Politics

Trump’s Constant Lying Is What Autocrats Do

By Christopher F. Arndt

First there was the birther theory, which Trump continued to champion in 2011 even after President Obama’s long-form birth certificate was shown to the world.

Then we heard statements like “Nobody really knows if climate change is real;” and, more recently, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

These are, of course, but a few of the countless lies Trump has uttered over the years, over the course of this past election cycle and since entering the White House.

To these we can now add the claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign – one that smacks all the more clearly of dishonesty now that House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes has stated that he will not disclose his sources.

Our President’s unprecedented lying has many utterly baffled, as does the fact that Trump supporters often accept these lies.

For example,  74% of Republican voters think it’s at least “somewhat likely” that Donald Trump’s offices were wiretapped during the campaign.

Both the dishonesty and the continued belief by Trump supporters in “alternative facts” can be understood in the context of changes within the conservative movement that have come to the fore over the past fifteen years.

A scene from the Las Vegas skyline. Photo Credit: João Martinho/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Under normal conditions, a politician fibs to exaggerate the appeal of a program they support or to undermine an opponent’s position.

But they generally try to avoid obvious falsehoods.

Some of Trump’s lies follow this pattern, but most of his lies are different.

They are intentionally brazen.

In this way, they are a show of power, demonstrating the acquiescence of others to his will and the comparative impotence of those who stand by facts and against his word.

In short, Trump’s lies have an autocratic twist. Matt Steinglass, the current European editor for the Economist, captured this dynamic well in a 2009 piece on why Iran’s Ahmadinejad insisted on showing an implausibly large vote margin for his election victory.

This piece is dismayingly relevant now and worth quoting at length:

“[B]ullies often find it more effective to force people to acquiesce in an obvious lie than in a plausible fiction. Check out the ludicrous charges in the Stalin show trials: children’s book writers in Leningrad confessing to being Japanese spies, and so forth. When you make people accept a plausible fiction, you’re just winning that one issue. But when you make them accept a lie which everyone knows is a lie, you’re destroying their integrity, destroying their will to describe the world as they see it, rather than as you tell them it is. It’s the bully on the playground holding the weaker kid’s arm and slapping his cheek with it, saying “Why are you hitting yourself?” Like Vaclav Havel’s grocer hanging “Workers of the world, unite!” in his shop window, once a person has acquiesced to something they do not believe, and which everyone knows they do not believe, they become complicit in their own oppression.”

In essence, Trump is making Republican leaders – who know he is lying – complicit in their own oppression.

To be clear, we’ve seen some independence on the part of Republicans like John McCain.

But not a lot.

And, most recently, it appears that Devin Nunes is simply bending to Trump’s will.

This fealty to authority over facts runs directly against the beating heart of liberal democracy.

Why, then, does Trump get away with it?

The brief answer is that the American Right has been moving in this direction for more than a decade.

The movement has coalesced around an older, “monarchical” conservatism.

This movement is best understood as a temperament and a set of tendencies opposing change rather than a set of principles.

It runs counter to the enlightenment liberalism that forms the basis of our Constitution.

In my book, The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump, I map out characteristics of this “conservative temperament” including:

  • Viewing a leader’s personality and its force above process, institutions and the rule of law.
  • An ease with diminishing the value of facts to support the right leader.
  • A preference for absolute certainty regarding both policy and a leader’s style. This requires black and white simplicity in the way both are presented.

Understanding conservatism as such explains the appeal of Trump on the Right and the embrace of blatant falsehoods.

So far, the firing of Michael Flynn was an exception.

On the Right, there have been no real consequences to Trump’s blatant – and disgraceful – lying or that of his inner circle.

Which brings us back to autocracy, defined by Merriam Webster as “government in which one person possesses unlimited power.”

Christopher Arndt is author of The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Isabelle Blanchemain/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

No, Libertarians and Liberals Won’t Team Up To Overthrow Trump

There has been talk as of late about the possibility of libertarians and liberals uniting to ‘take down’ President Trump.

How this coup d’état occurs in the material world I’m not quite sure, but it is nonetheless an intriguing question.

Both sides have numerous qualms with the Trump agenda, some of which overlap.

The tightening of the immigration system, the travel ban, and a belief in the existence of authoritarian tendencies point to a teaming up of the administration’s foes.

However, the differences outweigh the similarities and I am far from convinced these two will form a successful resistance.

Libertarians pride themselves on individualism, abiding by the U.S. Constitution’s prescripts, and cherishing free market capitalism.

They support minimal taxation (if any) for all individuals and aim for a general disengagement between the government and the private lives of the people.

This includes very few economic regulations, a reduction to the welfare state, and a refrain from unnecessary international entanglements.

No limits to your speech and no antiquated social restraints.

Within Libertarianism is a codified system of beliefs, whether you agree with them or not, that aim to reduce the state apparatus and maximize the liberty of an individual to live as they wish, without inflicting harm on others.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is often considered one of the leading libertarian voices in the country. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

An ideological line can be drawn straight from principle to policy.

