Every week, playboy, with journalist Lilly Dancyger and Creatives for Progressive Action—a national community of artists, filmmakers, writers and activists using their influence and voices to pursue meaningful and measurable progressive action—will deliver a timely overview of global and domestic political events, controversial policy changes, elections, campaigns and government happenings that deserve our attention and citizen action. From bite-size activism to in-person engagement, our goal is activate the marginalized, make our voices heard and ultimately win the fight for social justice for all. From protecting free speech and freedom of identity to safeguarding freedom of (and from) religion and a free press, both here at home and around the world, we will promote the ideas and values that support equal representation for all under the law. Now get out there and make a difference.
THIS WEEK: Check Your Facts
Liberals like to frame our current political divide as the rational against the gullible, the informed against the ignorant. The left believe in science, journalism and truth, while President Donald Trump supporters prefer conspiracy theories, spin and propaganda. It’s a nice pedestal to rest on, but this much is true: liberals will topple right off if we don’t get our facts straight before we sound the alarm. The latest proof of this is last week’s liberal cry of government censorship.
Last week, Stephen Colbert referred to President Donald Trump’s mouth as “Vladimir Putin’s cock holster” on The Late Show. The crude (and, some say, homophobic) joke triggered an FCC investigation that could lead to fines. As soon as news of the investigation broke, liberal Twitter exploded with cries of censorship, our slide into authoritarianism and general hand-wringing and garment-rending.
But here’s the thing: the FCC hasn’t done anything that it wouldn’t have done before Trump was elected. They’re not doing Trump’s bidding or silencing his enemies or sending a warning to other comedians that mocking the president is off-limits. They’re investigating complaints from viewers, which is what they’ve always done.
If we cry wolf, we’ll lose future credibility to sound the alarm.
“We review all consumer complaints as a matter of standard practice and rely on the law to determine whether action is warranted. The fact that a complaint is reviewed doesn’t speak one way or another as to whether it has any merit,” an FCC spokesperson told CNNMoney.
Maybe the very existence of the FCC is a problem—but that’s a conversation for another day. It’s taken a couple of days for cooler heads to prevail and convince everyone that Colbert was not about to be made into the sacrificial lamb of the new world order. Those who panicked let out a collective “oops”; right-wing blogs got a chuckle. At any other time, that would have been the end of it.
But these days, being misinformed (and dare we say stupid) on the internet has bigger consequences than it used to. So much of the left’s day-to-day Trump resistance is rooted in convincing people that he, his cronies and his policy decisions are real threats. Avoiding complacency is the primary challenge of any resistance, especially when the stream of bad things can turn people numb. So an entire march was organized to insist that climate change is real. There’s a constant, albeit sometimes strained, effort to prevent the public from losing interest in the investigation into the Trump’s possible ties to Russia. Trump’s Muslim ban prompted Holocaust experts and survivors of Japanese internment camps to issue ominous warnings. Right now, half the battle seems to be proving that “this is a big deal.”
But if we cry wolf, or, in this case, cry government censorship where there is none, we’ll lose future credibility to sound the alarm.
The 2016 presidential election and its fallout was the first time in history that the work of fact checkers was publicly recognized and praised. News organizations did real-time fact checks of the presidential debates and relished sharing data that proved Trump is a pathological liar. Those news organizations are still keeping running tallies of every falsehood Trump spews. The investigation into his possible ties to Russia is ongoing, as his opponents hold their breath hoping that the truth will set us free.
Let’s not allow those rock stars to fade back into the wings of underappreciation once again; let’s keep our fact checkers close, and let’s become fact checkers ourselves. If you want your words to have any impact when the world is burning, do a Google search before you tweet. Run a search on Snopes.com. Make sure you know what you’re talking about, and don’t lose your grip on the most important weapon we have: the truth.
Have an issue you’re particularly passionate about? Maybe it’s anti-racism, or LGBT rights, or the environment, or women’s issues? Email Kristen Murtha, firstname.lastname@example.org, to get involved in this organization and to have it featured in this series.