The Naked Truth/Jamala Rogers

Jamala RogersColor

The Challenge of Truthtellers in the Age of MAGA

On May 19, we will honor the 99th birthday of Malcolm X also known as El Haj Malik Shabazz. The legacy he left when he was struck down by an assassin’s bullet continues to inform and inspire us today. I reflected on a couple of quotes by Malcolm X on the power of the media, on the power of truth. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile truth and reality in this period.

Malcolm X once said that ‘the media’s the most powerful entity on earth…because they control the minds of the masses.”  As information and truth are forced through the filters of deception, manipulation, and bias, it has become increasingly difficult to know if what we read is fake or real. The tricky hand of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made our world a less secure and unpredictable place. The tools we traditionally depended on to help us understand the chaos around us have become tainted or disgraced.

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The role of the contemporary progressive press is no different from that of our first Black newspaper, started by John B. Russworm and Samuel E. Cornish back in 1827. The Freedom Journal made it clear that “we wish to plead our own cause” because for “too long have others spoken for us.” Black people have looked to the Black press to highlight our struggles, to provide a forum for debate and to counter the misinformation and racist imagery permeated by white, mainstream outlets. And so have other peoples of color and other marginalized sectors of our society. Our stories, our struggles, our histories — they rarely get told the way they should.

The contributors to Capital City Hues may not all consider themselves journalists, but we all are indeed truthtellers, boldly and unwavering speaking truth to power. We believe our words contribute to the transformation of this nation. We must be intentional and responsible in our efforts to influence the minds of the masses.

What we once called white noise has now become an unbearable roar of psychotic sounds and dangerous ideas. I know people who do not watch the news anymore because it has lost its truth value. I know people who do not watch the news because it takes too much time and energy to dissect the facts. These are the people who seek out trusted outlets — like Cap City Hues — for their news and analyses.

Conventional notions of journalism practices are harder to expect given the race to authoritarianism. The racist, sexist and homophobic attacks on non-white and non-heteronormative histories make it impossible to rewrite America’s authentic, comprehensive history. The debate to determine the definition of truth will intensify along with the waging of government propaganda and the domination of corporate news coverage.

In this void of truthtelling and the breakdown of democracy, publications like this one understand the power of the written word. They must prevail or we face a warning by Malcolm X:

“If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”