Liberals, on the other hand, fail to present a systematic worldview which applies to the plethora of modern questions.

The most vocal left-of-center Americans have turned all of their attention to protesting whatever Trump does.

And as Trump doesn’t adhere to a concrete vision of government’s role in society, liberals follow him deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole.

They were aroused by the zeal of Bernie-sized federal authority, but tremble in the streets now that it has fallen in the hands of he who shouldn’t be mentioned (‘Calexit’ is the type of irony satirists have a field day over, as highlighted by Edward Morrissey in his piece, “California Has Lost Its Mind”).

Instead of formulating a legislative response to fight Trump’s immigration orders they demand a ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ approach to the law.

Even though changing immigration law is a monumental task, proposing such a change would be a more respectable reaction than the emotional response to border walls and ICE raids.

Apply this to another area of the law and it unfolds quickly.

We all want police officers to follow the law when carrying out search warrants or routine traffic stops.

In what universe would it be suitable for them to neglect the law?

By suggesting that we only follow some laws, the law-abiding argument no longer holds up.

On the constitution, liberals love to cite it when fighting Trump but too often refuse to accept its other necessities.

Staging a sit-in is the first amendment at its finest but allowing a conservative speaker on campus is a bridge too far.

Perhaps the point of greatest separation from libertarians is the way the American left thinks in term of group identity.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is a leading American liberal. Photo Credit: Nick Fisher/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

This collectivist mindset erodes the focus on the individual which is essential in libertarianism.

Ask your average liberal – millennial or not – and they will most likely describe our current state as a battle between the marginalized and the majority, a society divided among the oppressed and the oppressors.

You are Black, White, Latinx, Muslim, Evangelical, Straight, Gay, Cis or non-Cis, etc.

It’s not you who matters, it’s the group that matters.

This way of thinking appoints all of its resources towards the ‘common good’, a utilitarian goal but one that can easily lead to a starvation for freedom.

The individual becomes relegated to serfdom, pleading for liberties to the group or the state.

I have a hard time believing libertarians and liberals can unite for a common purpose to stop Trump.

Their missions are polar opposites, at times antithetical to the very existence of the other.

It is commonly thought that liberals and libertarians are very similar in their political leanings, but libertarians are simply more frugal with money.

This is a complete understatement of the fundamental differences by which these sides view the world and societal order.

Even if, hypothetically, these two did join forces to take down the President, there aren’t many avenues go down.

Impeachment would lead to Vice President Mike Pence stepping in, someone who libertarians and liberals aren’t too fond of either, or a 2020 defeat, which leaves four years minus a few months left for Trump in the White House.

Some fantasized outcome other than these, as unimaginable as I think it is, would require a serious rebuilding period with the victors sharing the spoils.

As the famous axiom of former Secretary of State Colin Powell (And Pottery Barn) goes, “if you break it, you own it”.

Libertarians and liberals would have a nation-sized divorce on their hands.

As they would try to divide up the assets, their quarrels would become insurmountable.

Unless the Senate Republicans buy into the theory that Trump is a Russian puppet, the Donald is here to stay.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Should Everyone be Automatically Registered to Vote?

Voting was such a hot topic on campus this past fall.

Obviously from the Hillary v. Trump election but I think on a deeper level too.

Voting comes with a certain pride and a feeling of hope of being heard.

I know, I know!

It sounds ridiculous, but think about it.

I go to school at UNC Charlotte.

Currently UNC Charlotte is made up of 17% African-American students, 48% female students, and 41% who are considered low income students.

All are less than the majority on campus and throughout history, these groups have faced some time of oppression when it comes to voting.

It took time and a great amount of push-back to gain suffrage for all of these groups.

So now, for the pressing question: Should Everyone be Automatically Registered to Vote?

In my opinion, everyone should not be automatically registered to vote.

Voting is a guaranteed right for us now, but it was not always guaranteed and therefore should not be taken for granted.

I myself worked for a politician during his re-election and during a presidential election year and was not registered to vote.

Not to mention, I am a political science major.

I kept making excuses for why I was not registered yet.

For a while it worked but eventually I had to come to the reality of the matter.

The whole time I was convinced that I was making the executive decision to not register but really, it was that I clearly was not mature or responsible enough to vote for our leaders.

I am thankful I could not vote at that time, because I would not have made the most informed decision.

Yet, if I were automatically registered then someone as apathetic as I could still be able to cast my vote last-minute and without any thought.

Thankfully, because I was not wholly convinced on the importance of my vote, my laziness prevailed and I did not want to take the time to register.

Finally, I had an epiphany and realized what a difference voting vs not voting would mean personally for me personally.

Getting to register was the validation to myself that I was growing up and it symbolized a commitment to myself and society to become informed and cast a vote that counts.

Voting is our right, but we should have some initiative to receive this.

