What we're fighting against
I've long thought that one of the most important problems facing the progressive movement in the United States is the lack of progressive infrastructure. Many of us have had long conversations online and offline about the topic and one of the key problems with this lack of infrastructure is the lack of information that is shared with the masses. You talk to any rank-and-file movement conservative and they have all of the talking points that the highest operatives in the Republican party, corporate America, and conservative media have. The average right-winger says EXACTLY the same thing that the average right-wing leader says. It's scary how effective their system for disseminating information is.
The same thing obviously can't be said for the left. We spend a lot less money on gathering and getting out information to our friends, family and allies. And, of course, leftists are a lot less likely to accept the talking points of our leaders and repeat them without question. That being said, we need to somehow recreate the information dissemination infrastructure of the right, so that liberals and progressives at least have access to the vast amount of facts, evidence and argumentation that exists to refute the right wing, so that we know where to go when we need to counter that argument from a commenter or co-worker and so that we know how to push the right message in advance, so that the conservatives are the ones playing defense instead of us. As long as we are playing defense, we will continue to lose the battle for ideas and information.
Maybe the reason that I'm so fixated on this concept, is that this infrastructure effectively existed when I first started participating in online politics. In the early days of widespread Internet access, a man named Steve Kangas did a ridiculous amount of work countering right-wing arguments online and providing neophyte liberals like myself with the tools we needed to fight the right. His website, Liberalism Resurgent, which was active until the time of his death in 1999, took on all of the sacred cows of conservatism and gave the counter-arguments and evidence for a vast array of common right-wing talking points, many of which are still in use today. He took on Ronald Reagan before he became the ultimate conservative deity, he called out the CIA for its record and he took on a massive list of conservative myths with evidence and reason. A limited table of contents for his site included:
Myths about democracy and the constitution
Myths about society, individualism and collectivism
Myths about abortion
Myths about affirmative action
Myths about The Bell Curve
Myths about Bill Clinton
Myths about Christian conservatism
Myths about crime
Myths about economics
Myths about the economic history
Myths about education
Myths about the environment
Myths about evolution
Myths about health care
Myths about inequality and poverty
Myths about liberalism and leftism
Myths about science and common sense
Myths about taxes
Myths about welfare
A significant amount of the information on his site is still relevant and makes sense now. A lot of it is now out-of-date, though, even if it is still true.
And there are a plethora of researchers, think tanks and intellectuals on the left that are churning out work like this today. Furthermore there is an army of people coming up with the new talking points and conversation approaches for the issues of importance that have risen since then. The problem is that too much of this information isn't getting into the hands of the average liberal or progressive. So, I'm hoping that this is the first in a series of posts, the Progressive Information Project, that will help expose this information to wider audiences, so that more and more of our allies, friends, family and co-workers know the facts about politics, government, the economy, etc. The right has risen to its place of power and prominence because of its mastery of information and rhetoric. We can do better, since we happen to be both smarter and more accurate than they are.
If you know of a resource that should be featured in this series -- a book, movie, web video, web site, etc. -- e-mail me at email@example.com and I'll check it out...