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Resisting Despair: Speaking Truth in the Face of Trump

What is the role of the press in the face of impending overt fascism? Truthout staff speak out against “acting normal.”

(image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)

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The scene at Truthout last week was bleak. There’s no denying that our hearts were heavy in the wake of the Trump victory, not because we thought Hillary Clinton was the answer to this country’s problems, but because of the long list of terrifying new dangers posed by a Trump administration. However, the day after the election, we came together for an all-staff meeting. We listened to each other, comforted each other and began to lay plans for building a force for justice-powered journalism in the face of fascism. We drew strength from the knowledge that we have an imperative role to play in the resistance — and then we got to work. What follows is a compilation of our reflections on the challenge before us, and what we’re going to do to take it on.

The attacks keep coming. A few blocks from my apartment in Michigan, a white man threatened to light a Muslim woman on fire if she did not remove her hijab. In California, my friend comforted a mother whose high-school-age daughter and her friend got yelled at in the grocery store parking lot by a man screaming, “Get out of here, lesbian bitches, you know Trump is president and that isn’t going to be allowed anymore.” My heart sinks with each new report of anti-Muslim, anti-Black, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ attacks involving direct references to Trump and his campaign slogans. As we countenance a president who has embraced a curator of white supremacist propaganda as his chief White House strategist, and who plans to enact xenophobic attacks on a mass scale, I see Truthout’s role as twofold. First, we must resist the normalization of state-sanctioned violence and white supremacy. We can do so by publishing investigative reports and analyses that center the words of people directly affected by this violence. Second, we must resist despair by reporting on concrete acts of mass resistance that can be joined and copied by others. As a commissioning editor, I will be seeking out these stories in the days and months to come.

Alana Yu-lan Price, Content Relations Editor

With little to no checks on Trump’s administration after the Republican sweep of Congress, an impending conservative Supreme Court, 32 Republican-controlled state legislatures and a mainstream media that has been complicit in the president-elect’s rise to power, the fourth-estate function necessary to hold executive power accountable has been left to independent news organizations like Truthout. We are one of the few news organizations today that has the editorial integrity and freedom from the corrupting influence of advertising to provide the information activists will need to move forward and defend the already marginalized communities likely to be targets under Trump’s authoritarian administration. Corporate media’s all-consuming need for profits, ratings and “infotainment” drove Trump’s rise to the presidency, and nonprofit, advertising-free, independent media can be a force in safeguarding communities already experiencing brutal racist violence after November 8. I’m resolved to work as hard as ever to provide information as a tool for resistance and to be vigilant in my mission of providing watchdog reporting that challenges what is sure to be the most dangerous administration to ever come to power.

Candice Bernd, Editor and Staff Reporter

The truth is not usually the information that politicians and the wealthy want us to have. As a reporter with an eye on the underdog, I don’t see bringing this information to light as just a professional or civic duty. I see it as an act of dissent that’s crucial for finding antidotes to tyranny. With Donald Trump headed for the White House, dissent takes on new gravity and meaning. Our movements need information that exposes authoritarianism and exploitation, information that we can use and act on. My job is to dig up this information and work with our team to bring it to you on a platform that is completely independent from corporate advertisers and political parties. Thank you for supporting Truthout and taking action in whatever ways you can. And thank you for reading. It can make all the difference in these challenging times.

Mike Ludwig, Staff Reporter

The functional divide between the mainstream media and our publication has never been clearer. The corporate media profited from the rise of an autocrat, and in turn provided Trump with billions in free advertising. Now that Trump has seized power, the corporate media is already working to normalize him and his cohort, and will be all too happy to frame his antics as good television. As we enter this period of uncertainty, we can no longer afford to pretend that major news outlets have any capacity to serve the truth, or the interests of those marginalized by people like Trump. Our work will be more necessary than ever, and may be more perilous than ever. Looking forward, one of the only things I don’t doubt is that I am where I am supposed to be, working with people who are willing to fight to ensure the truth is heard amid the corporate noise.

Kelly Hayes, Community Engagement Associate

It’s the responsibility of principled media to ensure that whatever horrors come with a Donald Trump presidency don’t get legitimized or downplayed. Truthout will name what is unprecedented about those horrors, and where there are continuations or revivals of the most shameful elements of US history and established policy, we will also name them as such. We must resist not only the wave of bigotry and repression that Trump’s election (even his campaign and nomination as candidate) has already powered, but any analysis that shifts the blame onto the targets of this bigotry and repression. For my part, I’m committed to shouting about this work from the rooftops and to firing up the readers whose support for Truthout is what enables us to remain 100 percent independent.

Joe Macaré, Publisher

For independent journalists, I think this moment demands not only courageousness and hard work, but also a new embrace of creativity and imagination. Truthout will remain dedicated to publishing groundbreaking investigative journalism, and the incoming government is ripe for investigation at every level. But I also see Truthout as an incubator for the visionary ideas we need to move us toward a place of real liberation. We’re not aiming to simply slow down the country’s “inevitable” rightward shift, or to maintain the status quo. We recognize that powerful grassroots movements are already active, especially at the local and state levels. These movements are working both to resist and to build, creating the world we want to live in. As an editor, I’m committed to publishing work that elevates the vision of that truly free world. As an organization, we must do our part to ensure that dreams of liberation not only survive the onslaught of a Trump administration, but also that they flourish and grow.