If those before us worked so tirelessly to gain suffrage then we can take a little time to fill out our personal information to register to exercise this right.

When you work, even just a little bit for it there is this pride in knowing your vote is unique to whatever you believe no matter what authorities or anyone else thinks and you earned it.

How freeing and liberating is that?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

This is an opinion piece. It is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of RISE NEWS. 

Cover Photo Credit: Joe Crawford/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Should We Let The Nation-State Die In The Middle East?

When you look at a map of the Middle East today, what you are seeing is something artificial.

The borders that define these states were not drawn up by local or regional leaders, but instead by Britain and France following World War One.

In an agreement known as the Sykes-Picot System, these borders, often made with little regard for ethno-religious differences, forced the creation of internally fragmented states with groups often in opposition to one another forced to live side by side.

Many have argued that these artificial boundaries and the European imposed version of the nation-state have been flashpoints of conflict within the region for decades, most recently embodied by the Syrian Civil War.

What would happen then if we allowed some of these artificially constructed states to simply dissolve and be replaced by smaller versions formed along ethnic lines?

Is that something that should be done, and could it usher in the peace and stability that so many long for?

Reality meets the map

There are currently several ethnically charged independence movements at play in the Middle East, the most widely known is that of the Kurds.

The Kurds are the third largest ethnic group in the world without a state and are split up among Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq where they maintain a high degree of autonomy, even issuing their own visas for example.

Other groups fighting for greater autonomy and self-governance include the Balochs in Pakistan, the Berbers in Northern Africa, and the Palestinians along the West Bank, who have yet to be official recognized as a state by the UN.

Aside from independence movements, ethnic conflict within the Middle East also takes the form of internal power struggles.

This is the case in Syria where the conflict is sectarian in nature, but doesn’t resemble a genuine effort toward greater autonomy or self-governance among the individual groups fighting.

A map of the Middle East from 1925. Photo Credit: Gabriel/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Instead, it’s multiple groups vying for power over one another within a defined system; the Alawite minority led by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad fighting Sunni factions and the western backed Free Syrian Army for control of the country.

Given the widespread nature of these conflicts, it seems that the idea of a secular European style nation-state being able to keep the peace among various groups has failed to achieve any sort of meaningful stability.

It may be the case that this system simply does not work when applied outside of Europe.

With the last hundred years dominated by civil wars from Lebanon, to Syria, to Yemen, and Iraq, and with insurgencies in Palestine, Turkey, and Afghanistan, the nation-state system is one that lends itself to either outright failure or harsh authoritarianism to maintain order.

States in the Middle East can now be classified into two groups, those that have through strong authoritarianism been able adapt to the artificial structure, and those that have descended into sectarian violence.

The nations of Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan represent Middle Eastern nations that have, though a dense power structure, incorporated elements of the local culture and religion to build up a sense of national identity that transcends tribal relations.

This was made easy in these regions by the fact that the ethnic division were far less apparent than what we see in Syria or Iraq.

In Egypt and Iran for example, both regions have a strong majority ethnic group, Egyptian and Persian, with a rich history to build off.

In Syria and Iraq, the opposite is true.

The countries could be split almost evenly.

Here, there is no dominate group that embodies the region, and thus, attempts to mimic the authoritarianism that has seen some success elsewhere, has only divulged into a near continual cycle of violence.

British Red Arrows fly over Kuwait City in 2013. Photo Credit: Defence Images/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

In these instances, if we want to see an end to conflict, the old borders must be done away with.

We must abandon the old notion of the nation-state as we know it in the Middle East as it has caused widespread death and destruction.

Instead, we should allow smaller states along ethnic lines to spring up and establish a form of governance that fits with their culture.

Until this is achieved, we will continue to see civil wars and insurgencies throughout the region.

The Syrian Civil War has dragged on now for six years, but the Kurds have been in conflict with Turkey for 38 years, and Boloch nationalists in Pakistan have been fighting for independence now since the 1940s!

Conflicts like these won’t end until these ethnic groups are granted their own states.

It is imperative that the West support efforts to see these false states properly re-envisioned and cease polices of reluctance.

In order for such a transition to what many have called “The New Middle East” to take place, there must be a paradigm shift, both in the Middle East and the West.

The idea of the Kurds being granted independence or the resolution of the ISIS problem are both major events that could trigger such a rethinking of the current structure.

If these events were to happen, and we began to see more efforts to divide the old Middle Eastern States into new smaller ones, what then would be the consequences?

The transition would likely follow a similar progression to what we’ve seen in Europe.

Present day Europe with NATO and the EU is all buddy-buddy now, but it didn’t happen overnight or without conflict.

The Netherlands had to fight Spain, Ireland fought Britain, Greece broke off from the Ottomans, Austria-Hungary split up, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Yugoslavia became seven different states.

Oh and there were scores of conflicts that spanned the continent and the centuries.

