#185 Roger Sorkin, Founder & Executive Director of the American Resilience Project
Roger Sorkin is an award-winning producer, writer, editor, and director of mission-driven films designed to strengthen civilizational security. Prior to founding the American Resilience Project, Roger consulted with and created documentary and dramatic films for a wide range of nonprofit, academic and government institutions, including the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, USAID, NATO, Flex Your Rights Foundation, American Cancer Society, and more. He has taught energy and environmental communication at the Fordham University Gabelli School of Business, and he has lectured at NASA, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Roger is a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and he has served on the Climate and Security Working Group at the Center for Climate and Security, and on the Managed Retreat Expert Group with the American Society of Adaptation Professionals. After graduating in anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University in 1993, Roger worked as a public radio journalist and producer, as an English teacher in Spain, and then received a master of communication from Stanford University with a focus in documentary film.
Bigger Than Us #185
This transcript has been lightly edited.
Host Raj Daniels 00:45
Roger, how are you today?
Roger Sorkin 01:34
Doing well, Raj, thanks for having me.
Host Raj Daniels 01:36
Roger, thank you for joining. Roger, I’d like to dig right into one line that I found in your bio that I think is very, very relevant for today’s day and age. How do you bypass a partisan fault line?
Roger Sorkin 01:50
So the way we think about our work is as convening tools at heart. We’re trying to bring people into the same conversation, have it as a conversation starter. And we need to recognize first what the obstacles are to having a productive conversation. There is a lot of information out there, there’s a lot of toxic information, the speed that information travels through our modern media ecosystem is overwhelming. I think all of us no matter what our political views are can say they feel a bit overwhelmed by how much information is out there.
And we cannot fall into the traps of using the same polarizing frames that are used to keep this media ecosystem profitable because it thrives on division and conflict. I mean, you might say good politics also thrives on honest conflict. There needs to be. But we — and I recognize that for some people, this might be considered naive — but we think there are uniting factors or forces across society that don’t have to take on any kind of partisan flavor to immediately tribalize the different viewpoints, and we start with basic human need.
You bypass the by the partisan fault lines by first recognizing everybody wants to have security, food, a safe, clean place to live, safe children, clean water. And that’s what a good story can do. It can help connect those dots. And that’s what we try to do with our films is connect the dots for people, give them a really big perspective, 40,000 and beyond foot view of the problems and illuminate the path to a solution, which, in our view, goes through public policy.
And that’s what, at the end of the day, we’re trying to do, is educate people so they can participate in the civic arena to help shape that policy, citizens all over, and focus policymakers towards goals that, frankly, are not politically damaging to them. We’re trying to respect the fact that there’s a lot of lacking and courage, great lack of courage in politics, and we have to accept that as a reality. And so we want to give the weaker folks with no conviction a path to the same solution that we know we need in order to deal with the climate crisis.
Host Raj Daniels 04:27
So you mentioned your work, you mentioned movies, can you give an overview of the American Resilience Project and your role at the organization?
Roger Sorkin 04:35
So the American Resilience Project is a nonprofit that makes films and media tools to influence public policy behavior, change our culture, and improve civic engagement. And we do that through the creation of strategic narratives that we weave into our films and into our other media resources. And I’m the executive director; I have a background in journalism and filmmaking. And when I started the organization, it was in response to some frustration that I came across so much environmental filmmaking that was so well made, stories really well told.
But often there was a disconnect between the quality of the work itself and the impact that it was intended to have. And I wanted to be sure that we never lost sight of the goals we’re trying to accomplish in the world. So we always start with this question of, what is the policy pathway to achieving the solution to the problems that we’re encountering? And once those questions are clear, after we consult with policy experts and academics and people who have lived experiences, any way for us to gather information about a certain situation and understand what policy tools might might come to help alleviate the problem, then we set out to make the film.
Then we determine what is the actual story that we need to tell, who are the trusted messengers in that story. And that’s a big part of the two because some people will only take information from people that they like. I think that’s pretty common; we can go through a lot of examples of that. Just turn on the TV, and there we go. There are examples right there for you. And so information is fragmented quite a bit these days. And we’re trying to make sure that whatever message we put out is going to have some interest and relevance across every single platform, which is why we think about the basic human needs involved in all this and try to make the case that coming together around certain policy objectives is what is going to allow us to address the those basic human needs.
Host Raj Daniels 06:45
Can you give her a few examples of the movies you’ve already made?
Roger Sorkin 06:48
The first film that we did under the American Resilience Project banner is called “The Burden.” And that’s about six years old now, which, unfortunately, it’s still relevant because we haven’t solved the problem of renewable energy, defense energy, and energy security. But that film at the time was designed to really, I think, in that case, the message was very targeted towards the right side of the political spectrum.
