The following is a letter that I sent to some friends, and I thought I would also share it with you.
Like you, I somewhat dread emails from friends or relatives asking for money for a good cause. And like you, I make hard, if not quite existential, choices whether “to give or not to give.” This email is an ask, but not for me personally. And to make matters a bit more complicated, it is for a contribution that is not tax deductible, or for a small purchase. It is for a crowdfunding campaign headed by Vanessa Otero, a patent attorney, with the goal of trying to make our country at least somewhat less polarized. You might not know Vanessa’s name, but you probably have seen her work. It is embodied, most notably, in what has emerged the viral media graphic. If you have not seen it, please click on the links below.
Vanessa and I met virtually about a year ago. This is when I initially stumbled upon the graphic. I immediately reached out to her, and although we have yet to meet in person, I now consider her a dear friend. She is a person of excellent judgment and wisdom beyond her years, and she is dedicated to a task that deeply matters to me: improving media literacy in an effort to counteract the constant struggle that has divided our nation in so many ways, namely the overwhelming tendency, exacerbated by social media, of sourcing information in ways that confirms biases rather than provides actual knowledge of past and current events.
I have written three blogposts on this project, and here are links to two of them:
The newest viral media graphic: https://www.blindspotblog.us/single-post/2018/09/13/The-Newest-Viral-Media-Graphic
The viral media graphic (with special thanks to Vanessa Otero): https://www.blindspotblog.us/home-1/category/Media-Quality-and-Bias
The final link announces what for me is truly an honor. Vanessa nvited me to join as a member of her Advisory Board, which I was pleased to do.
That announcement is here: https://www.blindspotblog.us/single-post/2018/10/28/Announcement-Joining-Advisory-Board-of-Ad-Fontes-Media
In this early stage, Vanessa is crowd sourcing with the modest goal of raising $50,000. She is now approximately one third of the way there. Unlike some such efforts, this one comes with some cool perks, such as mugs, maps, or stickers bearing images of the media graphic. The project is going to be in the form of a public benefit corporation, chartered in Colorado. This means that the endeavor is intended it to be sustainable and to fill a need in the market, or what you might think of as a much-needed public good. The listed crowdfunding prices are modest, and, of course, one can also donate in larger amounts or in whatever amount one wishes.
The campaign link is here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/media-bias-chart-the-next-level#/
I assure you that I will not personally profit from your contributions or purchases, that is, other than happily responding to Vanessa’s requests for some additional guidance as her project becomes more and more successful over time. Vanessa and I are both moderate liberals, or what some would call left-leaning, but not far left. Her board members, and our friends, reside across the political spectrum. What we all have in common is a firm commitment to ensuring that regardless of ideological views, people have better sources of information.
As I said at the start, I too dislike emails asking for money. And I certainly don’t think that this project is the panacea for what plagues us as a society. But I do think that it has the great potential to help, and thus is a move in the right direction. I also believe that this should matter to everyone. It is in that spirit that I’m sending this email your way.
This past week, with the single largest anti-Semitic attack in US history in Pittsburgh, and another shooting killing two African Americans, has been beyond tragic. (My reflections on the Pittsburgh shooting are here: https://www.blindspotblog.us/single-post/2018/10/28/The-Gossip-Pillow.) As I was driving home on Monday following a day of teaching, I found myself behind a vehicle displaying several bumper stickers. One said F*** Trump (all caps) and another bore a large swastika with an image bearing Trump and Hitler. As I think about where we are headed as a nation, I sometimes do wonder if perhaps Hamlet was asking the right question after all.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.