Daily News and Commentary
INTRODUCING The Forum
The media critic A.J. Liebling observed long ago that the press “is the weak slat under the bed of democracy.” In the great antidemocratic retrenchment we are now living through, not only is that slat poised to buckle; the bed itself is on fire. Unchecked disinformation fuels toxic delusions of global conspiracy and ethnonationalist paranoia, and centuries-old narratives of racialized impunity and violence attract online followings keen to discredit and overthrow the core principles of multiracial democracy.
Our existing media ecosystem continues blithely treating all this as a series of scarcely related piecemeal developments, and reflexively consigns each new element of the reassertion of antidemocratic racial power to the comfortable, numbing template of both-sidesist orthodoxy. Ever since one of our major parties began descending into racialized and antidemocratic political violence, this zombified press consensus acts as though this is but one more rational political choice, to be weighed for costs and benefits, and assessed on an undeviating grid of news-cycle wins and losses. The result is a full-on Weimar parody of public discourse in deliberative democracy. Operating in its thrall, our press ensures that overt campaigns of racial exclusion and antidemocratic seizures of power get miniaturized into performative and ephemeral talking points, treated as inconsequential attack-ad rhetoric, and flattened out into the fodder of daily political news coverage and Beltway-grade gossip.
At the African American Policy Forum, we’ve gained painful firsthand experience in this destructive discourse of normalization. We’ve fought back hard as unhinged attacks on critical race theory and efforts to ban the teaching of our actual racial past have gained traction in the daily news cycle. We’ve organized to counter and refute outrageous agitprop claims, censorship campaigns and organized hatemongering—and seen at the same time how the mainstream press mischaracterizes these efforts to revive American apartheid as expressions of respectable positions in reasoned political debate. We’ve all seen this movie before—going back to the vicious caricatures of Black political activism at the heart of the Redemptionist era, and the false narratives of endangered white impunity that fueled the rise of Jim Crow and the backlash against the civil rights revolution.
The Forum is dedicated to blocking bad-faith authoritarian putsch every place it may surface—from the conspiracy-addled corners of social media to the highest reaches of conservative power, and everywhere in between.
That’s why we’re launching The Forum—a daily site of news and commentary published by the African American Policy Forum. Throughout the past five years of racial retrenchment and antidemocratic backlash, latter-day Redemptionists have exploited the blind-spots, timidity and historical amnesia afflicting the mainstream media to propagate their own narratives of white grievance and herrenvolk rule. The Forum is dedicated to blocking this bad-faith authoritarian putsch every place it may surface—from the conspiracy-addled corners of social media to the highest reaches of conservative power, and everywhere in between. The Forum is also committed to defending democratic values, economic equity, and racial inclusion against the rising tide of authoritarian bigotry and hatred and anti-intellectual reaction. As our name shows, we are also dedicated to the true virtues of open inquiry, inclusion, and fair play—and we likewise repudiate the recursive, self-deconstructing crusades against phantom menaces such as “cancel culture” and “the woke academy.” The stakes involved in defending and sustaining substantive intellectual freedom—like the freedom to speak openly and think deeply about our racial past and its legacies, while encouraging our students to do likewise—are far too great to continue indulging the same hoary refrains of white grievance politics delivered in a highbrow register. In the tradition of freedom-loving journalists everywhere, we aim to call things by their true names—and to fight for the civic truths and social-democratic mandates that our democracy clearly cannot live without.
We will launch The Forum online later in the spring, but in the meantime, we are debuting our reportage and commentary in a weekly newsletter you can sign up for here.