Erin and I quit our safe, steady-paying organizer gigs over a year ago to found HearYourselfThink because we realized then that the relentless flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and raw irrationality gushing from talk radio, hyper-partisan media outlets, and internet echo chambers was destroying our democracy and driving our nation to the brink of disaster. As it turns out, (Fmr.) President Obama agrees with us:
Everyone’s now talking about the threat of fake news and how Trump’s election ushered in a “post-truth” era where reality no longer matters and, according to this Trump surrogate, facts have literally ceased to exist:
“There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts…”
Here’s the thing though: no matter how much the likes of Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, and Donald Trump may want to remake the world in their sociopathic image – a world where truth is irrelevant and you just make sh*t up as you go along to suit your agenda – reality is still real, facts still matter, and lies are still lies no matter how often they are repeated.
We worked like heck and logged a lot of miles (4,000!) in 2016 to expose right-wing media and wake people up to the threat it posed. We also trained hundreds of people on how propaganda brainwashes and how to begin to deprogram others from its influence.
In 2016, we:
- Hosted 18 trainings and 6 events across Pennsylvania and Ohio, with a special trip to St. Louis to present at Netroots Nation (we were voted into the Top 10 out of 200+ panel submissions! If you were one of the ones who voted for us, thank you!)
- Trained 502 people on how to break down walls of polarization, cultivate self-reflection and create moments of insight about media influence.
- Held a 3-part class for Slippery Rock University’s Learning in Retirement program called “Media Today: Do You Know What You Think You Know?” bringing our message directly to those most likely to see Fox “News” in a favorable light.
- Exposed the hysteria and hatred animating Trump supporters in our region. We’ve lived and organized in the Rustbelt our entire lives and knew that anger about the economy wasn’t the whole story about Trump’s appeal here. We went to talk to voters at his rallies about media influence and misinformation as it relates to their beliefs, actions and support for Trump. If you haven’t yet, you can see how that went here (in our hometown) and nearby (in Moon).
- Demonstrated that with a little distance from the heat of the campaign, you can actually have productive conversations with people caught up in the right-wing media universe that challenge people to stop and think about their ideas and attitudes on a deeper level. If you’re looking for a reason to be hopeful about the future and how we can talk to people in the Trump era, start here.
- Created the #FoxOff card campaign and FoxIsToxic.com in partnership with Jen Senko, director of The Brainwashing of My Dad to stigmatize Fox “News” and get #FoxOff in public places, like your local YMCA, the pub, and the doctor’s office. The handy, pocket-sized cards are a great tool to remind you to speak up whenever you see a public establishment promoting partisan news and give that owner or employee you speak to something to think about. To date, we’ve sent out more than 1,000 cards to activists in TX, OK, GA, IL, PA, NJ, FL, CA, IA, and NY.
- Launched YourDrunkUncle.org before Thanksgiving to help prepare people for conversations that would lead to insights, rather than food fights. This was the first holiday since one of the most toxic elections of our lifetime, and we knew people were worried about talking Trump. So we put together this short video summarizing our key strategies, hosted a pre-Thanksgiving Facebook live event, and compiled our best advice for how to talk to Your Drunk Uncle (or Your Trump Uncle, as it may be), here.
Erin and I are all the more dedicated to working to reclaim America’s brain with a lot simmering on the stove already for early in 2017. But if we are going to be able to keep up this critical work to #MakeAmericaThinkAgain we need supporters like you to step up now.
If we don’t receive sufficient investment from supporters who understand the need to fight for truth and reason in the new year, we will not be able to continue our efforts. Our spunky, 2005 Ford Focus can only hold out so long after the beating it took last year as we traveled all over Pennsylvania and into Ohio with our prescient message about the danger to our democracy of propaganda and fake news posing as real news.
You can help by making a contribution below — and, if you attended one of our trainings in the past year, giving us your feedback on how it helped you get a better handle on the right-wing media problem. We are counting on your ideas, talents, energy and support to make 2017 one hell of a lot better than 2016!