Category Archives: Trump administration

This generation’s test – Lessons from Seneca Falls

 

We all know that each generation has its own test, the contemporaneous and current standard by which alone it can adequately judge of its own moral achievements, and that it may not legitimately use a previous and less vigorous test. The advanced test must indeed include that which has already been attained; but if it includes no more, we shall fail to go forward, thinking complacently that we have “arrived” when in reality we have not yet started ~Jane Addams

On July 19 and 20, 1848, some three hundred brave souls, supporters of a common cause, gathered in Seneca Falls, New York.  They shared a common cause, to affirm and eventually guarantee, the rights of women, including a woman’s right to vote.   The enormity of their challenge is matched only by the results of the progress they envisioned, sought, and ultimately achieved.

As we grapple with the challenges that face this democracy today we may lose hope, not to mention stamina.  Thinking about the Seneca Falls Convention may shed welcome light on these dark days.

To preserve and strengthen our democracy will demand nothing less than a movement of informed, committed American truth-seekers who care – and dare — to speak out, join forces and share energies towards a common purpose.

As always, we can draw strength and wisdom from those who have fought the good fight in the past.  A glimpse of the humble beginnings of the Nineteenth Amendment offers a sense of how a movement is born and how it grows with time and effort.  We may draw strength from a look back at the movement born at Seneca Falls some 170 years ago.

Some manageable starting points:

Previous posts related to ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

 

 

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Bamboozled no more…..

If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.  We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.  The bamboozle has captured us.  It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.  Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.  ~ Carl Sagan

One way to come to grips with the challenge We the People face at this juncture is to frame the information crisis in an alternate context.  This repot by First Draft News is a useful tool to reorder the mental format for thinking.  One year into the Era of Our Discontent, we struggle mightily to recognize the complexity of information disorder, to recognize that the very premise is “disorder.”  We fail to recognize – or perhaps admit – that the complexity of information disorder online” starts from the premise of “disorder”.  Consider this:  https://firstdraftnews.org/coe_infodisorder/

The struggle to unravel the intent and complexities of our information state is a shared challenge:

We the People face today’s challenge with both heads and hearts.  Take just a minute to heed the words and appreciate the attitudes of these wise gentleman as they speak with both:  https://vimeo.com/253191   To read their position paper on Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression click here: https://jmp.princeton.edu/statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We the People face the challenge to aim high

Tolerance is another word for indifference. W. Somerset Maugham

The spirit of tolerance, though true and essential, is a vague concept. I have always grumbled – sometimes raged – at the word and concept of “tolerance.”  In most situations and on most issues I care too much to passively tolerate.

The challenge we face today demands more energy, more passion.  Today’s challenge is to embrace, to work shoulder to shoulder, to share the values, the burden and the benefits of the society and the culture envisioned by our founders.  It’s the principle we as Americans have always celebrated with pride.  We honor the fact that no individual, even the president, is the center of the universe.  The core value of the democracy we share rests on the stated principle that it’s not “me” but “us”.

The Constitution goes so far as to spell out just how we go about achieving the goal of creating and living in a democracy.  As a matter of fact, the Constitution is fairly explicit about the presumption –- and commitment — that We the People are responsible for making the democratic system function.

The good news buried in today’s political debacle is that the challenge to the democracy evokes the best from the nation’s residents and, in many cases, from the institutions that We the People have created over time.  As we practice the fine art of crafting an enduring democracy we are increasingly aware of the means at hand – the law, the press, open elections, a just judicial system, free speech, history, education, technology (managed with care.)

At the same time, we have come to understand the sophisticated and systemic ways in which any of these can be “weaponized.”  Experience is teaching us the subtle in which malevolent manipulation of the tools can undermine democracy processes and principles.   Over time we have grown to realize the extent to which accepted democratic institutions and structures can be shaped to create a society and a culture that we cannot and will not tolerate.  We know in our souls and feel in our hearts that we must join forces to resist with the fierce persistence and unflinching integrity democracy demands.

Once we get outside of our own shadow we begin to comprehend, if dimly, that the whole of our democratic society really is greater than the sum of the parts.  We can no longer be indifferent….

