Are you on social media yet?
So far, just on Twitter (@MakeTruthGreat).
You’re using a slogan similar to Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again!” Is this an anti-Trump effort?
No. Definitely not! The goal — of creating a nonprofit organization dedicated to making truth virtuous — is non-partisan. It is not pro-Democratic, it is not pro-Republican. It is also not aligned with any political party or movement whatsoever! We are borrowing from Trump’s slogan to generate interest. Trump’s slogan worked! The slogan for this start-up campaign is better: To “Make Truth Great Again!”
But all the fact-checkers during the election called out Donald Trump as the worst liar of any of the candidates. Aren’t you using your “Make Truth Great Again” slogan to emphasize Trump’s lack of truth-telling?
No again! Most politicians lie. We don’t know why they lie, but they seem to lie even when it’s bound to hurt them. Clinton lied too much. Trump lied too much. Trump did, according to most sources, lie the most, but at the same time his campaign revealed a deep set of truths. The Trump campaign revealed that many of us Americans are hurting and are unheard, that we are living lives of exhaustion and despair, or that we are feeling too often that the powerful in America are ripping us off and creating an economy where the majority of us are left behind. The Trump campaign also revealed another set of truths — or made them viscerally evident, which is another way of truth-telling — that America still has too much racism; too many beliefs that are anti-women, anti-gay (anti-LGBT), and anti-religious-minority; too many beliefs that are anti-science and inherently authoritarian; and too much resistance and an unwillingness to engage in the kind of honest debate that brings truth to light.
Isn’t your idea — to start a nonprofit dedicated to truth-building — kind of a pie-in-the-sky idea, unlikely to get traction, and even less likely to get the kind of funding you’ll need to get it started?
Maybe! The feeling here is that we won’t know until we try! The idea is crazy, but maybe it’s crazy wonderful! Yes, there are obstacles. Many obstacles! But what the hell? The danger of doing nothing seems so much more problematic. We as a society can’t just keep spiraling down into more and more dishonesty, deceit, and misinformation. So far, at least in the first sixteen years of this century, nobody else seems to be capable of stopping the bleeding. Our political parties are just hopeless — dysfunctional beyond belief. Our media and our journalists are buzzing every which way as their world collapses. Our government has too often ground to a halt. Our corporations and especially our financial sector is not helping as it makes the rich richer and us working men and women more frenzied every year. Yes! Yes! Yes! This is one freakin’ crazy idea — and it’s damned well overdue!
This effort looks understaffed to say the least! It almost looks like it might be the work of only a few people. How can this possibly work? How can an organization rise out of nothing, especially with so few people and so few resources?
This initial start-up effort is the work primarily of one person. Obviously one person cannot do this on his or her own! That’s the whole point of this initial campaign — to first see if there is enough interest; and second, if there is interest, to see if we can raise enough money to get an organization started, to hire an executive director, to develop a strategic plan, to recruit volunteer advisors, to reach out to Americans, and to see what else needs to be done. Of course this will require many people, but every organization starts with only a few people — and it grows from there.
Just to be clear, can you outline the mission of the new organization — if it does come to life?
Here is the language we used in our official Articles of Organization: Truth For Democracy will support truth-building in America’s public and political conversations by enabling creative and synergistic efforts in research, education, citizen engagement, and innovation sponsorship.
What steps have been taken so far to get this organization off the ground?
In brief, first there was a strong, yet vague idea that something needed to be done. An idea came to mind — that maybe it would be good to have a nonprofit organization dedicated to truth-building. Domain names were sifted through to find ones that worked (one for the initial campaign and another one the nonprofit, should it be born). A video script was written to be used for the crowdfunding introduction video. Incidentally, the script was really a test to see if this idea was likely to resonate or not, and whether it made sense or not. A website was developed for the initial start-up campaign (and many iterations and improvements were added later). A temporary logo was developed (the stars and stripes light bulb). Crowdfunding platforms were researched and a crowdfunding campaign was developed (it’s ready to go if we need it — if enough interest is generated). Other organizations were searched for — to see if anybody else was supporting truth-building in public and political discourse (none was found). A handful of notable people were sought out to endorse this effort, to bring it an aura of credibility, yet alas, this effort was taking too much time — and had too little success (no success really) — so it was largely abandoned. A video introduction was made. Later it was discarded. A second script was written and a video was made. The website was populated with links to news stories about all the lies, deceptions, and fake news in the recent election. A Twitter account was created (@MakeTruthGreat). Nonprofit status at the state level was applied for, and was tentatively accepted. While we will be known as “Truth For Democracy” our official name will be “Truth For Democracy Nonprofit Incorporated.” A bank account was opened, but it turns out we won’t be able to use it as it’s a personal account not a commercial account (we can’t open a commercial account until we get an employer-identification number from the federal government). It’s been fun. There’s more to do.
So this isn’t the work of some larger organization?
No. There is no organization. The hope is that we can create an organization.
What kind of people will you seek to staff the new organization — if it gets off the ground?
Before we start hiring people, we’ll have to recruit a board of directors. Nonprofits need to have a board of directors. For the board of directors, we’ll look for people from a variety of fields and backgrounds. We’ll look for folks with nonprofit management and financial expertise. We’ll look for a diverse range of other folks as well, including folks with backgrounds in technology, journalism, philanthropy, media and news, innovation, data analytics, and social media. We’ll look for people, especially scientists, who study truth-telling, human cognition and beliefs, learning, and behavior change — and experienced research translators as well. We may look also to those with backgrounds in philosophy, religion, and cultural studies.
With the board of directors in place, we’ll then start by hiring an experienced nonprofit manager, someone who knows how to fund and run a nonprofit organization. At that time, we’ll begin developing a strategic plan. From the strategic plan, we’ll have a guide for the types of folks we’ll need to hire.
If I sign up, will I automatically be a member when and if the organization gets started?
Yes! Everybody who signs up now will be invited to be a member. You don’t have to become a member, of course! And, truthfully, we don’t know yet what, if anything, we’ll be able to provide to members, but we’ll at least keep you informed of our activities and our results.
If donations are opened up, will I be able to get a hat or t-shirt with a pledge?
Yes! We’ll figure out a way to have hats and t-shirts that say, “Make Truth Great Again!” We’ll have some other goodies as well.
When will we be able to make donations?
Not sure! First, we have to wait for our nonprofit status to be officially registered with the federal government. We can’t start without that.
The more critical hurdle is whether there is enough interest to move forward. There’s no sense asking for donations if there’s too little interest. Donations will be opened up only if our sign-up numbers look good — if hundreds or thousands of people sign up.