Exclusive Profile: Hillary Clinton Deputy Operations Director Alessandra Biaggi

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On October 15, 1991, at age five, Alessandra Biaggi’s passion for women in politics was awakened. She was attending the opening of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which was founded by her grandfather, Representative Mario Biaggi of New York. Then-State Attorney for Dade County and eventual-Attorney General Janet Reno spoke at the dedication. After the ceremony, Alessandra met Reno personally. Though Alessandra has been told before that women could succeed in politics, seeing Reno in real life was concrete proof of it.

Throughout her childhood, Alessandra’s family supported her political ambitions. They encouraged her to be thoughtful and critical. “When I’d say ‘I really wanna do X,’ my parents would ask me why I want to do that, who it’ll help, how it would affect the community, stuff like that. They were priming me.”

Alessandra entered politics with an internship for Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY). She went on to work at the Kings County D.A.’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of NY, the Presidential Succession Clinic at the John D. Feerick Center for Social Justice as an editor, and the NYS Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery as Assistant General Counsel.

In early 2015, Alessandra was offered a position on the vetting team of the Hillary Clinton campaign. She accepted immediately, ecstatic about the opportunity to help elect the first female president in United States history.

On April 1, her official title on the campaign became Deputy National Operations Director. She described her roles and responsibilities as “literally everything.”

“I was helping balance the budget, I was requesting extra funds, I was helping them sort all the merch while working the compliance… All of the hiring for all dates as well as all of the offices, which includes negotiating leases… All of the paid canvassing programs, GOTV, everything that you can imagine at this point fell underneath operations.”

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Alessandra described the days following Election Day as a “blur.” The sense of loss was heavy, with two suicides in her network of friends occurring “as a result of the stress caused by the current state of our country and the political climate.”

However, she did not fall into a state of despair. She said that there was a quote from Persian poet Rumi that became her mantra following the election: “The wound is the place where the light enters.”

So along with thousands of other women across the country, Alessandra redirected her suffering into action.

She created an extensive “Take Action Guide for Activism” to help activists and organizers get involved with progressive politics and stay informed in a time when every Trump tweet becomes a national headline. The guide is unbelievably comprehensive, providing readers with links to grassroots organizations across the country that focus on everything from immigration to rebuilding the Democratic Party at a state level to helping women run for office to civics education, and so on.

Alessandra also got involved with countless progressive efforts such as Ladies Get Paid, Rally + Rise, New York University’s Women’s Initiative, Impact Hub, Solidarity Sundays, Columbia University, Changemaker Chats, All In Together Campaign, and the latest, with Diane Von Furstenberg. She currently sits on the Advisory Board of the New Leaders Council, is a member of The New Agenda’s Young Women Leadership Council, and serves on the host committee for the Arena Summit. She describes all of these organizations as “communities” of politically active progressives from across the country.

“We all need to jump on board and link arms. That’s how you get stronger.”

One of her main focuses has been connecting people. “I would say that one of my superpowers is identifying what people are working on and identifying people in my network already and then connecting them… This is my ritual of democracy.”

For example, at The New Agenda, a nonpartisan organization “started after the 2008 election cycle because of how the media was treating Hillary Clinton,” Alessandra helped organize National Girlfriends Networking Day. “They have different events across the country that they stream the one event from New York City into. It’s basically a network of women to support other women, so it’s like a mentor-mentee networking group focused on young women, middle-aged women, and older women.”

But while she has found many meaningful ways to get involved, Alessandra knows that civic engagement is not easy. She recommends that folks start by asking themselves three questions.

The first is a personal one: “What does it mean to be a citizen?” In other words, the infamous words of President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

To Alessandra, the question of what it means to be a citizen “begs the answer” of “social change.” “How we’re going to have that social change” leads to the next question:

How do you create community?

Once you pinpoint what you care about, Alessandra says, you should find a community that shares your interests.

“You can never underestimate a quick Google search of ‘progressive millennial organizations.’”

