Release to refresh
commentator, writer + activist
Hi everyone! I'm excited to be part of the Parlio Q&A series. I’m open to questions on the blurring of fact and opinion in media, the craziness of the 2016 elections, social movements and the tipping point for game-changing change, and/or Taylor Swift.
This Q&A took place between 10/23/15 and 10/30/15. Unanswered questions have been hidden
13 questions
Co-Founder of Kandu, Media Entrepreneur, Women's Advocate
1. How come the economy always gets better under Democrats but Wall Street is still loaded with Republicans?

2. Whatever was it like being a hen in the Fox house?
um, first a question for you gerry: what's it like to be entirely responsible for my whole career!?!?!? (y'all, she is, in case you didn't know it!)

as for answers:

1. well the "economy" as an entirety gets better, on average, for all people (wages go up, average net wealth goes up, etc.) BUT it doesn't necessarily get better for the 1% who work on wall street. they do very well under GOP governance that slashes public supports that help the poor and middle class and therefore slash the taxes of the super rich.


2. lovely metaphor, there!! i learned to not get my feathers ruffled as much, which has been helpful in general ever since.
I'm interested in how you respond when people discuss the possibility of having a first female president like Carly Fiorina, whose policies arguably do nothing to help the vast majority of other women and in some cases would actually hurt them. How do we make people understand that a female president, in itself, isn't necessarily a blow for feminism?
hiya andi! great question! wrote a piece about that. like to read it? here it is:

but i think the overall answer is that identity isn't the same as identity politics. just because we haven't had a woman president yet doesn't mean any of the 44 presidents so far couldn't have been FEMINISTS. and by the same token, we know just electing any woman to leadership isn't necessarily a feminist act. feminism isn't about your body parts, it's about your beliefs.
According to the Economist (, Fox News is less to blame for polarised politics than people generally tend to think. Rather, "once viewers had a greater array of choices, those bored by politics gratefully turned to more entertaining channels and shows". What are your thoughts on this?
wow, i hadn't seen that study. fascinating! thanks for bringing it to my attention.

there's a bit of the chicken-egg debate with anything on this topic; for instance is the current crop of GOP presidential candidates *causing* polarization or the *result* of polarization? it's arguably both. are the conservative-aimed shows on fox fueling partisanship or playing to it? again, i'll go with both.

that said, i will note that if people actually watch fox news, they're often surprised that not all of the shows/hours are the same as hannity or o'reilly. so that's worth noting. and i think the success of fox news is due largely to the fact that they create well-produced, visually entertaining content -- not their ideology.
What do you think is the biggest social justice issue facing our society today?
the pressure to come up with single bullet answers to intensely complex questions?!?!?!

no, really, i'm gonna go with that. i mean, i could say that it's the intransigence of the republican party/conservative movement and their backing away even from the points of consensus which they once supported? and that's true!

but also i was listening to lily eskelsen garcia, the head of the national education association (teachers union) speak the other night at an event i was moderating for the campaign for america's future. and she talked about how people ask her what the one thing we can do to fix public schools? and she says her answer is: to stop thinking there's one thing we can do to fix public schools.

economic inequality and racial bias and gender-based discrimination and housing inadequacy and poverty and crumbling public infrastructure and the capture of our democracy by corporations and on and on and on -- these aren't separate problems but deeply connected. our solutions need to be connected, too.
Founder, 10 TRAITS Leadership Institute; UN Virtual Mentor
Sally: Have you focused any of your reporting on the treatment of lesbians in U.S. prisons? Is their treatment different due to hidden biases in the prison system? I was made aware of the 23-hour a day isolation of an elderly woman, Jan Barton Hamilton, locked away in a jail in FairPlay, CO. Her "crime" of trespass on church property in Aspen landed her in jail for 64 months with a $250,000 bail. An interesting case. I was contacted because of a book I wrote: An American GULAG, P.O.W. Camps for Teens back in 2000 & some expertise on so-called "snake pit" behavior change residential schools .
thank you for asking this. actually when i was in graduate school i wrote a report on the treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender kids in the new york correctional system... but i haven't focused much on this since. i will look into this story more -- please feel free to send me more information. i would appreciate it.
Researcher @ Harvard | Parlio community manager
As someone who lived in only liberal majority cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, other east coast cities), I think I have a skewed idea of what progressive means. What are the fundamental beliefs that you think captures the majority of progressive voices in the US today?
hi jieun, good question. not sure i have an answer. how ungratifying is that?

i think we have a tendency to imagine some litmus test issues, and i certainly have a list i could give you -- around busting up big banks, addressing racial bias in policing and incarceration, supporting access to abortion and reproductive rights without exceptions. i could go on. but can you be a progressive without checking the box on 100% of "the list?" in my book, yes. look at bernie sanders. he's "not progressive" on guns -- but i'd still call him "a progressive."

