By the Numbers

Knock Every Door; why civil resistance works; and more.


  • “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” —John Adams

  • Saturday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer gave a special briefing to the press corps to berate the media for questioning the size of President Trump’s inauguration crowd, saying, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.” Asked on Sunday by Chuck Todd of Meet the Press why Spicer would use falsehoods to dispute the crowd size issue, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor, said, “You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

  • The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last criticizes Spicer for beginning “his relationship with the press by insisting on a blatant, demonstrably false, lie.” He adds, ” if media reports about crowd size are so important to Trump that he’d push Spicer out there to lie for him, then it means that all the tinpot-dictator, authoritarian, characterological tics that people worried about during the campaign are still very much active. You know who obsessed about crowd size? Fidel Castro. You know who did not? George Washington, John Adams, Andrew Jackson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and every other man to ever serve as president of these United States of America.”

  • Here’s what crowd scientists had to tell The New York Times about whose crowds were larger.

  • Media philosopher Jay Rosen says that the press should stop playing the part of predictable punching bag for Trump, and go find the real stories hidden by White House press briefings.

  • The Department of Interior temporarily shut off all its Twitter accounts after two retweets from the National Park Service that pointed to stories about the White House removing policy pages on climate change and a comparison of Trump’s inauguration crowd side-by-side with Obama’s 2009 crowd. The NPS now says it “regrets the mistaken RTS.”

  • Writing for The Huffington Post, Shawn Hamilton suggests that the words “lies” and “falsehoods” are inadequate to the task of describing the kind of wholesale reality distortions being promoted by the Trump administration, and that we take a page from hip-hop and start calling them “fuckery.”

  • Opposition watch: Erica Chenoweth, of the University of Denver, and Jeremy Pressman of University of Connecticut are crowdsourcing an annotated tally of reports on the hundreds of Women’s March rallies that happened across America on Saturday. They currently estimate that between 3.7 million and 4.6 million people attended one.

  • Chenoweth is the author of “Why Civil Resistance Works,” where she surveyed the history of violent and nonviolent movements for change from 1900-2006. She found that whenever a nonviolent movement achieves the active and engaged participation of 3.5 percent of its country’s population, it wins. That would be 11 million people here in the United States.

  • Now what? Here at Civicist’s First Post, we’re going to work hard to provide you with useful coverage of how people are organizing to defend the public good. This is a challenge, since so much mainstream political journalism treats the topic of organizing like the review of a cooking show: throw in the right ingredients, stir the pot, and the best chef wins! Too often, coverage is more a product of who has the best PR backing their project, or source-stroking, or what the reporter’s personal tastes are. To wit, take today’s front-page story in The New York Times, written by Susan Chira and Jonathan Martin, on how the organizers of the Women’s March are working to keep the movement going. Somehow, a paragraph that starts out “The organizers are trying” manages to include David Brock’s liberal donor meeting in Florida this past weekend, which had nothing to do with the Women’s March.

  • Or take Ginia Bellafante’s long feature in the Sunday New York Times on how New Yorkers are rediscovering activism. Leaving aside her usual arch tone, what surprised me about Bellafante’s piece was how it ended with full-blown praise for the Occupy movement, which she said had “created a foundation upon which politicians and causes have flourish, and built, and demanded power.” So nice to read that from Bellafante, whose original report on Occupy Wall Street, titled “Gunning For Wall Street, With Faulty Aim,” dripped with derision. She wrote then:

    The group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face — finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out. But what were the chances that its members were going to receive the attention they so richly deserve carrying signs like “Even if the World Were to End Tomorrow I’d Still Plant a Tree Today”?

    What were the chances?

  • Over at Vox, Jeff Stein talks to our friend uber-organizer Becky Bond, who explains the different types of community organizing traditions and describes a new project she is working on: Knock Every Door. She says, “The idea is to get everyone who came to march to start doing door-to-door canvassing, going door to door in their communities to knock on every door — not just on the list the Democrats have — to find out whether people voted; if so, who they voted for; and what they’re looking for in the next election. And really trying to create this feedback loop with a focus on the counties that flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016.”

  • SwingLeft.org, which launched on Friday (as noted here), already has nearly 100,000 people signed up. And 40,000 people got on a post-march conference call Sunday night co-hosted by MoveOn, Indivisible and the Working Families Party.

  • Yes, the producers at CNN really did put together a panel of 8 men and one woman to discuss the Women’s March.

  • The police of Whitefish, Montana, where neo-Nazis had announced an anti-Semitic march, have put a mezuzah on the door of their station as an expression of solidarity with their town’s Jewish community, Sam Kestenbaum reports for The Forward. Mazel tov!

  • A “We the People” petition created on January 20th calling on President Trump to immediately release his “full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance,” has reached more than 218,000 signatures. Under President Obama, petitions receiving 100,000 signatures were promised an official reply.

  • Another petition calling on Trump to divest or put his assets in a blind trust has 63,000 signatures so far.

  • Tech and politics: WikiLeaks tweets that it wants someone to leak Trump’s tax returns to it, which suggests that Julian Assange has changed his mind about submitting himself to extradition to the United States in the wake of the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence (something he had offered to do a few weeks ago).

  • The new head of the FCC will be current Republican commissioner Ajit Pai, Alex Byers and Tony Romm report for Politico. Craig Aaron of Free Press commented, “Ajit Pai has been on the wrong side of just about every major issue that has come before the FCC during his tenure. He’s never met a mega-merger he didn’t like or a public safeguard he didn’t try to undermine. He’s been an inveterate opponent of Net Neutrality, expanded broadband access for low-income families, broadband privacy, prison-phone justice, media diversity and more.”

  • This is civic tech: Speaking at a forum in San Francisco on the last day of the Obama Administration, Code for America founder Jen Pahlka was still optimistic that efforts to provide better, digitized government services that lower costs would continue under the Trump Administration, as Ben Miller and Zack Qaintance report for GovTech. She said, “If the tech industry says ‘F you’ and walks away, the progress we’ve made on making these things better is going to erode or fall apart — not because someone else brought it on us, but because [of us].”

  • Coding for Community, a state-wide civic tech competition in New Jersey, is taking place all day January 27 in Newark.

  • What sharing economy? In Dissent magazine, Kate Aronoff critiques WeWork’s claims to be about community.