If “it doesn’t exist… create that group!” And that leads to the final question:

What’s the way in which my voice can be most heard, or where can I make the most impact?

Alessandra said that once you have found your “tribe,” you have the strength in numbers to set concrete group goals that can make a real difference. Whether it be making 50 calls to a senator, holding workshops, creating a PAC, or signing up for ResistBot, Alessandra’s final question is meant to guide people to their own “Rituals for Democracy.”

“I think we need to treat activism and our engagement as another thing that we schedule… What can I do in a day, what can I do in a week… We have to break it down for people like that because not everything is for all of us.”

For progressives who want to get involved in politics in particular, Alessandra says that the best way is always to volunteer.

“Volunteer in a campaign office, and from there you meet the staff, and then you become an organizer and then organizers go into headquarters, and it just grows there. But you have to start with what you got, and usually what you got is a field office, so volunteer for a candidate that you care about.”

“Volunteer, cause that’s where the people are.”

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Alessandra speaking at NYU.

Volunteering for progressives candidates is especially important given the midterms occurring next year. But women can do more than just volunteer.

“My call to action for women would be to consider running for office even if they’ve never considered it before and if not for federal office or even state, consider putting their name in the ring for non-competitive seats on the county level. There are many roles, upwards of 500,000 public offices that you can hold, and we need more women.”

But what are the next steps after consideration? How can women actually prepare themselves to run for public office?

“You can do all the training in the world, and you’ll never be ready. You just do it because you make the decision. There will be a support network around you once you decide to do it, that’s no question, so equip yourself with the right tools. Take a training. Go online, look at the courses. She Should Run has an online incubator that you can do from home. Look wherever you are, see what training groups can help. The Yale Women’s Campaign School or New Leader Council, these different groups have all of these different trainings and make yourself the most prepared that you possibly can. Figure out what issues you care about and just run.”

Alessandra already knows what her top issue is: women in politics. It is what she’s dedicating her life to at the moment through public speaking and advocacy. But she hopes that soon, she will be able to empower women from a different position. When I asked her if she plans to work on the presidential campaign in 2020, she told me:

“If it were a campaign I believed in as much as I believed in Secretary Clinton’s. So the bar is very high. But the next campaign I hope to work on is my own.

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Exclusive Profile: Millennial NYC Mayoral Candidate Collin Slattery

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In 1992, when Collin Slattery was just two years old, his father was diagnosed with leukemia. His health insurance was provided through his high-level corporate job, so when he was let go, the Slattery family had to pay for all of his health bills out of pocket.

In 1995, they moved from Illinois to New Jersey, one of the few states at the time that required providers to offer healthcare to people with pre-existing conditions. Collin’s father died in 1999, leaving 10-year-old Collin and his family bankrupt from the millions of dollars they had to pay out-of-pocket on healthcare.

Collin, along with his mother and two sisters, moved to New York City in 2003 so that Collin could attend a good high school. But though he attended Stuyvesant, one of the best STEM schools in the country, his life was far from good. He had a rocky relationship with his mother, who was more interested in how much money he won playing poker in an underground park than how he was doing in school.

Collin graduated in 2007, but was unable to afford college. His mother was evicted from her apartment in 2008, leaving Collin on the edge of homelessness.

For over a year, Collin had only one meal a day. He walked 9.2 miles to get to his minimum wage retail job. He was oftentimes single days from eviction. Though he is over six feet tall, he was only 150 pounds.

Then, in early 2009, he came across an incredible opportunity. He met a young businessman who created his own hedge fund, Elea Capital Management, in his early 20’s. The young businessman offered Collin a six figure per year job that could springboard Collin’s career and develop into a multimillion dollar per year job. The young businessman’s name was Martin Shkreli.

Martin Shkreli, now commonly referred to as “pharma bro,” earned the hatred of people around the world in 2015 for hiking the price of Daraprim, a medication used to treat people with AIDS, by 5000%, making it unaffordable to many who desperately needed it. Shkreli had taken similar action before, hiking the price of Thiola, a drug used to treat the rare disease cystinuria, by 2000%.

