Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” its international Word of the Year for 2016, which means “[r]elating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Here’s hoping that in 2017, public opinion can swing back in favor of objective facts (although if the president’s approval rating is any indication, the majority of the country already knows that post-truth thinking is dangerous). The following are some resources for staying informed about the current administration and the 115th Congress, as well as ways to combat ignorance in a post-truth political climate.
Know the Jobs
It can be difficult to keep track of all of the people appointed to the new administration. This one’s a white supremacist, that one doesn’t believe in climate change science. This one doesn’t support public schools, that one spouts “alternative facts.” Can’t keep them straight? Head to Vox’s page of profiles to read about the new president’s appointees for the inner circle, White House operations, foreign policy, economic policy, law and law enforcement, energy and environment, and domestic policy.
Know the Bills
Countable is a free website and app for iOS and Android devices that “makes it quick and easy to understand the laws Congress is considering” by offering summaries of upcoming and active bills and articles on trending topics. You can use the Take Action buttons at the top of each article to contact your congressional representatives or share the article on social media. The editorial team aims to answer the following questions when summarizing legislation: “Who will be impacted? How much does it cost? What are the arguments for or against it?” Readers can vote on a piece of legislation, and their response is automatically sent to their congressional representatives. Bills are cataloged by issue, such as civil rights, the economy, or immigration, and each summary features a bill’s progress in Congress, users’ comments, and its sponsors in Congress, among other information.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) fights for “equal justice and equal opportunity” for all. On its Report a Hate Incident page, the public can submit an instance of harassment or intimidation they witness using the online form. This helps the SPLC monitor incidents from around the country.
Know the Facts
The Resistance Manual is a wiki designed to help the public challenge parts of the new president’s agenda they dislike by learning about the issues they affect. It proclaims, “Action begins with information.” Similar to Wikipedia, anyone can add to the manual or make changes (pending a review process). It features sections on the Affordable Care Act, immigration, LGBTQ+ equality, women’s rights, disability rights, and other policy issues, as well as “essential readings” on the history of resistance, a list of state and local government politics-related pages, and more.
In late January, several government agencies went rogue on Twitter when, according to Reuters, the new administration attempted “to muzzle federal climate change research and other science” and restrict how agencies disseminate information to the public. Time will tell whether their alternate Twitter accounts will stay active (some are run by current government employees, and some are run by supporters outside the agencies), but as of this writing, here are some of the federal agencies that are practicing resistance to what they see as unacceptable policies: @alt_fda, @AltNatParkSer, @altUSEPA, @RogueNASA, @Alt_CDC, @Alt_NIH, @altNOAA, @AltForestServ, and @altusda.
This article originally appeared as the We the People column “An Informed Citizenry” in the March 2017 issue of Information Today.