My intention on this site is to help you find ways to be an activist with your words and speech. With the way Republicans are behaving right now, this has gotten pretty simple: Telling the truth is activism.
We’ve gone beyond complaints about the “reality-based community” and watching Stephen Colbert being playfully annoyed that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.” We are now firmly in the realm of post-truth politics, where repeating exposed lies is a campaign strategy. And it’s not just about one issue: the series of posts on Rachel Maddow’s blog entitled “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity” is now up to number 34, with many, many individual lies per post.
Of course, the problem is worsened by an entire media environment whose lies are only getting more brazen: they’ve gone from skewing graphs to lying that two numbers are comparable in order to make it look like unemployment has doubled. The good news is that they were caught on that last one and had to issue an on-air retraction.
Even some journalists are starting to get the message that this is happening, and that it’s not an accident, it’s a Republican strategy. They don’t like it much because it means that they cannot maintain the appearance of fairness while actually being fair. When one side lies habitually, being fair – even trying to be remotely objective – means saying so.
Most of us aren’t journalists; we’re not in a position reasonably expected to have a special responsibility for telling the truth. But right now, this is one of the strongest ways we can be activists. When entirely too many of the people we used to rely on are struggling with how to do the job of telling the truth in this environment, we can and should step up. I don’t mean that you have to become a policy wonk and run around spouting facts and figures at the drop of a hat. Find what you can do. Is it a simple thing, like noticing that 8.6 is less than 9.0? Tell someone: “That graph is drawn wrong.” Is it an observation from your personal life? Tell someone: “that policy hasn’t hurt me the way you say it has.” Is it educating others about a particular issue? Tell someone: “There’s a big difference between birth control and abortion.”
Finding that way isn’t necessarily easy. Unlike journalists trying to “look fair,” most of us worry about the social disapproval of direct disagreement. Calling someone a liar is not a “nice” thing to do. And it’s true that many of the people you interact with may not be malicious liars. They may be mistaken, especially if they’re caught in the reality-free echo chamber of right-wing media, and they may be unwilling to change even when confronted with the evidence. But getting the evidence out there is necessary. Find your own way to do it, but consider pushing your comfort zone just a little bit. Don’t let politeness always override truth-telling.
If we don’t know what the truth is, we don’t have a hope of changing it by any means – not magic, not voting, nothing will move us along the path we choose if we don’t know where we’re starting from.
I’m advocating a simple strategy for activism: tell the truth.