“It’s a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders,” Shkreli explained on Twitter.

Later that year, Shkreli was arrested by the FBI for securities fraud. He ended up with a congressional hearing in which he refused to answer any questions beyond what his name was.

Though Collin could not have possibly known in early 2009 that Shkreli would hike the prices of essential drugs by thousands for his own benefit alone, Collin could tell that Shkreli was running a fraud. “I was faced with this moral dilemma,” Collin told me. “I was impoverished. I was so poor I can’t even afford to eat.”

But despite the opportunity to pull himself out of poverty, Collin declined Shkreli’s offer. Instead, Collin reported Shkreli to the SEC for running a fraud.

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Collin’s email to the SEC reporting Martin Shkreli’s fraudulent activity. Sent Sat, May 16, 2009 at 4:04 AM.

Seven months later, on December 23, 2009, Collin spent his last $134 to start a web hosting company. He named it Taikun. It became a side project after Collin acquired a job in March 2010, but in 2014, Collin began running Taikun full-time as a digital marketing agency. Taikun helps small- and mid-size businesses grow on the web. He currently isn’t making as much as he’d like, bit he can now afford healthcare, rent, three meals a day, and a MetroCard.

“I haven’t taken any money from anyone, I haven’t taken any venture capital. Just bootstrappin’ my way up.

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Collin with his grandmother.

After the election, Collin wanted to use his tech skills to take action. He started working to create a millennial, digital-based Super PAC that would engage millennials and help encourage them to run for office. He specifically wanted to drive nerds into politics. “The nerdier you are, the more likely you are to accept reality and facts,” he said. “So why don’t we have nerds in charge for a while?”

But then he had a thought. “Why don’t I just run myself?”

He was initially cautious, worried that people would find embarrassing pictures of him online that would be disqualifying in the eyes of voters. But that concern faded quickly. “Trump is a self-professed serial sexual predator. If that’s not disqualifying, literally nothing in my closet is even close to that.”

“Donald Trump should be in prison. I just got drunk and fell into a wall.”

Collin immediately knew that if he was going to run, he’d have to run for mayor of New York City. “There’s so much you can do as mayor to help people,” he said. “You can be this beacon of progressivism and good governance for the country.”

Initially, he thought about “doing a Mayor Bloomberg” – making money in the private sector, then going into politics. But with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, this is urgent.

Unfortunately, Collin has had some difficulty being taken seriously as a 28-year-old outsider to the political scene. “They think it’s a publicity stunt.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth, Collin says.

“I don’t want to be a career politician. I want to improve the lives of my constituents. I’m not trying to be governor. I’m not trying to be president. I’ve always wanted to run for mayor of New York.”

Good intentions don’t get you on the ballot, though. What does? 7,500 signatures, technically. But according to Collin, that’s not really the case. “You can’t just collect 7,500. You need more like 20,000. The establishment, the big money, they’ll try to declare fraud.”

Collin hopes that he can make up for the lack of establishment support by capturing the grassroots progressive enthusiasm that has driven the campaigns of Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana. “There’s no enthusiasm for Mayor de Blasio,” he said. “Nobody wants a 60-year-old white guy who just barely avoided federal corruption charges.”

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Collin believes that mobilizing millennials in particular will give him a good shot of winning the Democratic primary, which many currently see as a lock for Bill de Blasio. “In 2013, de Blasio got 282,000 votes, and there are 1.9 million millennials in NYC.”

Collin’s “unabashedly progressive” platform is definitely one that could attract millennials. His slogan is “A New York for All New Yorkers,” and his campaign is focused on making the city more affordable for low-income New Yorkers. He took his experiences from his time in poverty to craft policies and a budget that will take care of those who most need help. He wants to make housing and transit specifically more affordable. As someone who had to walk 100 blocks to work because he couldn’t afford to ride the subway, this stuff is close to his heart.