The lasting peace that Europe has been able to achieve following the resolution of these ethnically based conflicts has not come without a price and the Middle East will likely follow a similar progression should the map be redrawn.

The old order won’t simply give up power, and the prospect of new states raises question for existing ones.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the Syrian Civil War because of Assad’s refusal to give up power. Photo Credit: Beshr Abdulhadi/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The formation of Kurdistan, which is looking increasingly possible given the support they’ve received in the fight against ISIS and the weakened state of Iraq, will certainly make Turkey nervous.

Will the 15 million ethnic Kurds living in Eastern Anatolia simply pack up their bags and leave their homes for the new nation, or will they be inspired to redouble efforts at independence within Turkey?

These are questions the Turkish government must ask itself and construct policy around.

This is the area where the West can take on a crucial role in the transition.

Western nations can help aid the development of a new Middle East by working to reduce the severity of conflicts that may arise, providing diplomatic support to the new nations, applying pressure to old ones, curbing human rights abuses, and respecting the right of self-determination.

As a leading cause of the current situation, Western nations maintain an obligation to aid the region in such ways.

Currently, major Western powers, such as the U.S., France, and Great Britain, remain reluctant to see the Middle East broken up, instead continuing to support failing governments and interfering with local politics.

Given the amount of influence they maintain in the region, this must change to make the possibility of new states surviving on their own a reality.

The damage of imperialism has definitely been done, and it will take a long time to reverse it.

What is certain though is that the Middle East must change.

It is time for the old structure to be cast off and re-envisioned in a way that takes into account the sheer diversity of the region and addresses the causes of sectarian violence.

Cover Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Most Important Thing I Learned In SGA

There are two ways by which something can spread.

The first is by darkness.

It is by meeting others with the same hostility that they have met you with.

Fighting fire with fire, if you will.

The second way is by light.

It is greeting every person with a smile and genuine happiness despite the fact that they might have no interest in what you are saying or what you stand for.

There are endless opportunities offered by SGA.

The positions that I was lucky enough to serve in have proven to me that you can do as much as you wish to if you are willing to put in the work.

That; however, is not the big lesson behind running for an SGA office.

The most important thing is how you earn your votes and gain your supporters.

I learned the importance of this on the very first day of active campaigning when I ran for office as a freshman.

I was very eager to get my name out to people across campus and to talk with other students about our campaign’s goals for the future.

The students; however, were not always as eager to stop and talk to us.

Many times people put in headphones and walked passed without giving us a second thought.

Photo Credit: Jen Burleigh

It began to make me feel like I was doing something wrong.

While there were plenty of people stopping to talk to me who were more than interested in what I had to say, I was still insecure about those who ignored me when I tried to reach out to them.

There was another campaign member who was facing the same struggle and made a comment about how he wanted to reply to them with the same disregard as they had shown us.

Without thinking I told him, “I’m just going to be really nice to them.”

And that is what I did.

With every person that walked by I smiled at them and wished them all a good day, especially when they looked like they were exhausted or all-around defeated.

I focused more on them than I did on the campaign and I just started talking to them.

It took longer to get around to my point, but in the end, they were able to get a few things off their chests and I got the opportunity to tell them how our campaign could potentially help them in the future.

The changes in people’s responses were almost immediate.

Photo Credit: Jen Burleigh

I stopped telling them about what I was planning on doing and starting asking them what I could be doing.

I took the happiness and excitement that I had and channeled into making them happier in the end.

It would have been easy to disregard every person who disregarded me but if I did that then no one wins.

I don’t get to share my message and they continue on with whatever struggles that they are facing.

That’s why I learned to be better.

I learned to recognize their dark clouds and I learned to help them to find their light.

No one will ever fully understand what someone else is going through so the least that we can do is try to make it better instead of worse.

I made my active campaign time matter because of this and I led with the light that I had within me rather than returning the disinterest that I was occasionally faced with.

I learned to ask, “How can I help?” rather than, “Let me tell you[…]” and people actually responded.

It didn’t take long for people noticed this new found approach to getting students’ attention.

Before long, I was known as ‘the girl one who could talk to anybody’ and a ‘light’ in the campaign.

For me, that was a success.

I built up my recognition through kindness rather than coldness and I became approachable to those around me.

This has followed me throughout every leadership role that I have taken on and will continue to follow me into the future.

So when you make your way into SGA remember that a little dose of kindness and understanding can go much farther than the immediate end that comes from turning your back.

Be open with your peers and help them.

Be the one to ask what you can do because you’ll quickly find that many people are in need of a helping hand.

If you do this then you can be one of the good ones who spreads light among the dark.

You can make a difference in your position with people who support you and trust you because you helped them get through their rough patch.

You helped them to be better and through that you became better.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: LSU Student Government/ Facebook

The Mainstream Media Is Starting To Win Back The Trust Of Liberals

Have a conversation with a handful of Americans and you will quickly discover that they don’t agree on much.

