On The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Lauren Duca
On The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Lauren Duca
Well, playing against type,
Teen Vogue magazine has become a major voice in the
anti-Trump resistance that’s been led by columnist Lauren
Duca. I spoke to her from New York and asked her what
exactly she thinks the threat
Lauren Duca: I think the greatest threat to our country right now is our president. The threat is an undermining of democracy – of the right of the press, of the right for citizens to be fully informed, and their participation in democracy. I think that the biggest threat is the way that the legitimacy of journalism is being challenged. Recently the president came out against the First Amendment. I’m not really sure what his intentions were with that quote, but overall, there’s this kind of fear mongering around ‘fake news’, and part of our problem is actual fake stories, but, beyond that, it’s this perception that you can decide what is true based on what you feel, and the way that facts have been taken from us, the way we’ve been deceived repeatedly by the president, who has lied literally thousands of times, since taking office.
There are a couple of things there that I want to talk about. The first one being this idea that he is a propaganda machine – that’s the allegation in respect of him – throwing out false information, hundreds of tweets, thousands of tweets, and in other environments too. So you talk about the Fourth Estate and what their role is, how does the media combat that when he tells people that the media is ‘fake news’ and a whole bunch of people would agree with him. So how do you fight that?
I think that journalism as an industry has failed in the sense that it hasn’t adequately communicated that its role is to empower citizens with information, that its first and foremost allegiance needs to be to its citizens, and I think there’s a lot of confusion about what the purpose of a journalist is. We hear so much about the ‘lying liberal media’, and ideas about both sides and equal times. The truth is not a math equation. We need to have objectivity of method, and be transparent about how we’re presenting facts, be clear with our audiences about why we’ve chosen to give things the way that we’re given them – why we’ve used anonymous sources in certain cases, why we’ve provided certain statistics, being really clear about the editorial decision making within the articles themselves, not in an editorial piece released days later. I think creating things that are accessible, easy to understand and trusting readings, but also meeting them at their level and doing the works of that political writing is not alienating. So many of the stories coming out of this administration, you need to be five kinds of highly specialised lawyer to fully understand it. And I think another thing that political journalists need to do better is talking directly to the people and putting things into terms that they’re able to understand amid their busy and hectic lives. Politics shouldn’t have to be a full-time job. We should all be actively informed, and not just when we have a Disaster in Chief.
But when you talk about the fact that he is potentially America’s biggest threat to democracy, 63 million engaged in that process and voted for him. They voted for him. He is democratically elected. So how is that a threat to democracy?
The way that he was elected and what he’s doing in office are two different things. I think that the way he is abusing his power, the way he is abusing executive orders to hurl bombs in our culture war, and completely disrespecting the system of checks and balances, will have a real red alarm if he tries to fire special investigator Robert Muller, but what we actually, I think, this week have seen is the way the system does function. His trans military ban was shut down in the courts. We have Muller having updates in his investigation. These are the branches of government working to check the executive branch, and that is significant. At the same time, I think that my fellow countrymen need to be reminded that democracy is not a finished product. It is not something that was nicely sealed and finished when a bunch of white guys in wigs finished writing them up. We need to be involved and participate and stay informed, and contact our representatives, and, frankly, have a re-democratisation of our citizenry that is overdue and was still necessary in happier times under Obama and even George Bush beforehand. So I think that what Trump is doing to challenge democracy is undermining the level to which people are able to participate, challenging our understanding of the truth, and abusing his power and profiting from, frankly, the presidency in ways that we have never seen in the history of the United States.
Didn’t people know that that was what he was like beforehand? I mean, they heard him talking about – and I’m using his words when I say this – they knew he was saying things like about grabbing women’s pussies. People knew that before they voted for him, yet they still voted for him.
The great shame of our nation is that the things that people were willing to stomach in order to vote Donald Trump to office, and I think there were a lot of different motivations for that. There’s been a lot of coverage of who the people are who voted for Trump. My parents voted for Trump, and I think they would’ve voted for anything that ran as a Republican. There are all kinds of reasonings, but what I- I think the most concise way to put it is that he seems kind of like a CSI black light in a hotel room. All the gross white shit has been revealed now from his election – all of the bigotry and the sexism, the racism, the homophobia – that runs to the currents of American culture; the things that people are willing to stomach for political gains, especially the Republican Party. The GOP is usually complicit.
We’re almost out of time, but, very quickly, I’m quoting you here. You say, ‘The idea of total civility, in that everyone has to be polite, is bullshit.’ So in the context of Trump, what exactly are you asking or giving people licence to do?
I think that there is a code of respectability about talking about politics. We’re told that it’s rude, that you have to be polite, that you have to respect and honour everyone’s views. I think that certainly we could all get a little bit better at having civil conversations, but I think that we need to reject the idea of being sweet and silent, and- I think we need to reject the idea of being sweet and silent, and we need to talk about politics, and we need to ruffle feathers and have the difficult conversations. I think that anybody that counts themselves among the resistance to Donald Trump needs to have those one-on-one conversations with the family members who maybe did vote for him, and fully understand what it means to fight for this country, to fight for a truer democracy and to fight for equity. Those personal connections – that is how grass root movements start, and how we can form communities and make change, so I hope that anybody who is invested in this moment will change the way they think about having political conversations, and politeness doesn’t have to be part of them, bravery does.
Well, I think you might’ve started a conversation here this morning. Thanks very much for joining us. Lauren Duca.
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