He wants to give low-income New Yorkers half-fare MetroCards, as well as expand to Student MetroCard program to all NYC public schools. He also wants to decriminalize fare evasion, the most common reason for arrest in the city. NYPD data indicates that 90,000 people per year are stopped by the police for jumping the turnstile, 92% being people of color. “The city is just criminalizing people for being poor,” Collin said. “African-American New Yorkers are being rushed off to prison just because they couldn’t pay $2.75.”

Collin suggested that New York should stop paying to keep Donald Trump safe when Trump has the money to do so himself, and instead redirect the taxpayer money that’s currently being wasted to helping low-income New Yorkers. And ultimately, that’s what matters to him the most: helping the people of his city.

“Winning is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the issues I believe in getting coverage.”

http://slatteryfornyc.com/

Indigenous Democrat James Singer challenging Orrin Hatch in 2018

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Indigenous activist James Singer officially launched his candidacy for the United States Senate this week. He will be challenging Senate president pro tempore Orrin Hatch as a Democrat in the 2018 Utah race.

Singer is a 34-year-old Utah native who has spent his life fighting for equality, particularly for Native Americans. He was inspired to run for office by the sickening treatment of indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock, and what that said about the American political system.

“I was moved to action as I saw my Native sisters and brothers stand against an encroachment which threatened not only their inherent sovereignty, but also their humanity,” the Navajo Mormon wrote in a campaign mission statement. “These water protectors were pummeled with rubber bullets, sprayed with powerful water cannons in freezing temperatures, attacked with dogs, and shot with pepper spray, while bulldozers cleared away sacred land and burial sites so that a pipeline could be pushed through. The love of money by a small, but powerful few, is sickening to the rest of Americans, regardless of political affiliation.”

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Singer has crafted a platform that successfully combines economic populism with equality for marginalized Americans, something the Democratic Party has struggled with, especially in the past year with the failure of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Inequality “exacerbates racism and sexism” and “has a direct effect on many of the social problems we face in healthcare, education, and the environment,” says Singer.

Though Singer is clearly running a quite progressive campaign, he, like many other liberal candidates, is trying to brand himself as an outsider who does not fall into traditional partisan categories. In his mission statement, he criticizes both Democrats and Republicans, essentially saying that they have become one and the same by embracing corporate capitalism that exploits working Americans. Like Bernie Sanders, who Singer states he was inspired by, Singer ends his mission statement describing “A Future to Believe In” – “We can move towards a socially democratic future of shared prosperity, justice, respect, greater equality, and cooperation.”

Democrats have not seriously focused on Utah for many years now. Utah has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970. No recent Utah Senate races have even been competitive. In 2016, incumbent Republican Mike Lee crushed Democratic challenger Misty Snow by a whopping 41 points. In 2012, Hatch crushed his opponent by 35 points. And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has already announced that it plans to focus its resources on re-electing the 10 Democrats who are running in 2018 in states won by Donald Trump. As with other Democratic Senate candidates in red states, it seems that Singer must rely on grassroots liberal enthusiasm if he is to compete with Orrin Hatch, or potentially Mitt Romney or Evan McMullin, in 2018.

So far, Singer has raised almost $3000 of his $5000 Crowdpac goal. This is nothing compared to Hatch’s $3.5 million, but it’s a start. And even if Singer doesn’t win the seat or even secure the Democratic nomination, he is still doing important work as an indigenous candidate. At his campaign launch, he told the crowd: “In 2018, there should be native people running in every contest.”

Support Singer’s grassroots progressive populism by donating to his Crowdpac here!

AU student creates website to ship your ashes to GOP if AHCA kills you

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Zoey Salsbury, a junior at American University, recently launched MailMeToTheGOP.com, a website that helps allow Americans to get their ashes sent to Republican congressmen who voted for the AHCA if “they die from lack of access to health care.”

“People will literally die,” Salsbury told The Huffington Post. “It’s really morbid and not fun to talk about. But that’s the reality of passing a health care bill like this.”