But as of recently, many Americans (and even foreigners) have come to the consensus that the mainstream media is failing at its job and some have gone as far as to treat it as the enemy.

Ask a conservative, and you will hear that CNN is “fake news”.

Ask a liberal, and you’ll hear that the mainstream media’s been bought out by the interests of billionaires and multinational corporations.

Ask an Israeli and she will say that the American media treats Israel as the aggressor in the Middle East.

Ask a Palestinian and he will say that the American media is far too sympathetic to Israel.

But as I thought more about this, this common narrative about the media is strikingly paradoxical.

If the mainstream media continues to write pieces and broadcast news, then it is clearly supported as a necessary and important source of information by the bulk of American society.

Yet it seems to be the easy target for all sides to pick on.

So it attempting to revise this false indictment of the media, I thought about the stated premise of the media, to report and inform the public on events as they occur.

However I realized that this simple task has often been convoluted, for two reasons.

One, because in the current political climate, the information presented by cultural and institutional authorities for the media to report out is not reflective of the truth.

In these cases, the media is left with few options, as reporting on reality is no longer consistent with reporting on the presented reality.

Secondly, the media has traditionally functioned with a certain structure that has now become particularly vulnerable to manipulation.

This has made it even more difficult to confront falsified information, a problem that has become acute as liberals attempt to confront the rhetoric and posturing of conservatives, who currently dominate the government in numbers.

Photo Credit: Esther Vargas/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Generally speaking, mainstream media rarely denies airtime to advisors in President Trump’s administration.

They are viewed as trusted authority figures that give the public greater insight into the wishes and policy positions of the president.

Perhaps Trump’s most recognized advisor, Kellyanne Conway has appeared frequently on TV to do interviews.

But she has been much more of a distraction than an illuminating agent.

She runs the clock on interviewers, speaking around criticisms of Trump.

She refuses to answer interviewers’ questions, instead, picking out a central word in the question that she can use to promote ideas that paint Trump in favorable light.

This answering structure confuses audiences, while simultaneously making it appear as if she is answering questions.

Worse of all, she has proven to lack credibility, reinterpreting and changing positions to portray a false image of Trump’s administration.

Following Kellyanne Conway’s reference to the non-existent Bowling Green Massacre, CNN placed a temporary ban on Conway, turning her down for the Sunday “State of the Union” public affairs show.

Later, they reiterated their position, citing their concerns about Conway’s credibility.

These are essential steps for the liberals and even people of all political affiliations to take to confront conservative falsehoods and distortions of the truth.

The mainstream media has also hit difficulties with the content of conservative sources.

Traditionally, representatives of the media avoid using the word “lie”.

In an enlightening article by Philip Bump, a correspondent for The Washington Post, Bump discusses the difficulties associated with confronting a lie by Donald Trump or others in his administration through the media.

First, according to Bump, reporters feel that the word “lie” carries a judgment of the intentions of the person telling the lie and because it is difficult to pin down intent, media outlets are hesitant to go as far as to call something a “lie”.

Secondly, there is a general social expectation that members of the media are polite towards their subjects of reporting, especially in person.

Asking difficult questions to reveal inconsistencies, to repeat questions that are not answered and to outright call out lies are not accepted as typically polite behavior on the part of the media, so when members of the media are confronted with falsehood and unanswered questions, push back is viewed as overly aggressive, while yielding simply allows for a reiteration of inaccurate information.

Thirdly, these media outlets want to maintain the trust of their readership and the risk of the making an accusation as strong as suggesting a person of authority is “lying” is far too great.

Even if a media outlet has concluded that something is inaccurate with the information they have access to, the cost of being wrong in light of potentially hidden information is too dangerous, as it harms the media’s reputation even further, providing more evidence to the Trump administration that the media has an anti-Trump agenda and delegitimizing its future reporting.

Hence, it is often much easier for the media to repeat what has been presented as fact instead of addressing its dissonance from truth.

However, recently, some TV hosts and journalists have begun to confront these false facts. Dan Barry of The New York Times wrote an article explaining the importance of “calling a lie a lie”.

NBC’s Chuck Todd boldly confronted Conway in interview, exclaiming that “Alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods!”

This breaking from previous hesitancies has restored the trust of liberals in the role of the media, while simultaneously fueling the fire of Trump’s “fake news” claims, supported by some conservatives.

But from a more removed perspective, this newfound strategy is necessary, not just for liberals confronting conservatives through the media, but also for the sake of maintaining a basic journalistic standard.

A large part of the distrust in media originates from a casual treatment as truth as entirely relative, which fosters public ignorance and a pseudo-reality of disinformation.

The media should adhere to a far more discerning view of the truth, to preserve liberal dissent in a conservative government and to work towards a greater pursuit of truthful information, regardless its affiliation.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: hannesdesmet/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Could Oprah Be Elected President?

I’d like to say celebrate it with a HUGE, YES!

Oprah is one of the most successful moguls of our time.

A self made billionaire who did it all without her daddy’s money.

