Since the beginning of the Resistance a mere two months ago, I have watched the resistance grow into a movement of solidarity, inclusion, and passion, but what I have also noticed is that we in the Resistance are too quick to react to purposefully-polarizing rhetoric. And as we fall into the trap of resentment and justified anger, we become distracted in our own need to be right, and we end up not paying attention to what’s going on in our own backyards. Here is the thing that the Administration, the Alt-right, and even the Republicans don’t want you to know: you are right and you do not need to justify it. Please don’t ever forget this.
Yes, we have started to organize locally, by attending school board and town hall meetings. We are beginning to hold our representatives accountable, by calling every single day. We have protested at airports, and carried our message into the streets. But here is the thing — while this all undoubtedly necessary we are still playing their game and by their own rules. We are remaining in our own discreet, socially-conscious bubbles too afraid to venture out into the spaces and communities that are unfamiliar to us. Now, wait a second, and let me explain what I mean.
I have been thinking a lot about the recent poll from Emerson College that finds that 90 % of Republicans believe that the Trump administration is “truthful” — while less than 10 % say the same about the news media. And more concerning, the same poll found that 49 % of Independents call the Trump administration truthful, while 48 % say the opposite.
Given this, it is not improbable to suggest that the strategy to discredit the free press is working at least for half the population. Ironically, the Administration and Republican allies are pushing this strategy through the mainstream media, which allows the viewers to scrutinize, judge and discuss their words — which they in turn label as “bullying.” The brilliance of this tactic is that it is done in plain sight; it’s blatant, in your face and somehow not questioned — so much so that the House Science Committee Chairman, Lamar Smith, was able to say on the Congressional floor that it’s, “better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” We can get worked up by how absurd this is (and we should) but the thing is, half the population believes this sentiment to be true. Half the population.
The Emerson poll just reaffirms what we already know: the Alt-right excels at propaganda. It’s like we in the Resistance are the Bills and we are being matched up to play the Patriots. Or we are the Tampa Bay Rays playing the Chicago Clubs, or the Philadelphia 76’s playing the San Antonio Spurs. You get the idea. We are out maneuvered, outplayed, and outsmarted every single day, because we continue to play by the rules. We still go back to our same strategy and think somehow, someway, the results will be different. Well, surprise, it isn’t working. We can’t just keep playing defense and expect to win.
Case in point, a poll from Morning Consult found that 1/3rd of Americans are not aware that ObamaCare the Affordable Care Act are the same thing. Even some who are currently receiving benefits from the ACA. Just think about that for a moment, without mocking as we are so inclined to do. The only difference between these people and you and I is that we have had the privilege of knowing better. And yes this is a privilege, we were given the education and resources to decipher fact from fiction and not everyone is as lucky.
The other thing we fail to realize is that propaganda makes profit — and business is booming. Every time Kellyann gets on air and pushes “Alternate Facts,” ratings go through the roof. And then we expect media outlets to stop engaging her in her lies and fictional. Again, not going to happen. Every viral video of a Trump surrogate disseminating lies increases their visibility and credibility. And the worse part is that we are inadvertently giving them value and sway in our society simply by giving them the time of day. And most pressingly, propaganda has become a form of comedy for many rather than a threat to our civil liberties. We have to we stop feeding into this culture of misinformation by treating it this way. I promise you, by ridiculing the ridiculous we are only benefiting the other side and we are playing right into their strategy to discredit us.
I know, I know. Laughing at the horrible insanity of our reality makes it a little more bearable, and sometimes you just have a moment where you just have to laugh to keep from crying (or maybe that is just me). And listen, I too found Melissa McCarthy’s Saturday Night Live impression of Sean Spicer hysterical, loved browsing through Twitter when #CatsJudgingKellyanne was trending, and I watch the Daily Show, this Last Week Tonight, and Seth Myers. But here is the difference — comedy is not news. CNN is not supposed to be Comedy Central and we should not be treating it as such. We have to begin to separate the two because they are beginning to be interchangeable.
What is also clear from the Emerson poll is that we in the Resistance have not made any gains with our Republican or independent counterparts. We are not breaking away from our comfort zones and challenging the those who need to be challenged. We are remaining in our safe social networks and avoiding the actual interpersonal conflicts and discussions that could spark change. And instead of bringing people into the fold, we are pushing them further away and justifying their anger by mocking them into hatred.