The AHCA, the bill House Republicans and Donald Trump crafted as the fulfillment of their “repeal and replace Obamacare” promise, passed the House of Representatives yesterday by only four votes. It is a wildly unpopular and cruel piece of legislation that would strip tens of millions of Americans of healthcare.

Vox explains the awfulness of the AHCA in detail here, but the biggest and most devastating difference between the bill that was passed yesterday and the initial version, which was so disliked in the House that it was never even put to a vote, is that it legalizes discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. What counts as a pre-existing condition? The list is endless, ranging from HIV/AIDS to mental illness to alcoholism to cancer to being LGBTQ to “pending surgery or hospitalization” to being a survivor of rape or domestic violence. Yes, you read that right – according to congressional Republicans, rape is now a pre-existing condition.

In essence, the AHCA is a massive tax cut for the wealthy that would deny affordable coverage to the millions of Americans who most need it. The Republican Party has always been cruel, but it is still unbelievable that 217 GOP congressmen would vote for a bill that would quite literally end the lives of American citizens.

And that cruelty is what Zoey Salsbury is trying to emphasize through her new website. She even has a page that lists five “reasons why we will die.” It reads:

Reason #5

My combat tour in Iraq resulted in enough disability to make me uninsurable, but not enough to get all my healthcare through the VA. You killed me, you prick.

Reason #4

Asthma. I cannot afford to be in a high-risk pool and without health insurance, I will die of an asthma attack. I will die of an easily controlled incurable lung disease that affects millions. I hope my parents put my blue-faced body on Congressman Lloyd Smucker’s doorstep.

Reason #3

because you took away my fucking insurance

Reason #2

This morning, the House vote for the AHCA sent a strong message to my family – some of which who are your loyal constituents. Today, half of Congress made it clear that American lives are meaningless. Today, this vote said that funding the wealthy is more important than my father receiving insulin, my mother purchasing antidepressants, or me finding comfort and safety through assistance following on-campus rape. You are all meant to represent and serve the people, but today it was clear that you only serve yourselves. Today, I implore you think about what an American life is worth. I beg you to think of your family, your friends, and your fellow citizens. Worry about the future of your Senate seat as well as your conscience if you choose to push AHCA forward. If you want blood on your hands, continue to fight against the basic human right to public health. If you want to lose voters through death and poverty, push this through. But if you have any sense of morality and duty to this country, stand up for what is right. Vote no to AHCA and vote yes to the continued health and wellbeing of Americans. Be better.

Reason #1

I have incurable brain cancer. And if prices skyrocket and subsidies are hard to maintain it will shorted my already shortened life and put my family in significant financial jeopardy.

The website has a “send my ashes to the GOP” form where “donors” can fill out their information and even choose which Republican congressmen they want their remains to be sent to.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score has not yet been released for the AHCA, so we do not know quite how many more this version of the bill would leave uninsured than the last. But the reality is that if congressional Republicans get their way here, people will die. I will not be covered under the AHCA, and it’s fairly likely, dear reader, that you won’t be either.

Use this tool to find the phone numbers of your senators and demand that they reject the AHCA. You can use scripts provided by Bustle here or come up with your own. But take action. This is life or death.

Can 1,000 Democratic candidates take back the House?

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The House of Representatives had 435 seats, and they’re all up for grabs in 2018. Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to retake the majority. And with 1,000 Democratic candidates running next year, it looks like they might actually be able to do it.

Democrats have not had a majority in the House since the GOP landslide of 2010, where Republicans capitalized on the anti-Obama sentiments of their base and the fact that liberal voters tend not to show up on off-years to pull off a net sweep of 63 seats. That left Democrats with only 193 of 435 seats. Today, they still only have 194, though some special elections this year like Georgia’s 6th could potentially give the party an edge before the 2018 onslaught.