She’s an icon who has great sway over millions of people across the country, especially in areas where Democrats performed poorly in 2016.

Some even say she’s the reason why Barack Obama became President.

A ubiquitous celebrity with a successful business record?

Sounds like the perfect person to take down Donald Trump in 2020.

But while it sounds like a good idea, there are reasons why it probably will never happen.

We are the same society who lets a rapist off with a slap on the wrist because he also swam on the Stanford swim team.

Then there’s the President.

President Trump had 20+ allegations of sexual assault come out while he was running to be president.

Many people in this country did not care.

America voted for a man with dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct because Hillary Clinton had a private email server.

It is just harder to do it as a woman in this country.

Oprah is everything Trump lied about being, but it still wouldn’t be enough. Photo Credit: aphrodite-in-nyc/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

So the American people spoke and chose the person who has the characteristics and personality traits of a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, homophobe, etc.

So when I’m asked if I think Oprah could ever be president I unfortunately have to think that we as a country have a problem with women in powerful positions.

Not to mention black women in positions of power.

Remember how long it took to confirm Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General?

The United States is not ready to be blessed by Oprah.

She’s a humanitarian who actually gives a great deal to charity unlike our current President who just pretends to.

The country has spoken on how qualified one must be to be President and Oprah certainly fits the new qualifications.

Of course anyone does as long as they were on a middling reality show and are willing to “grab it”.

Many people spoke up and made it very clear they did not like President Barack Obama, of course what specifically they didn’t like about him was never made clear.

The moment President Trump was inaugurated it was clear that President Obama’s blackness was the problem greatly affecting our nation.

The moment he was sworn in “we took our country back” and America became great again.

In their eyes, Obama could never be truly American due to his blackness.

Even for those who don’t take it that far, the idea that Trump and Obama have been treated equally is laughable.

The Trump administration has what is an alarming amount of ties to Russia- not a conspiracy but a fact.

“Fired up and ready to O?” Ok, on second thought, that probably won’t work as a slogan. Photo Credit: aphrodite-in-nyc/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Had this been President Obama he would have been impeached already, and have had 20 different investigations on his involvement with Russia.

So it doesn’t take much stretching to say that Hillary Clinton lost because she was not the right gender for the job, and President Obama’s so called horrific job was due to him being a black man.

So unfortunately, America is not ready for an African-American female president- not even one who was forged in the same 1980s daytime television/ tabloid milieu as the current White House occupant.

The double standard has proven itself true too many times in the past few years for us to ignore it.

Someday, hopefully in our lifetime we are able to see that diversity siting in the oval office.

But it won’t be in 2020.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Alan Light/ Flickr (CC By 2.00

Why America Really Needs A New “West Wing”

As chaos, deceit and lies are engulfing the White house, the sanctum sanctorum of American democracy; I find myself increasingly pining for the “cartoonishly optimistic” days of the Bartlet administration on my TV screen.

I watch the reruns of West Wing with a sense of nostalgia, where the White House staffers would do the “walk and talk” with charge, meet at the Oval Office with a distinguished President, and give press briefings that were transparent and not a battle ground for the war against media.

Watching West Wing nowadays is painful.

The Trump administration has destroyed the prestige of working at the White House.

The well- beloved CJ Cregg, who was known for her astute mind and performance of “The Jackal”, has been replaced in reality with the aggressive and dull Sean Spicer, whose lexicon leaves a lot to be desired.

Leo McGarry, the man who always stood behind President Bartlet, who always viewed everything with benevolent pragmatism, has been replaced with Reince Preibus, a man who believes that defensiveness is the shield that he must carry and not necessarily political acumen or sensitivity.

It is almost like the Trump administration is trying to be the total opposite of what idealists loved about West Wing.

For almost a decade Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing mesmerized the American psyche; depicting American democracy’s morals, values and diplomatic stance in the world, albeit with a few instances of infamy, all along having a scholarly president at the helm of affairs.

With his penchant for classical music, literature and finer sensibilities in life, President Bartlet and his team exuded a sense of fairness, liberalism and intellectualism that acted as a panacea for the troubled times of the Bush administration.

The fictitious West Wing gave all Democrats a ray of hope.

Sam, we need you right now.

The President’s failure to disclose his physical ailment was tantamount to a big scandal!

It would probably hardly earn a mention when compared to the missteps of Trump and his team.

What do we do now?

The country is split along party lines.

The chaos is palpable.

Intellectualism has been relegated to a secondary place.

The disregard for traditional institutions of democracy, including its fourth pillar known as the free press, is too blatant.

We need an escape from reality.

This time, we need an even bigger flight of imagination.

At the same time however, something too idealistic might be painful to watch amidst a sense of crumbling political values and lack of accountability displayed by the current administration.

We need a show that encompasses “American values”, one that believes in intellectualism, respect and equality and yet portrays the reality with sincerity.

