Gimme Some Truth

A salute to some of the many people who have fought to keep their, and our, bearings this year.

  • “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lies will now be accepted as truth, and the truth be defamed as lies, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth vs. falsehood is among the mental means to this end – is being destroyed.” —Hannah Arendt, “Truth and Politics.”

  • A salute to just some of the many people who have fought to keep their, and our, bearings during this past year:
  • Susan Fowler, for her reflections on “one very, very strange year at Uber,” which forced the company’s board to finally confront the toxic culture created by its founder Travis Kalanick.

  • Ellen Pao, for trying to blaze the path towards equity in tech by suing Kleiner Perkins in 2012, and for the work she is doing now leading Project Include and as chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact.

  • Julia Angwin and her colleagues at ProPublic for doggedly exposing the manifold failures of Facebook.

  • Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s first VP for Growth, for admitting his “tremendous guilt” for his role in growing the social network and declaring that “we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works….The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.” 

  • Tristan Harris, formerly of Google, for working hard to elevate public awareness of how the big tech companies are “hacking our brains.”

  • Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, the executive director of Witness (and board member of Civic Hall Labs) for reminding us in this just-released TED talk that smartphones can still be powerful weapons for social justice because of their ability “to create undeniable truths.”

  • Noah Kunin, one of the first engineers to join 18F, who tried his best to stay on after last year’s election to work for the new administration, and then six months in quit, speaking out against ways previously apolitical arms of government were being bent and twisted to serve President Trump’s hunger for personal loyalty.

  • New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his team, for uncovering the fact that as many as two million public comments submitted to the FCC on the issue of net neutrality were made using the stolen identities of real people, and for suing to insist that public rule-making not be so easily corrupted.

  • All of the brave women of #MeToo, most recently our good friend Deanna Zandt, who has just spoken out along with four other women about the ways that Don Hazen, the executive director of AlterNet, sexually harassed them.

  • Amy Siskind of New Agenda, for listening to the “experts in authoritarianism” who advise us to “keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” and for keeping one hell of a list.

  • Politifact for telling us that the 2017 “Lie of the Year” is President Trump’s claim that Russian election interference in 2016 was a “made up story.”

  • 86-year-old Daniel Ellsberg, for following up his whistle-blowing release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, with a steel-trap sharp new book called The Doomsday Machine on his earlier work as a nuclear war planner, blowing the whistle again, this time on the most dangerous fact in the world—that the United States and Russia both have far more nuclear weapons than they need to deter each other, and that our and their war-fighting doctrines remain far too willing to risk global nuclear winter than most of us understand.

  • Chelsea Manning for her jubilant return to public life, and her wry sense of humor when faced with Harvard’s decision to disinvite her from a public fellowship at the Kennedy School while continuing to honor figures like Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski.

  • The DREAMers and the health care organizers who are laying their own bodies on the line, nonviolently insisting that our government not neglect its obligation to treat all who are here with compassion.

  • Especially organizer Ady Barkan of the Center for Popular Democracy, diagnosed at 32 with ALS, telling the hosts of Pod Save America a few days ago how he keeps fighting and why we all should. Trust me, you should listen to this interview to the end. (it starts about 30 minutes in.)

  • You may find that keeping track of the truth when pounded with hailstorms of lies is exhausting, but in fact, the truth shall set you free. Happy Holidays! We’ll see you January 2nd.