Our Founders always wondered about how long it would last. The price of liberty is everlasting vigilance. You’ve got to be on your guard every minute or you will lose it.  Michael Novak

 

 

Trendy tools to translate post-truth terms

Learning a new language is always a challenge.  When the language to be acquired is designed to confuse and conquer, the task requires readily accessible  reference resources that clarify definitions and suggest appropriate usage.  The challenge is confounded when the language is repurposed with wild abandon.

Fortunately, lexicographers and wordsmiths are at the ready to capitalize on the opportunity presented by a newly contrived language, particularly when the use of that language is designed to misinform the public and to weaponize the native tongue.

Following is a listing of user aids that have been hastily crafted to clarify terminology currently in popular use in the conduct of political, governmental, and financial discourse:

Alt-right glossary https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alt-right_glossary

‘Post-truth’ named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/15/post-truth-named-word-of-the-year-by-oxford-dictionaries

Your post-election glossary, from ‘alt-right’ to ‘fake news’ http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/16/us/post-election-glossary-trnd/index.html

Donald Trump Glossary https://qz.com/845040/donald-trump-glossary/

Glossary for the age of alternative facts: https://www.thefactinista.com/pages/glossary-for-the-age-of-alternatie-facts

The 2016 Presidential Election: A devil’s glossary https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/the-2016-presidential-election-a-devils-glossary/505901/

Post-truth, propaganda, and bullshit: a glossary https://senseandreference.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/post-truth-propaganda-and-bullshit-a-glossary/

Cyberbullying Glossary, Cyberbullying Research Center https://cyberbullying.org/glossary

What They Say vs. What They Mean: An Inside-the-Beltway Glossary.  http://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/09/28/what-the-say-cs-what-they-mean-inside-beltway-glossary

Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and   murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.~ George Orwell

Weaponization of information-Can truth survive?

Long ago and far away a library educator friend published an early info age book that promoted and explained the role of the library as an access point to information useful to the citizen activist.  Her intent was positive, to explain to activists the potential of reliable, authoritative, timely information that would affirm and validate a proposed action.  When her publisher suggested the title “Armed for action” she objected to the militaristic tone….

Now I realize that my friend was prematurely wise to eschew the “armed” image.  In this age information has morphed into the transportable  “weapon of choice”  to foment political action.  Though weaponizing information is usually attributed the Russians it is important to acknowledge that Putin’s tactics are not unique…

To be certain of the implicit evil of weaponized information, I checked with Merriam-Webster to affirm that use of the word “weapon” definitely connotes negative intent: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weapon

In truth, information is simply a resource, the user determines the use… My friend’s benevolent theme may seem naïve now – though just when information deserves no blame for the fact that it’s been weaponized.  Though history is replete with lies, the digital age opens the floodgates to their unfettered flow and proliferation.

And so we are drowning in a flood of commentaries on the weaponization of information; a smattering of opinion pieces are listed below.

Okay, information can be used as a weapon.  And yet the essential power lies in the receiver of information who is challenged to think and act according to the content and source of the information.  The “armor” we need today rests with the individual or institution that will take or resist  action based on the weaponized information.

As a society, we are called upon to grapple with the challenge to make “critical thinking skills” the norm—or in today’s parlance, how do we “normalize” critical thinking…  I prefer, and frequently quote,  my good friend Ruth Myers who would often ask, How do we inoculate learners with a healthy dose of “perceptive paranoia?”

The Founders, influenced by Jefferson,  envisioned a democracy founded on citizen access to and wise assessment of information.  Knowing this, we should focus not so much on the weaponry as on how we harness the power of good information (aka truth) to support this democracy.  In a word, how do we sustain a political system based on truth, and arm “we the people” with the power to recognize bald-faced lies when they are aimed at us with malicious intent.

RELATED READ: Social Media Helped Trump Win By ‘Dumbing Down the World,’ Twitter Founder Says  https://www.printfriendly.com/print?url_s=uGGCF_~_PdN_~_PcS_~_PcSJJJmpBzzBAqErnzFmBEt_~_PcSArJF_~_PcS

Tomorrow’s journalists – challenges, rights, and great promise

The First Amendment is not so construed as to award merit badges for intrepid but mistaken or careless reporting. Misinformation has not merit in itself; standing alone it is antithetical to the purposes of the First Amendment as the calculated lie… The sole basis for protecting publishers who spread false information is that otherwise the truth would too often be suppressed. Supreme Court Justice Byron White

As often happens thinking and learning about a topic leads me to deep thoughts on where we go from here, how we are the creators of our own future.  Thus, reflecting on a recent post about Constitution Day (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/we-the-people-celebrate-constitution-day-by-learning/) led me to reflect on our role as individuals on whom the Founding Fathers depended to meet their high expectations – specifically, 21st Century economic, technological and political  challenges that re-order the historic relationship between government, the press – and “we the people.”