Most of this energy is coming from grassroots activists, who have formed organizations like Brand New Congress to replace corporate incumbents in the House with progressive outsiders. So it is not just your typical elite who was primed for politics entering these races; it is just your average dedicated American. The campaigns too are driven by grassroots enthusiasm, with much of the money coming in through crowdfunding, as has been the case with Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana. With the DCCC and other national party organizations endlessly failing to invest in races the people care about, liberal activists have realized that if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.

According to VICE News, there has been an almost 60% increase from 2014 in the number of Democrats who have announced their candidacy at this point in the race. And this is just the beginning.

Incumbent Democrats and Republicans alike should be scared about next year. A new wave of enthusiastic citizens is coming, and it’ll be unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

Anti-LGBTQ executive order coming Thursday

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Chelsea Lauren / AP

On Thursday, May 2, the National Day of Prayer, Donald Trump is set to sign the anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” executive order Christian conservatives have been begging for even since he took office.

The order will legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination on the basis of what conservatives call “sincerely held religious beliefs.” A draft of the order was leaked to The Nation less than two weeks into Trump’s illegitimate presidency, and was immediately met with terror and anger from the LGBTQ community. The Nation‘s Sarah Posner wrote of the “sweeping” order:

The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

[…]

Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”

The order is modeled after similar “religious freedom” bills legalizing anti-LGBTQ discrimination, including the one pushed by Vice President Mike Pence during his time as Governor of Indiana. Pence has been one of the top Christian conservatives in the White House pushing for this executive order.

The leaked draft, which the White House claimed to be “one of hundreds circulating,” was criticized by legal scholars not just for its bigotry, but for its illegality.

“This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” Georgetown University Law Center professor Marty Lederman told The Nation. “The exemptions would raise serious First Amendment questions, as well, because they would go far beyond what the Supreme Court has identified as the limits of permissive religious accommodations.”

The Nation wrote that the order would likely violate both the Establishment Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, just as a federal district court ruled last year that a similarly-worded Mississippi bill did.

The drafted order, in essence, was “religious freedom” legislation on steroids. It would allow any – yes, any – person or organization to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the United States without any interference whatsoever from the federal government. It went so far as to create a new group in the Department of Justice specifically to protect “religious freedom.” So if that provision is kept in the new order, Jeff Sessions’ already unjust Department of Justice will be tasked with enforcing discrimination across the country.

Apparently, however, following the legal critiques of the leaked draft, Pence and other Christian conservative policymakers have worked to reword the order so that it may pass muster in court. Nonetheless, its discriminatory intent cannot be erased, which is why the American Civil Liberties Union had already promised to fight the order in court. But even if a court rules against the order, as has been the case with several of Trump’s other executive orders, Trump and his colleagues could take it to the Supreme Court, where the ideological balance has been shifted right with Trump’s appointee Neil Gorsuch.

Regardless of what comes out of the executive order, this is yet another reminder of just how difficult the battle for LGBTQ and abortion rights will be under Trump and the GOP. With both Congress and the Oval Office against us, we must always be prepared to defend our humanity and our right to exist as ourselves.

Fake news isn’t the problem.

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Recently, The New York Times has sparked a fierce debate amongst journalists and readers by hiring rape apologist, climate change denier, racist, and Islamophobe Bret Stephens, supposedly in order to bring a conservative voice to the Times‘ (already right-leaning) op-ed page. The argument further exploded after the Times published Stephens’ first column, which was entirely dedicated to climate change denial. Stephens’ claims were immediately debunked by journalists and scientists alike, but that did not stop defenders of Stephens from claiming that critics were trying to insulate themselves in a “liberal bubble” and silence conservative voices.

I wrote earlier about how hiring conservative writers to create a supposed ideological diversity is not the diversity the overwhelmingly white, cisgender, heterosexual male New York Times needs, but now that the Times has been forced to justify publishing Stephens’ absurd first column, there is much more to dig into.

