by Eleanor Goldfield
I’ve been called a lot of things and I’d say about 15% of them are correct. And that’s not to mention the drivel I get in poorly spelled tweets such as “comunist cunt” or “anarkist bitch.” Those are in a category unto themselves. No, this is specifically about so-called journalists writing things that are just patently false with regards to my work as both an activist and a journalist. (Note: I’m taking this more personal perspective due to a recent article but know that the forthcoming points can and should be applied to lies written about everything from your own activism to global income inequality.)
Based on their thinly veiled disgust and a flare for the dramatic, I can deduce that the goal is typically for some right-winger to make me and my cohorts sound like violent lunatics – think Fight Club meets Robin Hood or V for Vendetta meets a larger blonder version of Natalie Portman. And while it’s clear that we activists regularly hold secret brawls in underground bunkers, hosted by an oiled up Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in a polar bear costume, the fantasies of these “journalists” do a grave disservice to the actual profession of journalism. I can laugh it off to a certain extent but what really bothers me isn’t what these fiction writers really think of me personally but that they are writing as if they have proof. And more importantly, people reading it become even more averse to reason, logic and indeed – facts.
Interestingly enough, the most recent article that called me out as an organizer of riots fell under a headline regarding Net Neutrality actions that I am helping to facilitate. Net Neutrality classifies internet providers as common carriers meaning that say, Comcast can’t decide what you have access to on the internet. They, and the government, must be content neutral – hence the name. What makes this ironic in the context of this post is that these fiction writers depend on Net Neutrality to spread their lies about not wanting or needing Net Neutrality. Of course, this sort of backwards thinking isn’t unusual for them – people in the same region of the political spectrum find air and water so secondary to profit, they’re perfectly willing to forego protecting the former in order to make more of the latter.
Under Net Neutrality, their fake news and fabricated stories are welcome and openly accessible by anyone. And believe it or not, I want it that way. I won’t repost or help spread their bullshit but I appreciate that the internet is open and allows for it. Perhaps they’ll stumble upon some facts at some point and begin to question their clearly contradictory paradigms. Or better yet, their readers might. And while I hold out little hope of personally convincing these fiction writers that they are indeed not journalists, I wish to point out a few rules on reporting:
- First off, the truth is plenty fucked up without having to lie. I think I’m interesting enough without needing to add fallacy to my work and/or personal life. Same goes for my comrades and the realities of our political world, particularly this day in age.
- Secondly, facts do matter and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, you are never entitled to your own facts. It is never worth the badge of content creator extraordinaire to churn out bullshit that’s about as factually accurate as the words “All Natural” on a Lunchables box. As journalists, our job is to tell people the truth. Again, this doesn’t mean that we have to amputate our perspective. Indeed, I think it’s very helpful and necessary, particularly in this time of rising fascism, for journalists to speak out against bigotry, racism, capitalism, fascism, colonialism and sexism. But while doing so, you can’t just make shit up. Refer to the first point if you feel the urge.
- Thirdly, research and ask. I have often been mentioned in articles or pieces where I know that the person never bothered to reach out for a comment. While this is lazy work at best, the least someone could do instead is look me up online. I’m not hard to find. In this brilliantly accessible world wide web, you will find not only how I prefer to be known – i.e. activist/artist but you’ll also find links to my work so that you can actually see what I’m doing when I’m not bare knuckle boxing with polar bear Leo.
- Fourthly and this applies to both activists and journalists: fact check, denounce or spread the word. When you read something online, do not assume that it’s true. Again, because of the beautifully open internet access we have, thanks to Net Neutrality, anyone can post anything – and everyone seems to post something, often without a factual foundation. Take 2 minutes to check and see if it seems legit. If not, denounce it. I err on the side of ignoring minor bullshit articles but if something particularly egregious comes out, I slam it – and I urge my friends and followers to do the same. Conversely, if something comes out that is factually solid and well researched, share it. We should prop up the journalists who are really doing their jobs well and shun the ones who mistook fantasy fiction for actual journalism.
- Fifthly, don’t be afraid of something if it contradicts your chosen ideology. In fact, I advocate that people should discard ideologies in the interest of avoiding the very self preservation mechanisms that all ideologies come pre-packaged in. However, in lieu of that, if you find something that contradicts what you believe and it’s clear that it’s written well with factual evidence to back it up, don’t run away from it. Embrace it and know that you’ll either get a new talking point to bolster your argument or your argument will necessarily shift based on new information. The same goes for a journalist who finds out facts that contradict how they wanted to write their story. I know, it sucks, but punch a pillow and get back to writing. NOTE: this does not mean that you should accept pseudo-science or bullshit just because it appears in a well respected rag. (See point 4). For example, the New York Times recently published pieces by a noted climate science denier and then backed up that decision by highlighting the importance of having an “independent-minded conservative” on staff. No. Stop it. You wouldn’t bring on a flat earther to debate just because it’s an opposing opinion. Again – facts matter. Do not mistake balance for accuracy.
With this in mind, I absolutely suggest that more activists take up citizen journalism and share the stories you are living. There can never be too many front line fighters sharing their experiences so as to drown out the dangerous fictions promoted by the powers that be and their moronic minions. Just know that those minions will come after you and they will write some shit that is hopelessly idiotic. Refer to point 4, gather your facts and write out your verbal right hook. Imagine a shirtless Brad Pitt cheering you on if that helps. And as you battle, consider the importance of the platforms you do use, i.e. ditigal ones. Visit Protect Our Internet to get involved in the fight for Net Neutrality and the right for everyone to not only post their works of fiction but to read them too.
As for journalists and activists – by demanding truth, logic, reason and factual evidence from ourselves and our comrades, we become stronger. Movements may run on emotion and the creative energy we bring, but we are nothing without the truth in justice, the truth in freedom, the truth in our fight. Onwards and upwards.