i do think perhaps the more fundamental defining quality is a willingness to look at the structures of society's ills and change the rules of the game that create them -- not just tinker around the edges of such problems. on that level, progressive is more of a temperament than a to-do list.
Were people at Fox News as 'fair & balanced' with you as they are with facts?
uh, i'm not sure how to answer this one stephane.... except to say i had an absolutely wonderful time working at fox, truly. and was treated warmly and respectfully by everyone from the top of the network on down. and i remain friends with many of my former colleagues there, on the right, left and center.
Hello Sally. At Fox you arguably could have changed more minds than at any other station. So why did you leave? And if, as you've said, people at Fox are as smart and nice as those you've worked with anywhere, and liberals and conservatives are worried about the same things but just gravitate towards different solutions, what makes viciously and damagingly partisan media so influential and how do we prevent that?
great question, gideon. i actually think about that a lot. there's no doubt i reached more "eyeballs" at fox news and, if i did my job well, was hopefully to some degree persuading or at least subtly shifting people's perspectives on issues. at the same time, especially on the right leaning explicit opinion shows on the network, it was grueling. taxing even. once i did an episode of hannity with 16 opponents of obamacare versus me. you can't do that forever. even sisyphus gets tired.

re your second question, see my answer above -- i think touches on same theme
1-Do you believe that the media may sign a "conscription contract" for a regime just for the sake of the national security? to be clear for example here in Egypt we have this type of media that may call you a spy or an infiltrator if you just said that the project of the new Suez canal was a mess!!!!!!

2- what does the social movements need to be more powerful and effective, I mean to be as a means of pressure on the regime?
hi there. i think any free society, and certainly a free people or those aspiring to be free, need to be wary of a media too closely tied to any one interest -- whether the government, corporations, the military, etc. i was, for instance, deeply disturbed by how US media "embedded" with the military during the iraq war -- and the ways that not only skewed coverage in that case, but warped our expectations for media independence ever since. in the united states, we're very fortunate to have a constitutional guarantee to free speech and freedom of the press. but it's up to the press to use it fearlessly and vigilantly.

as for what makes social movements more powerful, i wish i had an answer, or i can promise you the world or at least the united states would be in a different place right now... i think about this a lot, and would love to hear what others think. the main thing i'm increasingly sure of is that it's not about numbers as much as it used to be. in the past, scale really mattered. it still does, especially in getting attention, but social media and the internet in general and the shrinking of the world means scale isn't as important as in the past. beyond that, i'm still scratching my head a lot on this.
Sally, I loved your TED Talk about emotional correctness. Put me in the group of conservatives who disagree with you but think you are a tremendous person. I used to think the reason MSNBC does so poorly relative to Fox was because it wasn't as independent. (Hard to imagine them raking Bernie over the coals the way O'Reilly did to Trump). Your talk made me think that EC might be part of it. I try to read liberal commentary but I find MSNBC (with exceptions) to be very smug. How can you convince the liberal activist class to view people who disagree with them as wrong rather than bad people?
thanks for the kind words, isaac. i really appreciate you saying that.

and, um, millions more people watching my TED Talk would help ( #shameless. but also, I'll be honest with you, the problem you describe goes both ways. i mean, read my hate tweets for starters -- conservatives aren't all doing a great job of personally attacking and insulting us progressives. so we all need to do better. for me, modeling is a great way to start. like: i hope people will read your message (the part before the "smug" anyway... ;) and be inspired and then pay it forward.
How much influence do you think Fox News plays in fuelling the divisive partisan politics seen in D.C.?
i think i tackled this above, check that out -- the part about the chicken and the egg.
Hi Sally! Thank you so much for taking time to answer questions. How was Taylor Swift able to change genres with minimal media controversy?

man, if i could figure out this AND the key to successful social movements in the 21st century, then i'd REALLY have it made, amirite?

it's a great question, and i don't know the answer. i think part of it is her personality, or at least the persona she aims to project about not caring what the world, including the music industry, thinks. (no doubt she has her own demons that contradict this, but that's the sense we get either of her essence or of who she aspires to be.) and i like to think that's part of the answer, that taylor swift exists in a landscape of musicians who are so damn constantly worried about what everyone thinks about them and she figured out early on that's not a yardstick that will lead to success, esp if she wants to be an enduring musician and not just a flash in the pan. i sometimes wonder if "shake it off" wasn't so much reflective for her as prophylactic -- anticipating the criticism that might come with her move to pop and advising herself to "shake it off"
I recently heard a theory that the reason fact and opinion are becoming increasingly blurred in journalism is because young people don't care about the distinction as much. Buzzfeed for instance has bet on the fact that young people want opinion with their news (and I would argue the Skimm as well). What are your thoughts on this?
well, i think there's a certain amount of media literacy we need to make sure people of all ages have -- that we know there's a difference between reporting and opinion journalism for instance. AND it's incumbent upon outlets to make sure they know the difference and try to walk that line. THEN, and only then, i think it's actually helpful for us to all increasingly realize that information can be presented in a biased way and for us to become engaged media consumers and citizens in decoding those biases. and part of what helps do that is media being more upfront when such biases come into play.