On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

Posted by on May 6, 2017 in All, Media, Personal, Politics, Writing | No Comments

If you read this blog (hello, my five or ten friends and other people who occasionally google me!), you will see that the spaces between posts have grown and grown over the last few years. This coincides with the birth of my third child and my attempt to finish a masters degree in writing. Oh, and then there’s also politics and social media, which have both eaten the remains of my attention span. But I will be finishing my masters degree soon, and I hope to be less sporadic about writing here.

Among the distractions other than kids and school and work, I have been immersed in in political observation and increasing my involvement  in democracy. Like many people I know, prior to the election in 2016, I was a dedicated voter and small-time political junkie. I also donated to organizations and people who do work I believe in and whose missions attempted to fill in necessary health gaps and right some of the social and legal injustices that keep me awake at night. Since November, I have been much more involved in the process of preserving democracy and an open and free-thinking society (Enlightenment ideas, or liberal values, or however you think of it). With that in mind, I recently read a book that terrified me and also convinced me that this is a fight worth having. Historian Timothy Snyder wrote a post on Facebook that spread quickly in the days after the election, and in his new book, On Tyranny, he expands upon the original post. The entire (short) book is worth everyone’s time, but this passage in particular struck me as resonant for the times* we live in and because I’ve been a devoted news reader since I was in middle school:

The better print journalists allow us to consider the meaning, for ourselves and our country, of what might otherwise seem to be isolated bits of information. But while anyone can repost an article, researching and writing is hard work that requires time and money. Before you deride the “mainstream media,” note that it is no longer the mainstream. It is derision that is mainstream and easy, and actual journalism that is edgy and difficult. So try for yourself to write a proper article, involved work in the real world: traveling, interviewing, maintaining relationships with sources, researching in written records, verifying everything, writing and revising drafts, all on a tight and unforgiving schedule. If you find you like doing this, keep a blog. In the meantime, give credit to those who do all of that for a living. Journalists are not perfect, any more than people in other vocations are perfect. But the work of people who adhere to journalistic ethics is of a different quality than the work of those who do not. (Pages 76-77)

So I wrote a letter to the editors of some American newspapers and included a copy of this book. I imagine this, like many other gestures we make, like sending a letter or an email, like protesting at the Women’s March and the March for Science, like showing up to a member of Congress’s town hall to discuss laws and votes on health care or other vital issues, has little to no impact. But nevertheless, I persist. If you are one of the people I wrote to, please feel free to contact me here. (I forgot to include my email address…)

* since we hear so much about “fake news,” coordinated propaganda and misinformation campaigns, hacking, leaks, the role of social media, and how fair or complete the traditional media (TV, print) coverage was of the presidential candidates in 2016

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