Maya Schenwar, Editor-in-Chief

Never before in Truthout’s history has our role been as important as it has now become. With the impending full-spectrum assault from the Trump administration, our coverage of all the important issues will remain independent, incisive and clear. Since the ascension of a demagogue like Trump into the role of president was largely due to another abject failure of the mainstream media, the onus has fallen on our shoulders to carry the responsibility of reporting the truth. My role in that will be to continue covering the ravages of human-caused climate disruption, investigating how the military is poisoning the planet, and pursuing other key environment-related stories. With the rise of Trump, I will be working longer hours just to keep up with it all. Under the Bush administration, my unembedded coverage of the US occupation of Iraq pulled back the curtains hung by the mainstream press, showing readers what was really happening in that country. I aim to do the same on issues related to the environment and climate disruption throughout the Trump administration.

Dahr Jamail, Staff Reporter

What will we do? We will keep surviving, on our own terms, not the terms of this system. We will keep living and loving in the face of fear. We will become each other’s hope, because that’s what we’ve always done. And we will be scared, uncomfortable, unsure, angry, stressed the fuck out and so much more. And we will feel the impossibilities that white supremacy and all its ideological permutations have invented around us, and it will feel impenetrable, but miraculously, we will bump and ram and kick and scream up against it until we tear it down. We are lucky that our ancestors and forebears, living and passed, left us with so much inspiration. They did not have hundreds of years of resistance to look to. Fortunately, we do. Our humanness is transcendent, and will transcend any fictitious borders, the cowardice of hate and the confines of this system. We’re so fucking powerful. This moment was 500 years in the making. We’ll levitate, and we will know the most magical thing there ever was — real freedom.

Cherise Morris, Electronic Publishing Intern

Long before Election Day, I wondered what good I could possibly be doing sitting behind a computer each day. I was engaging in the political on a daily basis at work and within my friend groups, but was that enough? While I do need to challenge myself more each day to push the boundaries of my activism, I can’t discount the power that disseminating information has in this treacherous political climate. Truthout has always allowed me that outlet to be able to do some good in the world, because it’s with information that minds can be molded and changed (this we can see in the mainstream coverage of the election itself), and from which great action can spring. In the coming days of the Trump administration, it’s imperative that publications like Truthout exist to hold public figures accountable, inform the people and give marginalized voices a chance to speak.

Samantha Borek, Associate Editor

“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast,” wrote American naval commander John Paul Jones in 1778, “for I intend to go in harm’s way.” Those words, written in the harrowing cacophony of the Revolution, have special meaning for me as I contemplate the role of Truthout in encompassing the astonishment of a Trump administration. Here is a man who, by his own words and deeds, lives for vengeance, and has made clear his desire to lay waste to journalists and journalism in his quest for total adoration. We who sail these waters are now in active legal peril, make no mistake. I say: let them come. To quote another howl of defiance from days gone by, not one step back. Where there is truth, we will tell it. Where there is damage, we will expose it. I intend to go in harm’s way, should the need arise. We will not be stopped.

William Rivers Pitt, Senior Editor and Lead Columnist

Given the (mostly) unexpected election of Donald Trump, Truthout is now more important than ever. A Clinton administration would have been predictable, but no one seems to know what to expect from The Donald. The president-elect will keep us on our toes, but we won’t just be playing defense, we’ll be playing offense as well. Truthout will not only inform readers of the abhorrent things we expect to counter from a Trump administration, we will also lift up the voices of those who are actively resisting those things. And we will not frame these stories in the ways that mainstream media frame them. I play many roles at Truthout, and in each of them, I am committed now more than ever to providing a platform for the voices that are trying to be heard among the echo chamber of pundits, right-wingers and corporate media talking heads. It is especially important in these times of bigotry that marginalized voices and important issues do not get drowned out as the US begins to “normalize” a Trump presidency.

Britney Schultz, Editor

Truthout is one of the few news sources that has and will continue to uplift the voices of oppressed groups, throughout the Trump presidency and beyond. It is a site dedicated to elevating the words of those groups and peoples who are marginalized and are perhaps afraid, not only for the future of this country but for the well-being and safety of themselves and their families. This organization is comprised of a truly diverse group of individuals who are not afraid to stand up for what is right and to champion those causes that may seem hopeless — and it can be counted on to uphold its mission.

Joseph Peterson, Community Liaison

Truthout was founded in the aftermath of the 2000 election. Now, we are faced with a new challenge. As we have done in the past, we will continue to bring the truth to light in reporting on an administration that needs to be watched very carefully. These next four years will not be easy, but we will fight for the truth that this country deserves. My commitment, as administrative manager, is to helping Truthout’s many donors support our work with ease and clarity. After all, without them, there is no Truthout!

Annie Stoddard, Administrative Manager

A poet I once interviewed told me an anecdote about a man who continued to try and heal the ill even though the earth was going to shortly end. A bystander asked the Samaritan why he was trying to make people better when there were only five minutes left to live. The man responded, “I will continue what I am doing to help others because there are five minutes of hope.” That allegory was my first thought when it became clear that Donald Trump was going to become president. It is also a parable that reaffirms my commitment to seeing justice achieved and to bearing witness to malevolence, despite a devastating election. I personally could not prevent the political triumph of hate and bigotry on November 8, but I can continue to passionately advocate for those people who are marginalized — and for the common good. Even if there were only five minutes available to me, I would not do otherwise, nor would Truthout.

Mark Karlin, Managing Editor, BuzzFlash

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