I added a couple of new people to my Facebook friends this week, and one of them posted to a story by Sarah Kendizar on The Correspondent, a Dutch journalism site.
The article is titled, “We’re Heading into the Dark Times. This Is How To Be Your Own Light in the Age of Trump.”
This article is terrifying. It scared my so much that my first reaction to reading it was to dismiss it as alarmist propaganda and make a mental note to research the author and the platform.
But I read the whole article and began to think about it. And then I did the research, and I discovered that the author has some really kick-ass qualifications to be believed when she talks about fascism, and that the website she is posting on is an exciting experiment in journalism, and should definitely be on my radar.
As a former journalist, I find The Correspondent’s premise fascinating. When you’re in journalism, everyone you meet asks you about the decline of the print medium and how are you ever going to make any money online? No one will pay for journalism. This election cycle should be enough to convince us all that good journalism is worth paying for. But, because I worked for an independent community weekly, my answer was quick: The New York Times isn’t going to cover your town’s selectman’s race, and that is the race on the ballot that will have the most impact on your day-to-day life. Also, as a weekly, we weren’t beholden to the 24-hour news cycle. If a story broke at press time, we were much more likely to spend the next week investigating and reporting on the history and the implications of the event than to stop the presses to get a three-sentence summary of a police report in the current issue. There will always be a place for community journalism.
The Correspondent is trying to meld community journalism with online, always-on, 21st-century demand. The start-up was funded through crowd sourcing, and income is generated through subscriptions and donations. The company stresses that it is for-profit, which makes me question how they can take donations (maybe the rules are different in The Netherlands? Maybe the donors don’t need tax write-offs?), which allows it to be free of pressure from advertisers. The site is committed to providing daily news comprised of deep, thoughtful reporting reminiscent of what we were after in our community paper. Rather than being the first to break a story, The Correspondent is concerned with examining the issues and factors that contribute to the story.
As for Kendizar, just read a few sentences into her About page and you’ll see she’s someone to be taken seriously.
On to the terrifying bit:
Kendizar advises Americans to take a moment to reflect and write down who they are and what they believe in and value so that when the coming kleptocracy–I had to look that up; it means, “government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed”–asks you to compromise your core beliefs, you can remind yourself of them.
Think about that for a minute. Her concern is that the government of America will convince you to give up your morality, to participate in acts that you currently find abhorrent. You will need a reminder if you are to figure out what is the right thing to do.
That is absolutely terrifying to me.
A big part of my identity is that I have a strong moral compass and that I always try to do the right thing. I want to help people, not hurt people. The idea that I will someday have to be reminded of how not to hurt people is unfathomable to me, and what made me initially skeptical of this article.
As I sat with these ideas through the day, I came to see the value in Kendizar’s advice. I’m sure the majority of the German people would never have answered yes to the question, “Should all Jewish people be put to death?” before Hitler took power. But over time, his policies became normal, and they were able to rationalize away a lot of it, without ever having to actually say they believed genocide was a good idea.
And that, right there, is why this idea of “give him a chance” is so dangerous. Maybe we’re all wrong. Maybe Trump won’t deport millions of people. Maybe he won’t require Muslims to register. Maybe he won’t, ultimately, appoint known white supremacists to positions of power. But does anyone think it is the wrong thing to publicly declare my opposition to these propositions?
All I know is, in order to keep aligned with my vision of myself as a moral person committed to not hurting people, I need to keep speaking out.
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