As is their way, my thoughts turned to what comes next – Who and what forces will work to preserve the inalienable right to know?  What are characteristics, the status, the working environment of the nation’s journalists?   And thus I found myself wondering what are the influences on aspiring journalists, what is their training, and what will lure a fledging seeker of truth to risk a life as a professional journalist?

Clearly, these concerns were shared by those far wiser:

Moreover, the Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Committee has produced a resource guide specifically related to Constitution Day 2017. http://jeasprc.org/2017-constitution-day-lessons/.  In fact. the Scholastic Press Rights Committee is an information mecca of essentials.  The Committee has published a video intro and links to new materials, lessons learned and timely resources on the rights of student journalists.

Other timely resources include these:

  • An article by Matthew Smith on the “importance of independent active press” focuses on the Constitutional rights aspect of student journalism focuses on the local scene: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2016/05/06/your-right-to-know-state-should-protect-student-journalists/
  • The Journalism Education Association report entitled “Promoting Scholastic Press Rights Legislation: A blueprint for success” is exactly what the title suggests, a comprehensive blueprint for action. This is thorough and timely review of the rights of student journalists, steps to be taken in a student press rights action plans, related organizations that support student journalists’ rights, sample laws and recommended language. One essential feature of this resource is an excellent listing of related organizations, historical information about past legislation, and the names of experts who can offer opinions about legislative language.
  • The JEA also hosts a robust website, http://jeasprc.org that features a unique “Tools of Truth Landing Page” that covers current topics related to student journalists’ rights  http://jeasprc.org/tools-of-truth-landing-page/
  • The Student Press Law Center, established in the post-Watergate era, now headquartered in Virginia, focuses on the legal rights of high school and college journalists: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Student+Press+Law+Center&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
  • The National Scholastic Press Association (http://studentpress.org/nspa/), located near the campus of the University of Minnesota, “promotes the standards and ethics of good journalism as accepted and practiced by print, broadcast and electronic media in the United States,”

Constitution Day 2017 inspires us to take a long view of a free press.  To do so demands that we get a better sense of what’s happening in student journalism.  Some indicators are close at hand:

In high schools and colleges throughout the nation young journalists are tackling major issues of social justice, civil rights, press freedom and the right to know.  Their rights demand attention and deserve recognition.

“I became a journalist is to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”Henry Luce

IMPORTANT UPDATE: https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/aug/28/Student-Journalist-FOIA-Grant/

Speaking truth to power: Artists’ reflections on libraries’ voice

Libraries are places – they may be a shelf in a classroom or a grand memorial to a grateful grad, the hub of a medical center or an adjunct to the public square.    It is those who envision the possibilities and shape the role of a library that make a difference.

As keepers of the record librarians have long embraced the challenge to expand access to facts and ideas. In modern times libraries in this democracy, have been quick to resist suppression of information and ideas – as well as other offenses to democratic principles  that tend to rile – and inspire – librarians.

No wonder that, in this era of alternative facts and determined truth seekers, I’m thinking of the heritage of libraries.   Recognition of University of Minnesota Libraries Day earlier this month prompted me to learn more about the ways in which today’s libraries and librarians are coping. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=4004&action=edit)

My thoughts prompted me to remember a cluster of library-related blog posts that my friend Jack Becker of Forecast Public Art had sent me some weeks ago.  These are all stories that celebrate the library as a place with a voice – a voice that must speak truth to power. This  armchair tour features amazing  libraries that dare to capitalize on the power they have to inform and lead.

Though these magnificent examples of resistance may be a bit beyond the local library’s resources, it is nonetheless a fact that libraries across the country are speaking in a “socially acceptable” voice to support the right to know and the right to speak. For examples, just Google “libraries resistance 2017.”

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that  of an ignorant nation.  Walter Cronkite