The Best Truthdiggers of 2016: Risk-Takers Are Honored for Challenging the Status Quo
Editor’s note: From Dec. 23 through New Year’s Eve, Truthdig is running a roundup of the top 10 stories of 2016 in the following categories: Live Blog, A/V Booth, Report, Book Review, Ear to the Ground, Cartoon, Film Review, Live at Truthdig, Scheer Intelligence and Truthdigger of the Week.
For many, 2016 was a difficult political year, but a handful of individuals rebelled in the face of turmoil and stuck to their beliefs amid the chaos. Politicians risked their careers, whistleblowers revealed the truth despite threats to their liberty, and activists put their lives on the line to fight for a just cause.
Every week this year, the Truthdig editorial staff selected a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we were looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week were worth celebrating.
This list of the 10 most popular Truthdiggers, based on the number of readers each report drew, acknowledges the powerful actions undertaken by those honored.
White, a co-creator of the Occupy Wall Street movement, was honored in November by Truthdig Associate Editor Alexander Kelly for his activist response to the incoming Donald Trump administration. White’s message that “contemporary protest is broken” clearly resonated with Truthdig readers, and Kelly praises him for “imagining and proposing a radical way out of a burgeoning national nightmare.”
Many reporters supported Truthdig and other news sites that were falsely labeled pro-Russian propagandists on a shadowy blacklist reported on in a Washington Post story. Here, Truthdig Associate Editor Natasha Hakimi praises the outlets that defended Truthdig in the face of “shoddy” journalism.
A single anonymous whistleblower was responsible for the leak in April of almost 12 million documents that revealed how the global elite hide their wealth in Panama tax havens. “At a time when international income inequality is reaching record levels and protests against it have spread from the Middle East to Europe, the United States and beyond,” Hakimi writes, “the Panama Papers serve as proof that the unrest we are witnessing is rooted in the uber-rich’s disregard for the rest.”
The fight against construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) was one of the most significant yet underreported stories of the year. Despite facing an increasingly hostile police presence, the leader of the tribe at the center of the oil pipeline resistance remained focused on peace and hope. “Archambault represents his community and its fight to protect the water,” Truthdig’s Emma Niles writes, “eloquently expressing the racial, economic and political factors moving the construction of the DAPL forward.”
In January, Kelly interviewed lawyer Tim Canova, who was at the time challenging Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida for her congressional seat. Canova is “another credible public advocate … seeking to recover official power from the iteration of the Democratic Party that has kept its back to American workers for 2½ decades,” Kelly writes. “What we learned compelled us to make him Truthdigger of the Week.”
Truthdig honored Sterling, the first whistleblower convicted under the Espionage Act, in September when Sterling was being denied proper medical care in prison. Sterling “has become an example of what the U.S. government is willing to do to the heroes who stand up for what the nation should stand for,” Hakimi writes, “and how it will persecute whistleblowers at all costs to stem leaks that damage its image.”
While 2016 wasn’t a particularly good year for mainstream media, independent outlets thrived. Uygur is an “energetic host [and] a journalist who puts his principles and passion into action,” Kelly writes, adding that Uygur embodies an essential aspect of modern journalism. “[W]e know that so-called neutrality is not neutrality at all,” Kelly explains, and Uygur and his team follow the best journalistic standards: “Be honest, skeptical and inclusive, ready to admit mistakes and issue corrections, and do the best you can.”
One of the most important developments in the 2016 election stemmed from WikiLeaks founder and whistleblower Julian Assange, who published thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over the summer. “Clinton wields tremendous wealth and state power, whereas at terrific cost to himself, Assange succeeds in performing the essential service of revealing what leaders do in secret in our name,” Kelly writes. “Because of Assange, we know that Clinton said politicians like her ‘need both a public and private position’ when handling controversial matters, a comment that is as close to an admission of lying as we have heard from an official in recent years, and which should cast into doubt everything she has said or will say to voters.”
Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii, resigned as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee early this year so that she could endorse Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. “We don’t know what her endorsement might cost her in advancing up the Democratic Party ladder,” Kelly writes. “But her courage is an example to all who believe in the moral necessity of Sen. Sanders’ campaign.”
In late March, as the fervor propelling Sanders’ presidential campaign was almost at its peak, actress Susan Sarandon denounced Hillary Clinton’s campaign and expressed her unwavering support for Sanders. “Left-wing voters of principle have endured insults and abuse in this presidential nominating season,” Kelly writes. “But these voters have a renowned defender in Academy Award-winning actress and activist Susan Sarandon.”