But let’s back up a bit. Why, exactly, did the Times feel the need to hire a man who denies the existence of climate change and the rape epidemic, attacks Muslims, Arabs, and black Americans, and calls hunger in America an “imaginary enem[y]”? It goes back to the media’s ridiculous post-mortem on the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Following Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory, the (white) liberal media had an existential crisis about how shocked it was at the results. (Reminder: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.) Rather than take responsibility for their undying, cynical obsession with Hillary Clinton’s emails that not only sunk her popularity, but also massively overshadowed legitimate policy coverage, the media blamed its own (white) liberal bias and decided that it needed to diversify – not in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, status, or education, but in ideology. The media diagnosed its problem as liberal bias, meaning that it needed to balance itself out with more conservative voices. (Interestingly, despite propagating the myth that Trump’s Electoral College victory was rooted primarily in the “white working class” vote, the media has still declined to bring in poor voices, thus staying in its elite bubble.)

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This logic, one that refuses to actually take responsibility for the irresponsible coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails, led to the Times bringing Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens onto its op-ed team. As The New Republic‘s Sarah Jones explained, this reasoning really makes no sense given the current ideological leanings of the Times‘ op-ed section:

It runs from the standard right-wing propaganda of Stephens, to the centrist bromides of David Brooks, to a moderate liberalism that cheers Trump’s bombs on Syria and boos student protesters at Middlebury, to the howling wasteland that is Thomas Friedman’s column, where he screams gibberish at a merciless sky. (His last contribution to public discourse was a blow-by-blow description of playing golf in Dubai with a yogi. Truly, we are blessed.) When she is not describing her intolerance for weed chocolate, Maureen Dowd is commending Donald Trump for being the true dove in the presidential race. Frank Bruni, meanwhile, does whatever it is that Frank Bruni does.

The op-ed page is unbearably white—spare a thought for Charles Blow—and predominantly male. There is space for Ross Douthat to casually wonder if there’s a case to be made for a bigot like Marine Le Pen, but none whatever for a bona fide socialist, even though America’s most popular politician is a democratic socialist. Stephens isn’t even a particularly cogent or striking conservative—he’s bog-standard neoconservative material. His hire can’t even be defended as an attempt to understand the populist insurgence upsetting the Republican Party.

But ultimately, this goes even deeper than the (white) liberal media’s post-election self-critique. There is a deep-seated belief in the media that the voices of “both sides” must always be heard if news is to truly be fair and balanced. While well-intentioned, this belief is absolute nonsense, especially in our current political climate. Simply put, not all opinions are equal, and sometimes one side is simply wrong and not worth giving a platform. Senior Deakin University philosophy lecturer Patrick Stokes covered this issue all the way back in 2012 in a Conversation piece:

The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.

Stokes used the example of the anti-vaxxer movement. In this case, one side is simply wrong. Vaccines do not cause childhood diseases. That’s a fact. But the media has felt the need to portray “both sides” of the story, forcing actual scientists to defend themselves against anti-vaccine activists whose entire cause is based on lies. By elevating both voices and acting as if anti-vaxxers need to be heard out, the media, whether intentionally or not, validates anti-vaxxers and implies that their “opinions” are just as important as actual facts.

But this is not limited to the vaccine debate. The “both sides” approach to news is applied to every topic, from transgender equality to police brutality to climate change, and so on, and so on. But in case after case, “both sides” are not equally valid, and the voice of one side is not worth elevating whatsoever.

“Both sides” are not equally valid when one believes that we should keep symbols of slavery while the other knows we should not. “Both sides” are not equally valid when one believes that transgender women are fake while the other knows that they are real. “Both sides” are not equally valid when one defends police brutality while the other condemns it. “Both sides” are not equally valid when one side denies scientific facts while the other accepts them. Both sides are not equally valid when the extremists of one side advocate for the extermination of the Jews, the deportation of black and brown immigrants, and the criminalization of queerness while extremists of the other side advocate for universal healthcare, the expansion of the social safety net, and democratic socialism. In all of these cases and many more, one side’s beliefs are rooted in ignorance and bigotry. When that’s the case, both sides do not deserve equal platforms.