In the last season of West Wing, Republican nominee Arnold Vinick and Democratic nominee Matt Santos were fighting for the presidency.

Their election season was intense, their campaigns were on full throttle; but throughout the entire political discourse they remained civil.

Do you remember when we thought this was a tough debate?

They fought on the basis of substantive arguments, not through personal attacks and the spread of abhorrent lies.

In fact, both candidates found mud-slinging repulsive, and they never launched any attacks that would defame their opponent.

Granted that at the end of the day, this election wasn’t real, and these campaigns were all part of Aaron Sorkin and Lawrence O’Donnell’s imagination, but they remind us that civility is not unnatural, that it should be the norm.

Shows such as Scandal and Designated Survivor do an excellent job in commanding the attention of their audience for the allotted one hour block they are given, but they are meant to act as a source of excitement and drama.

Scandal is a somewhat dystopian depiction of the White House, where corruption, bribery and murders are rampant.

It’s a political drama in some aspects, but it doesn’t do the job of alleviating the nerves of those who are already flustered by the Trump Administration.

I personally love West Wing.

The fast paced dialogue, sharp analysis and wit of the show are all very addictive.

There are days when I watch four episodes in a row, just to soak up the intense and realistic depiction of what goes on in the White House.

West Wing is unique because it shows the camaraderie of Presidents and political leaders despite partisanship and politics.

It romanticizes the White House and its occupants.

When the reality is filled with mundanity and crudity and when there is an obvious attempt at breaking away even from the age old tradition of honoring one’s predecessor; the only escape can come from the TV screen, when we can turn off CNN and indulge in the pure extravaganza of wishful thinking!

The country deserves and needs an updated, idealistic, version of this show so we can all make it through the next four years.

So help us Aaron Sorkin, you’re our only hope.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

How Can A High School Democrat Resist Trump’s Agenda?

President Donald Trump has wasted little time in trying to get his ambitious agenda enacted into law.

Responding to fierce anti-globalism sentiments, he railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the campaign trail, a deal lobbied for by former president Obama that would significantly lower barriers to trade.

As one of his first executive actions on the job, he officially pulled the U.S out of the deal.

A Carrier air-conditioner production plant, which was in danger of being closed and moved to Mexico at a cheaper cost to the company, remained in Indiana.

Trump, who had been criticizing Carrier’s decision and lobbied the company to the contrary, took credit for the decision, which saved hundreds of jobs.

Most leaders and Americans of varying political ideologies would be supportive of these new, tangible changes.

The TPP received criticism from all sides of the aisle for the economic sacrifices it made, and without the Carrier plant, a community would be in economic catastrophe.

But the methods to achieve these ends were not without sacrifices themselves.

Without a strong trade deal, and especially with the strong tariffs that Trump has continued to support, America may fall behind in international competition.

And the Carrier plant success, which was purportedly achieved with a mix of tax incentives and contract threats, may be the beginning in a long line of crony capitalism in essence, money is given to already wealthy corporations rather than put to creating more efficient jobs.

Instead of working to strengthen communities, it seems as though some of President Trump’s first presidential actions have simply been poor economic choices.

In fact, however, the full picture of his time so far in office does not stop there.

Through a series of economic and social decisions he has weakened the power of communities in the face of capitalism.

Immigration raids have been ordered to increase, aggressively, not to mention the implementation of plans to build a border wall.

The ban on immigrants and refugees from 7 predominantly muslim countries, while reversed by the courts, also target to target and minimize important, American, communities.

The de-regulation of infrastructure projects like the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipeline open up vulnerable areas to potential environmental damage, and the freezing of federal workforce hirings is especially destructive for communities with minorities or people of color, both of which groups make up a large portion of the federal workforce.

The continued repeal process of the Affordable Care Act only serves to limit the medical care of working-class Americans, including the many men and women who voted for him. But all of these harmful executive actions also serve to overshadow what could be done, like working to strengthen labor laws, broaden environmental protections, fight climate change, invest in better job training, reform the justice system, all of which would build, rebuild, or protect communities in danger of flooding, subject to unjust sentencing, and still recovering from the economic recession.

President Trump criticizes America’s involvement in the world, claiming that his administration’s policies, in the classically simple slogan, support America First.

But even if closing America off to the rest of the world, and giving American businesses free rein strengthens rigid borders and gives the stock market a momentary boost, those policies also serve to destroy the communities that have, and will, define our country as a whole.

Facing this terrifying moment in U.S history as someone who considers themselves an activist, I am scared.

My state government is progressive and powerful, as are my elected officials on the national stage, and I know that organized political voices, in marches or letter writing campaigns, can make a difference.

But the election was in November, and in this country, that’s when democracy is in action- unless you’re donating money, the opportunity to make a direct, visible difference in your government before and during elections, through grassroots organizing and the simple act of voting.

Passionate leaders in congress may be able to resist the worst of Trump’s nominees and initiatives, and state leaders will have some room to resist, and enact strong legislation of their own.

