The case for ad-free anything isn’t hard to make these days. Unless you think annoying banners, pop-up ads, and sponsored content are good for the public discourse, it’s easy to see why an environment without third-party sellers can be beneficial for our attention and political organizing.
When it comes to progressive content, however, independent ad-free platforms are few and far in-between. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to engage with the work of lefty commentators online without being tracked and shown targeted ads by Wall Street, the military, meal kit delivery services, and other psychologically manipulative materials the Almighty Algorithms spit back at us based on our digital habits.
While platforms like Patreon have created opportunities to follow and financially support commentators on the Left, mass reliance on social media to receive our news has given tech executives the freedom to intertwine our collective attention with the profit motives of companies like Google and Facebook. This is not to say lefty commentators shouldn’t use social media platforms to reach a wider audience. Many (The Young Turks, Secular Talk, and ContraPoints come to mind) have done so against the odds, essentially carving out platforms for progressives inside the manipulation and surveillance machines of the ruling class.
The point is that we can’t put all of our eggs in the social media basket and expect Silicon Valley executives to provide a level playing field in which the best ideas win. The question then becomes: should we cling to YouTube for dear life, or imagine platforms where progressives are not dependent on technocratic elites?
With that said, it’s not too difficult to imagine a place where people in the U.S. are able to discover progressive commentators without the commercialization and toxicity that comes with “social” media. After a fellow writer shared with me the idea of a lefty speaker organization, I became interested in creating a basic prototype of such a platform—a place where people can view notable work of leading progressives and contact them for public speaking engagements.
I shared the idea with my brother who heads a web design agency, and we built the first iteration of Progressive Speaker (PS).
ProggressiveSpeaker.com: A directory dedicated to progressive public speakers and their work.
Progressive Speaker is an an independent platform that can be used by colleges, community groups, activist organizations, and others to send inquiries to progressive speakers working in academia, journalism, social and economic justice, the arts, tech, and other related fields.
For it to be successful, PS needs to exemplify the progressive movement by challenging “business-as-usual” when it comes to marketing:
- We embrace minimalism, functionality, and user privacy—PS is an ad and tracking-free platform
- PS doesn’t profit from booking fees—once contacted, speakers get to negotiate the terms of their speaking engagement
- We receive support from donors who are passionate about fact-based journalism, direct democracy, principled digital platforms, and the future of the progressive movement in the U.S.
- Listed speakers have full control over the content on their profile and how they respond to inquiries
Like any bottom-up effort, the success of Progressive Speaker will depend on forming partnerships with those who are already fighting to end inequality, exploitation, discrimination, and environmental devastation. This is why we are currently contacting progressive speakers and organizations who would like to be featured and/or partner with PS.
If you work for a progressive organization and are interested in the mission of Progressive Speaker, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about Progressive Speaker here: https://progressivespeaker.com/about