While “both sides” journalism is always intellectually dishonest, it is outright dangerous when it comes to discussions of marginalized folks in the United States. Validating the opinions of anti-transgender bigots isn’t being “fair and balanced”; it’s dehumanizing and demeaning trans folks and elevating rhetoric that leads to anti-trans violence. When 11 trans people have already been murdered in the United States in 2017, the stakes are quite high. The media should not be allowing the perpetuation of bigoted myths – such as the ones that trans women are sexual predators or that Black Lives Matter is inherently anti-police – by giving a platform to bigots. By uncritically giving a platform to bigots and forcing marginalized folks to debate their oppressors on live television, or in a Heineken ad, as if marginalized identities and bigotry are equally valid, the supposedly “liberal” media is actively participating in the oppression of marginalized folks.

That isn’t to say that bigots can’t have their bigoted beliefs. They can think and say whatever they want. But it is by no means the responsibility of the media to give a megaphone to those voices. Rather, the media should give a voice to the marginalized folks it has excluded for all of American history. That’s not censorship. It’s simply choosing to do the right thing. Bigots can still say whatever they want, just not on your platform. And if it means creating a “liberal bubble,” then so be it. However, I’d like to hope that respecting, accepting, and embracing marginalized identities is a universal value, not just a liberal one.

This also isn’t to say that the left is perfect and the right is downright evil. Modern American politics are much more complex than a simple liberal-conservative spectrum, especially in our post-election political society. Liberal transphobia and racism are alive and well in 2017, and the Democratic Party is a hot mess regarding its approach to abortion rights. But as The New Republic‘s Brian Beutler wrote following polling results about Trump’s Syria attack:

Negative partisanship—the observable effect that antipathy to the other party has on public opinion—seems, like everything else in U.S. politics, to be asymmetric between the parties. Republicans are the key drivers of it.

[…]

Reflexive even-handedness the analytical foundation of countless news stories, and nearly all punditry, but it wasn’t derived from dispassionate observation of political reality. Rather, it was contrived to burnish the mainstream media claim to political neutrality, and the neutrality of parent companies. But its effect was to leave implacable conservative critics of mainstream culture totally dissatisfied, and has failed every other consumer in the market for accurate, unskewed news and on-the-level commentary. It should have been put to rest long ago, and can’t die soon enough.

This brings us back to Bret Stephens, and why a venerable publication like the Times, which post-election proudly touted itself as a purveyor of truth in a vast sea of fake news, would hire a man who so blatantly rejects reality in order to justify his conservative views.

The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple reached out to the Times for an interview about Stephens’ first column. Times editor James Bennet declined, but gave Wemple this response:

Wemple wrote in his analysis of the response:

In anticipation of future clashes with social media, Bennet would be well-advised to keep that statement in his top drawer, or perhaps a Microsoft Word file. Because it deserves the title “Editorial Page Editor’s Boilerplate Kumbaya Response to Public Outrage.” It could apply to a controversial op-ed on abortion, on gun control, on climate change, on a criminal-justice report, whatever. That’s because it doesn’t grapple with any of the substantive issues raised about the column itself.

When it comes down to it, there’s no real justification for publishing Stephens’ column. If news outlets are going to share falsehoods, it should only be in the context of debunking them. Letting a column like Stephens’ stand on its own, unchallenged, was a mistake, and a mistake it seems that the Times is eager to repeat.

In the first three months after the election, the Times gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers through its “truth” campaign, more than it added in all of 2015. “The truth is more important now than ever,” the Times proudly proclaimed.

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Unfortunately, it’s clear that the Times‘ dedication to “truth” has been overridden by the the mainstream media’s overwhelming obsession with representing “both sides.” The Times and other respected news outlets have loudly touted themselves as the cure for the epidemic of “fake news.” But “real news” cannot be the solution when it so fervently feels the need to prop up bigotry and lies. It looks like “real news” is the real “fake news” in Trump’s America.