Hi PT. Let’s get to brass tacks, shall we? There was a litany of difficult news that came down last week. It was a tough week. It seems like every vulnerable group in the US took an ‘L’ in some way, shape, or form. This is to say nothing of the unrest in France, the continued strife in Ukraine, and of course the struggles of many, worldwide.
And so here in our community, as we often are, we were faced with a choice about how to react to what seem like insurmountable decisions that will undoubtedly make many things worse for many people in America. In the years I’ve been at the PT, we’ve stared down election nights, January 6 and its aftermath, the end of Roe vs. Wade, the deaths of heroes and icons. We’ve cheered unionization efforts, Black Lives Matters Protests, positive election results, and, perhaps most crucially, our own personal triumphs in jobs, in school, in our families, in our communities.
But this past Friday, the mods shut the PT down after multiple flags and many, many posts that reflected not just despair, but anger and vitriol, unfocused and toxic. It insulted the lived experience of those who live in the communities that were singled out for criticism (ie, region bashing). It moved out of political commentary and engaged the personal in hurtful ways. Looking through the comments, it was a slow slide into the kind of internet posting that this community has not only decried, but endeavored not to have. In our mod discussion we were shellshocked, confused, and then sad. It broke my heart, PT. I have been here for years, and..this broke my heart.
There is no question that the value of the PT is the opportunity it gives each and every one of us, every day, to check our privileges and perspectives. We represent the incredible variety of our lived experiences generously, and the value added to the news that others only see with an unfortunate flatness gains texture and urgency in ways that can help us navigate not only the world, but our own path through it. I want you to know that there is no way to put a price on this value, or its benefit; it makes us better people to imagine the lives of others with compassion. When I first came to the PT, and in my time on this thread, where I typically read every single post at least 3 days a week, this was the thing that drew me in, a thoughtful candle flicker in a dark space of zero sum political shitposting and silly bad faith arguments for performative upvotes.
The Clampost started because one of our community members asked what was going on, one day. And the lovely thing that happened was that one by one, reply by reply, people offered things. They were things that stuck out to them. Things that mattered. Things they thought one should know if one was interested in politics. Topics that had spurred conversation, that had taught us something, that had piqued our interest. And the strength, the marvel of it was that it was many pairs of hands giving this information (and sometimes giving the information over and over and over-the classic clam!). There was no question that this was something of value to our community, to those who maybe couldn’t engage for long periods during the day, or who didn’t necessarily want to weigh in, but were curious about the news and discussion that was posted.
Later, on Friday night, as I sat awake in disbelief at the thread, I went through some of my old Clampost Piles from a couple of years ago. There were no ‘today in idiots’ headings; instead there were separate headings for discussions on health care legislation, on zoning laws. There were often headings that were just ‘long reads’, where folks posted an article, offered their take, and invited others to join a discussion about a piece. It’s many, many streets away from our landscape now, which has moved away from an interest in engaging a community in conversation and discussion about politics, local, national, international, and otherwise toward a headline-centered, reactionary thread that is less about a back and forth between the community and instead a kind of ‘reassurance via dunking’ in reaction to a world that is run by ill-suited morons. Twitter embeds get posted with no context, and community members are left to guess at its intent, and hazard a conversation with only an assumption in mind. Articles are posted but the replies are snark about the headline rather than a cursory response to the information being presented, or a question like ‘wait, what am I lookin at here?’. We’ve lost our context, PT, and we’ve lost our interest in talking to each other beyond a line or two of snark, or reference, or damnation.
Look. This is not to say we weren’t ever silly, or that we don’t have space for levity and other convos. It’s not like I don’t spend actual time thinking about a Monday Morning Tune to get us in a positive mood! And it’s also not to wallow in nostalgia. Those of us who are interested in politics, which is why we’re here, after all, know that the landscape for discourse is constantly changing. All things are constantly changing, and in a way this is a comfort. We have a promise of change, we have a chance to frame things. And so on Friday, when this thread chose meanness and bad takes and the first angry person they could find on Twitter, the PT was unrecognizable. And at the same time, many of us have noticed the same tendencies that led to the shutdown slowly gaining speed in the PT over the last couple of months. I think a lot of it is Twitter, which has ramped up in its manic toxicity, with constant monitoring of the likes of Elon Musk almost taking over for those Trump years where we cringed to read what ridiculous thing he’d done now. Twitter has inexorably changed the way many of us receive and make sense of news and the world, and not for the better, in many ways.
But when we had the aforementioned difficult times, we did what a community should do- we communicated with each other. We were more interested in preferred perspective and context and information to snark and cynicism and bad takes. This is why we held together. During election nights, we keep each other company and band together to find accurate information, to ask clarifying questions, to keep the faith that better things are possible. And this, my friends, my dear dear friends here, is the fucking way. This is the way. Friday, that culmination of a lot of harmful tendencies that have surfaced lately, that wasn’t it.
The good news is that we have what we need. We have a community of smart, engaged, compassionate people who care about the news and care about politics but most importantly care about their circulation in this space. We talk about our lives together, we support each other, we listen, we offer benefit of the doubt because oh my goodness are these things in precious supply in the difficult world we all live in. It’s necessary, and we have it. So let’s use it. Please. Think about how you can not only benefit from this kind of community in terms of knowledge and awareness and perspective, but also about how you can contribute in kind. We’re among friends in the PT- be nice!
The fight will go on, for equality, for justice, for the rights of workers, for the recognition of the marginalized, for humane and effective governance. And if we can face the daily articulation of these political stories with compassion and respect for each other, we will have a victory to carry with us every day.
(A special thank you to @sokudoningyou:disqus for graciously allowing the always informative Monday header to be pre-empted this week)