Episode 2 The
problem
with
Freedom

America loves freedom, but nobody can ever agree on what the fuck it means. But the one thing we can agree on — at least the half of us who aren’t getting our “facts” from Uncle Dickey’s Freedom Fighters Facebook group — is that our collective freedom is in real danger.

Keep scrolling to learn how we can (maybe? possibly? hopefully?) save our democracy.

Bye bye, democracy?

Americans don't agree on much these days, but one thing we do all know from our dads watching those creepy war documentaries on the History Channel is that freedom is not free. It requires sacrifice. It'd be wonderful if we could all share that load. But unfortunately a big chunk of us are too busy yelling about mask mandates and putting horse dewormer up our butts to focus on the most important thing: Our democracy is on a ventilator, and if we let it "do its own research" and can't resuscitate it we won't have any freedoms left to fight over.

In this episode we learned from journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa that there are three pillars we really have to uphold if we want to keep democracy from falling face-first into the dirt: Guardrails on technology, support of independent journalism, and civic engagement in communities.

You may have noticed that America's got some serious problems in all three of these areas! So if we want to start crab-walking away from authoritarianism, we need to start actively protecting these pillars from the daily onslaught of little attacks by those who want to consolidate their own power. We haven't been doing a great job of standing up to them so far, so we might wanna think about getting our collective act together before we find ourselves living in Trump's America 2.0: A Meta Facebook Production.

Leading the charge

A lie told a million times becomes a fact.

Maria Ressa is a journalist currently facing life in prison in the Philippines after investigating President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. She won a freaking Nobel Peace Prize and is a passionate and outspoken defender of truth. She’s the CEO of Rappler, a Filipino news organization she co-founded, and is also an absolutely delightful human. It’s well worth following her journey and continuing to support her as she fights for an independent and free press — for herself and journalists across the globe.

Follow Maria Ressa on Twitter

Fight for the facts

Misinformation is a massive threat to our democracy. The only real way to stop it is to force social media companies to make aggressive changes in how they do business. Look alive, Zuckerberg! Congress is now looking at regulating these platforms — and the recent testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen seems to have united both parties toward actually doing something. The question is what exactly we should do to stop it, and how long it might take. (Hint: years and years.)

Attacking the press is a classic move from the Dictator Manual, right up there with aggressive facial hair choices and wearing earth tones. Though the U.S. hasn’t yet reached the level where the government is jailing reporters for critical coverage or murdering them, in 2020, reporters in the U.S. faced a record number of attacks. A less robust media makes it harder to fight creeping authoritarianism and paves the way for fake news to run rampant. This is all very bad news for freedom!

Take action

When it comes to protecting the truth, ideally we’d all throw our phones into the sea (note: AppleCare does not recommend) and only read news created by independent journalists on old-fashioned paper. Short of that, the best thing we can do is to fight for strong regulations on social media platforms and to vigorously defend journalism. Here are a few of the organizations fighting on these fronts to get you started:

Committee to Protect Journalists

Freedom House

Electronic Frontier Foundation

WE KNOW, WE KNOW, BUT SERIOUSLY VOTE

We need our society to be civically engaged. All our panelists touched on this, but Francisco Marquez said it best: “Democracy dies with apathy.” So, if we want to keep democracy going, it’s on us to make sure that we’re actively participating in it. Clearly voting is the most basic way to do that. It's not a huge ask — we really only have to do it as often as a man changes his bedsheets — but so many people just can't be bothered.

There's also the issue of deeply restrictive (i.e. racist) voting laws, which disproportionately impact Black and brown communities in many states. Senate Republicans recently blocked a bill that'd establish federal standards for early and mail-in voting and make Election Day a national holiday. Democrats would have to take the controversial step of ending the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass it.

Take Action

In terms of strengthening civic engagement, there are of course a million small ways one could invest in their communities and get people more involved. But one of the most fundamental ways we can be engaged in our democracy is to vote. We're surely not the first to tell you voting matters, but there's a reason people keep harping on it: It's fuuuuuucking vital.

Securing voting rights is mostly a long, wonky, unsexy process that's done on a local level. But guess who needs help? Your community. So harness your inner Stacey Abrams and get to work. Join a get-out-the-vote effort in your area, find a group in your state that's trying to fight voter suppression, or volunteer as a poll worker. Posting an "I Voted" selfie is great, but an "I kicked voter suppression's racist ass to the curb" picture is really impressive.

There are several organizations out there working to address both voter suppression and voter participation, and they're a great place to start.

Fair Fight

Rock the Vote

Brennan Center for Justice

Funny Shit