During a time of impassioned protests, controversial policies, and steadfast political resistance, the people of Trump’s America and those standing in solidarity across the globe are coming together in unique ways to make a difference.
The stark change in political tides has reignited an otherwise subdued form of communication amongst the many scrambling to organize, and fighting to stay informed: the sharing of Google Docs.
Though the simple word processing toolwhich allows users to easily create, edit and share documents onlinehas been used since 2010 for everything from students compiling group projects to scientists cataloguing what animals fart, the personal, direct platform for collaboration has become a perfect way for likeminded individuals to connect about political issues across the country.
How fake news sparked a political Google Doc movement
The trend began long before Donald Trump even took office, back when the world entered the troubling era of fake news in 2016.
When the presence of blatant political lies and misinformation on the internet became increasingly apparent leading up to the presidential election, one college professor took it upon herself to fight back with facts, and thus, a fake news bible was created in the form of an easily-sharable Google Doc.
In hopes of teaching her students about media literacy, Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communicationat Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled a list of websites to be wary of and tips to consider when analyzing news sources.
The 31-page document, entitled, “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources,” gained traction during the challenging time and wound up inspiring other lengthy informative resources like this massive, 168-page collaborative document on “Design Solutions for Fake News”.
The Google Doc domino effect
As Trump and Clinton’s political campaigns began to advance, so did the range of Google Doc topics.
From providing easy ways to contact representatives about key issues to sharing official statements and relevant links, a number of other Google Docs and Sheets were created and shared to keep the Trump resistance alive.
Amongst the most influential was a Google Doc created by former congressional staffers, entitled, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.”
The 24 page, typo-filled document, filled with a history of political advocacy, lessons to fight Trump’s agenda and tactics and guidelines for how to efficiently organize, was published in December, and has since inspired, informed and spread across the country, garnering over one million downloads and prompting the creation of an Indivisible Guide website and a formal organization.
When asked what inspired the creation of the Google Doc, Sarah Dohl, one of the guide’s cofounders said, “We thought that we could help people to understand the daily actions that they could take to really make a difference.”
Clearly Dohl wasn’t alone in her thought process, because a variety of similarly powerful resources, such as those listed below, emerged to aid in the resistance.
Upcoming Town Hall events
A Google Sheet by Town Hall Project 2018 was created in hopes of making information about participating in the democratic process more widely accessible. The document lists details on upcoming Congressional forums in cities across the U.S. to empower people to seek face-to-face conversations with their elected representatives.
Senator stances on SCOTUS
Following President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for U.S. Supreme Court, compiled a Google Sheet listing senators by state, along with their stance on Trump’s SCOTUS pick and any statements made in relation. The sheet includes websites and phone numbers of senators along with some sample call scripts to ensure users are informed on how best to take action.
Lawsuits against President Trump
Google Docs aren’t just used for encouraging action. Following inauguration, a spreadsheet tracking all lawsuits filed against Trump categorized by immigration, emoluments and sanctuary cities, including dates filed and related documents.
Google Docs’ recent role in immigration ban protests
In addition to massive protests throughout the country’s airports, Trump’s immigration ban also sparked the formation of a heavy duty Google Doc outlining exactly what politicians across the U.S. think about the controversial action.
After Trump singed an executive order on Jan. 27 that resulted in the detention of legal U.S. residents and valid visa holders from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia in airports nationwide, a disheartened attorney, Jenn Caballero, began creating an extensive spreadsheet.
“It simply presents data without any kind of spin or commentary.”
Caballero said that after learning of Trump’s harsh action she began tweeting at senators who had not yet made statements on the situation. After quickly realizing it would be difficult to scroll through 100+ tweets she felt compelled to compile the contact info in one place so that it could be easily shared with others.
“I chose Google Sheets because it’s easy to see a lot of data all at once and it’s easy to share… it simply presents data without any kind of spin or commentary,” she said. “There are so many things happening in the country and it’s become increasingly difficult to keep up with it all. This method of presenting data makes it easier to digest.”
Caballero’s massive list of stances, statements, and other information about state governors, senators, and representatives has served as a encouraging call to action for people across the nation. “I completely underestimated the power of a basic spreadsheet,” she admitted while reflecting on the document’s ever-rising popularity.
“I completely underestimated the power of a basic spreadsheet.”
The document, which also includes charts to visually represent stances held by each party, along with various templates to utilize when making phone calls, has been used for a variety of different purposes ranging from educational, social and conversational.
“People across the country have reached out to say they are organizing postcard-writing parties and will rely on it as a resource,” she shared. “Teachers have told me they’ve shown it to students in lessons about political parties and immigration laws in the U.S. and someone even let me know she shared the data with family members with differing political views to start a conversation and gain an understanding of everyone’s values.”
Collaborating anywhere, anytime
Aside from the ease of sharing, the great thing about the modern day resistance tool is the fact that the documents aren’t solely limited to those organizing at home.
So proud of the hard work of the lawyers who are camped out in airports across the country. Theyre on the front lines, and it is truly inspiring. Many of the architects of the civil rights era were lawyers Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Constance Baker Motley and it is they who inspired me from a young age to want to be a lawyer and fight for justice. These lawyers will serve as an inspiration to the coming generations.
A photo posted by Kamala Harris (@kamalaharris) on
Following the immigration ban, concerned lawyers flooded airport terminals alongside the protests to lend legal assistance to those being detained. At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Melanie Zuch, a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center in New York told New York Magazine that lawyers who gathered to offer detained immigrants and visa holders their services used Google Docs to stay organized.
“People worked really hard. I was so inspired by the people that were there,” Zuch said. “People really stepped into action to put systems in place to make a more cohesive effort. Spreadsheets were coming together, Google Docs were being sent for people to put in client intake information in a centralized way. And, of course, it was chaotic but as the day went on it really came together.”
Though the documents will always begin as blank pages and empty cells, as we’ve seen in just a few months, once determined minds set out to raise awareness and encourage activism, a Google Doc can transform from a blank sheet into a vessel of unlimited potential.