But for the most past, Trump is in the driver’s seat at the federal level, and will be for the next two years, at the least.

So what do I do?

The concept of the American community is being attacked, and from the highest of levels. Even when unified, successful resistance pushes back against what must not be done, it fails to accomplish what must.

For the next year and a half, leading up to midterms and my graduation of high school, I’ve decided that I’m going to try and fight for my community.

Political organizing will be a crucial part of my community work.

Registering and pre-registering voters, the latter possible only recently in Massachusetts, is one of the best ways to get people involved and prepare for the strongest possible electoral impact.

Engagement in other ways, too, even networking, finds and retains potential activists who become more and more important as election day nears.

Local advocacy, manifested for my state group of young activists, the Massachusetts High School Democrats in letter writing campaigns, gets citizens and students excited about political issues and engaged with their representatives.

All of this political activity has the ability to make actual differences in local, state and even national government, when elections roll around.

But I’ve been thinking about settlement houses, too, the progressive-era community centers which sought to fit the community’s needs, from alleviating poverty, to education, to political mobilization.

Not only were they successful in giving aid to the people who needed it, but they unified neighborhood voices to fight for political issues when the moment demanded it.

In the face of a hostile, incompetent, unjust administration, my goal is not just to organize a political resistance, but to try and help fit my community’s needs.

It will be nowhere near simple, and the projects that I’ve envisioned and begun to work on, like a composting project and a school program advocating historical awareness, are also fairly small in scale.

I know that in the midst of our present political turmoil, I didn’t attend a single GSA meeting at my school.

The scale of the club is minor, but the power that even a single person can bring to the group is incredible. Instead, I organized.

That, too, was meaningful- giving politically passionate people an outlet is gratifying and made a small political difference.

But after Massachusetts High School Democrats canvassed and organized, making trips up to New Hampshire for Senator Hassan and through the phone lines to senators advocating against Senator DeVos, and my community is still threatened or limited by a lack of political change, I’m altering my strategy.

Political revolutions are good, but they don’t just come when we get angry.

Tangible community initiatives will help to fix the problems that we’re advocating about, and will help prepare our communities when it’s time to mobilize politically.

Before we can expect political change, we have to make community change.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: High School Democrats of America/ Facebook

Does the Philippines Have A Dictator Now?

The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has become an internationally known figure in a remarkably short amount of time.

Oh course, so has Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

While only being in office for 253 days (as of March 10, 2017) Duterte has become an alarmingly important figure in global politics due to his awful human rights record and a penchant for bucking the status quo.

Some, including Duterte himself, have even started calling him by a new name- dictator.

Duterte was recently quoted as saying, “I will be a dictator against all bad guys, evil, I will do it at the cost of my position or my life. I won’t stop. That’s a solemn commitment.”

The world should probably start listening to him.

Human Rights Watch, an American-founded international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, believes that Duterte may have committed crimes against humanity by, “inciting killings during his bloody antidrug campaign.”

Crimes against humanity aren’t something to scoff at, and it certainly isn’t something to take lightly.

Other high-profile political people who have been indicted for crimes against humanity include the now dead Muammar Gaddafi, and Bashar al-Assad, the current President of war-torn Syria.

Duterte meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016.

Some people might look at what Duterte is doing for his country as an act of patriotism.

His stated goal is to rid his country of drug lords, their dealers, and anyone who is addicted to drugs.

Of course he is not creating massive amounts of new treatment facilities or encouraging other public health fixes, instead he is literally telling people to murder those who abuse drugs.

So has he already crossed the line from democratically elected leader to dictator?

The answer is obviously yes.

No one would argue against the fact that drugs and the trafficking of drugs are a global issue that has had disastrous ramifications for so many communities, but Duterte’s policy of slaughtering his own people in the name of reform cannot be tolerated by the people of the Philippines or the international community.

In the short time span of Duterte’s presidency, thousands of people have been killed by police or vigilantes, and the killings will only continue if no one is willing to speak up and demand a stop to an unjust judicial system.

The reason that many developing countries look to the west for a guiding hand in the building of their countries is for our rule of law.

A belief that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of justice.

Photo Credit: Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The people of the Philippines are not being given this fundamental human right, and they are suffering in silence.

The principle of human rights is universal, and it is the basis for all democracies.

What Duterte, a democratically elected official, has done is spit in the face of democracy.

He has turned around and made the Philippines his own personal killing field, and “his people” are the targets.

The saddest part about the current situation in the Philippines is that by Philippine law, the president has immunity from prosecution while in office.

What this means to the rest of the world is that it is now our solemn duty to hold Duterte and his cronies responsible for their systematic attack against the civilian population.

The International Criminal Court and the U.N. have an obligation to launch an expedient investigation into this matter and stop these policies from continuing.

How many more people must die from extrajudicial killings before the rest of the world opens their eyes and sees Rodrigo Duterte for what he truly is: a malicious dictator?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

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