Now, I think I need to take a step back for a minute and explain the nature of propaganda and what it aims to do so you know exactly what we are up against. To understand our present day propaganda, we first must look at who are being indoctrinated and how this is being done. This may not come as a surprise but it is those who are vulnerable, isolated, and lack self-esteem (rural white people otherwise known as “Middle Americans”) as masters of propaganda, the Alt-right exploits rural white people’s vulnerabilities, which I believe can be boiled down to fear of being inadequate (not being able to provide for and protect your family). Then the Alt-right further isolates this population from outside influences by promoting the idea that those who are “different” from them not only don’t see their struggles valid but actively want to harm them. They attack their self-esteem by promoting the idea that there fears are being actualized (you cannot provide for your family because immigrants are taking your jobs; you cannot protect your family because liberals want to take anyway your guns). They encourage rural whites to be “part of the group” (GOP, NRA, Tea Party, etc.) by making the group more attractive than the outside world and then rewarding them for being “turned,” “awakened,” “coming to the light, etc.” Then to maintain control, positive experiences such as the Trump’s electoral college win and inaccurate election polling are now used to reward the victims for thinking as the Alt-right desires, while negative experiences such as the threat of terrorist attacks or the very small percentage of undocumented persons who committed crimes are being used to punish the last vestiges of coherence or reality-based thinking.
If this is sounding somewhat familiar, that’s because it is. Cults and fanaticism use the same brainwashing techniques, the only difference is that this manipulation is being funneled through the media though Fox and MSNBC alike. Like a cult, the base has the same mixture of fanaticism and dependency on their leaders. And victims tend to be obsessed with the group and leader to the point where it becomes a defining factor of their personality. This is because they have nothing else to turn to. At the same time, they are unable to solve problems on their own without the influence of the Alt-right. And now that the Alt-right controls the highest office in our country, they truly believe that the sitting administration has all of the answers to the problems they believe our county faces.
Now, I believe that when/if we are able to see that those who wore “Trump That Bitch” T-shirts or chanted, “Lock her up” are also being swindled, we maybe just maybe able have compassion for them. Like us, they have also been out maneuvered, outplayed, and outsmarted, they just don’t know it yet. And unfortunately, we are handed the task of informing them. I know many of us have supporters of this administration in our lives, and when we try to have discussions with them we are met with a tremendous amount of anger, denial, and sometimes even hatred. It isn’t easy to admit that you have been manipulated, and granted some never will be able to get to that place.
But part of standing up for what is right and just, is making our loved ones aware that they have been deceived. This confrontation, through understandably uncomfortable can plant a seed of doubt and begin the long processing of questioning. And it is also my belief that we can only get to this place with people that we care for, and by creating a safe non-judgmental space for them, one where they feel as if they are being heard not challenged. And to remind them that most importantly, your love for them is stronger than any Breitbart news article, Rush Limbaugh radio broadcast, or a episode of Sean Hannity. And most importantly, they are not going to suddenly realize that their entire reality is built on a series of lies and falsehoods. But if given time, space, compassion and most importantly access to accurate information they may become aware of how they have been manipulated, especially when the economic consequences of November 8th are felt.
Now, with this in the back of our minds, I cannot empathize enough how important exposure to not only unbiased forms of media but also access to different ideas and perceptions. Exposure can happen, when we start to invade their spaces both online and in person. We start attend the next county-wide GOP meeting, we call into talk radio, and we comment on their pages, forums, and twitter accounts (all the while making sure our privacy settings are secure). But we do this in a manner in which they don’t expect, we do it with courage, empathy and has much integrity as we can summon. because if we are trying to expose the base to ideas that contradict their own, mocking simply will not work. And Exposure is also not going to happen if the free press continues to treat Kellyann as a laughing stock, Trump as idiotic, or Sean Spicer as a fool. Because that is innately biased.
I also realize that the base has been taught repeatedly that media outlets that do not swing to the right are innately corrupt, which is another brilliant tactic by own very own Steve Bannon. So how do you tell someone to trust a source that they have been repeatedly told over and over again is dishonest? The answer is to hold those media outlets accountable ourselves, to set a example and have rectitude take precedence when reporting. We need to start pushing journalists to report the truth which is often times put to the side for sensational. They must start calling out falsehoods, for what they are; lies. And they must start asking real questions that matter to the America people. We need our journalists not just our elected officials to represent our interests and to advocate for us. We must bring back the integrity of journalism, hold them to our standards, push them to push, and we especially cannot keep allowing them to cover the Trump Administration on a curve.
What would happen, if one day we in the resistance decided to finally start to playing offense. If we took a page from the Indivisible Guide and in addition to demanding accountability from our representatives we also started expecting this from our press. Like our representatives, the press was created for the people by the people and ultimately they work for us; the viewer. What if we starting calling, emailing, and showing up in person to our local newspaper’s office, CNN headquarters, or even Good Morning America Live to remind them of their responsibility to us. It’s time for our media to start examining the truth and exposing an Administration that has made it very clear that honesty and integrity are not in their playbook. How much sway and power could we muster? What can we as a collective accomplish? But at a certain point, we have to stop wondering and start realizing that we have nothing really to lose.
Co-Founder, Damsels in Defiance