” But he has. It’s an appalling group of people. It’s says something that the mention of Mitt Romney as a potential Secretary of State calms me somewhat.
- “Fidel Castro is dead!” That tweet from our President-Elect is a four word proof that the man isn’t qualified to lead our country. No matter what you think of Castro, of his politics, of the violence of his revolution, of his country, of communism—to write with such obvious glee about the death of a head of state is not normal. There are maybe a thousand ways to acknowledge in 140 characters that Castro had died that would have been more sensitive to Cuba, the Cuban people (including Cuban immigrants who are understandably anti-Castro), and the international community without pretending that he felt Castro was a great leader or person. Here’s one that I thought of in about twenty seconds: “Despite the differences between us, I extend sympathies from the US to Fidel Castro’s family and country at the time of his death.” Can Trump be any less articulate? Can he be any more coarse? I would say no, but I fear he’d prove me wrong. I know that there are voters who voted for Trump as a representative for change—but does change mean that we aren’t able to speak like grown-ups? Whatever you may think of him or his policies, President Obama has been one of the most eloquent and dignified leaders in my lifetime. The prospect of Trump comforting a community after a mass shooting (Potential tweet: “If they had guns, maybe they’d be alive! Second Amendment!”) or after a natural disaster (Tweet: “Sad. So much property damage. Weather is unpredictable.”) is so disheartening. This is just one of the many reasons a Trump presidency cannot be normalized. There is no normalizing a man with no shame.
- Books: I’m reading John Lewis’s Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the movement. HERE is a link to the book on Goodreads, if you’d like to see what it’s all about, or perhaps read along. I figure we are beginning a new phase of the same movement so it’s important to understand the larger picture.
- Thanks for reading. More next week.