Yesterday the internet was abuzz with excitement over a federal Twitter account that had “gone rogue” in the wake of a gag order, or social media “blackout,” imposed by former television personality Donald Trump.
Despite that gag order — and, apparently, in open defiance of it — the Badlands National Park Service began to tweet statistics about climate change, causing everyone to delight in the idea of an employee (a former employee, if we’re to believe the official response) defying orders to get the real hard facts of science out to the public in the face of administrative intransigence and climate denial. Like the Greenpeace activists who today risked arrest by posting a “resist” banner on a crane near the White House, they are reminding us that if our climate crisis is ignored, we’re all deeply imperiled.
People are calling the Badlands National Park Service employees who tweeted those facts the “heroes of the resistance.” Indeed, they provided a delightful moment, and even after the original tweets were deleted, screencaps of them went viral.
All this reminded me of the playful subversion of Merriam-Webster’s recent online presence.
These shows of spirited, humorous defiance are so important — like last weekend’s marches, like Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes they encourage us, give us cheer, and a sense of solidarity with others who are on the right side.
But it’s important to think about how we phrase and position what’s happening in our minds. Is Meryl Streep the bravest most queen-like woman in Hollywood for her speech, or is she just doing what every single one of us with a platform (this site included) should be doing in dark times? Are federal employees who disobey a gag order on basic science “going rogue,” or are they taking principled stands for the good of the public and the republic when their bosses are the ones caving to a rogue government?
The idea of “going rogue,” or even being the biggest badass ever, implies that the norm should be to follow dangerous rules. Instead, we need to make standing up, being spunky, and maybe even incurring risk into our concept of the “normal” and preferred set of behaviors. Obviously this is easier said than done, but our language is a good place to start. So is our mindset. We can’t just praise the Badlands tweeters, awesome as they are; we may soon have to be them, especially as threatened policies like anti-immigrant executive orders and pipeline orders come and begin to affect our communities.
We have to ask the question: if we received a gag order in some aspect of our life, would we defy it to share the truth? And if not, how can we shore up our own courage?