We were trying to show that climate change is a question of national security, and that clean energy was a good solution for improving our national security. And we didn’t really get too much into the question of climate change, but we talked about how dependence on oil is resulting in too many lives lost and too much money from our treasury spent. And that’s really the frame that we kept it in. We didn’t need to get into discussions about sea level rise and too much carbon in the atmosphere; there is some of that, but it’s all told within the context of national security in the sense that having destabilizing climate creates destabilized societies, destabilized governments, and that often results in some sort of violent conflict. And so that was a message that resonated quite a bit.
I mean, we had a lot of interest from the Department of Defense and the defense sector. You know, we still do screenings to this day with defense industry companies trying to educate their employees on the intersection of climate change and national security. We’re under no illusions that we shouldn’t be reducing the amount of money we spend as a country on the defense sector, which is obscene. But if we’re still going to be spending that amount of money, we need to be diverting it towards good things like renewable energy systems for our bases here in the United States that will put people to work in and around the communities where those bases are, for example, doing energy retrofits on buildings.
So the Department of Defense, of course, got a lot of money and where they decide to spend their money, industry, private sector often follows because they want those contracts. So so that was our strategy with that film. And we convened very qualitative audiences, folks on Capitol Hill and other government levels across different state governance.
And that’s when the American Resilience Project was born. We realized that to have a nonprofit organization that was mission-driven produce this work was the right way to go about it, rather than it be a film production company. So the few films after that, the next one was called Tidewater. That looks at the intersection of national security and sea level rise. In a funny way, that film doesn’t even mention the term climate change because we didn’t need to get into debating how the sea started to rise. We’re just interviewing people around the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, talking about how they can’t get to work on sunny days because the sea level is rising, and they work at the Naval base. They’re a navigator on a ship and they can’t go out to deploy because the road is flooded in front of their house. So we have that conversation on those terms. I mean, what does this climate problem mean for our national security?
Next film after that is the first in our Current Revolution series, which is designed to help guide energy transitions. And film after that is the second one in the current revolution series on the Navajo transition, specifically, the Navajo Nation recently closed its last coal plant. And we tried to really unpack all of the nuance and complications involved with that transition. It’s not that simple. A lot of people on the Navajo Nation relied upon jobs, their roads were built with coal money. So you might at first glance, think that the entire nation was against the coal on the reservation, but a lot of people did benefit, government did benefit over time.
Of course, the legacy is not a good one. A lot of sickness and environmental contamination as a result. And I think the general consensus that it was a net negative for the nation, but it’s a microcosm for what communities everywhere are experiencing. I mean, it’s relevant to communities in Appalachia or in the petrochemical industry in the Gulf Coast states. People rely upon these jobs, if you’re going to just tell them that their product is bad without giving them a pathway to a new job, you’re not going to get them to come on board.
So coming back to our focus on, you know, how do we weave these basic human needs as touch points in all of our stories? If you’re not talking about people’s jobs, and the pride they feel in their jobs, and speaking to their their dignity as people, then you’re not going to get any buy-in when it comes to creating policies designed to address the climate crisis.
Host Raj Daniels 11:47
So what kind of feedback have you received in all three of these movies?
Roger Sorkin 11:51
We generally get a very good feedback. I mean, you know, there’s the occasional social media troll that lingers on our site for a little while spewing the talking points that climate change isn’t real. Other than that, you know, we have people all across the political spectrum, sometimes conservatives who are saying, “You finally gave me a way into the conversation. This is a good way to be thinking about this stuff. I get it now.”
And folks, liberals, who say, who agree that we’ve been talking down to or beyond folks whose buy-in, we need. And we know we’re not going to change everybody’s mind. We don’t expect that we’re going to turn conservatives into liberals. We’re just trying to show that there is convergence point on some of these issues. And they just haven’t been framed in a way that that can be most effective.
And that’s, I think, what we’re doing. We would get that kind of feedback, that we’re framing things in an effective way. Not compromising values. I think there are a lot of important progressive values that should be in the Farm Bill. But, you know, if someone else comes to it from a conservative perspective, and maybe wants to argue over how much tax should be on something, I mean, that’s a fair fight to have.
But the bigger picture is — and this is for the new film, “Farm Free or Die,” which is focused on the 2023 Farm Bill. We need a buy-in of farmers in red states. If we do, their senators, their representatives are going to be more likely to support aspects of the Farm Bill that are going to help their constituents. Farmers who are on the frontlines of climate change they know they’re experiencing severe economic hardship as a result of environmental changes. So there’s no need to debate climate change with them. They just need help. And that’s what the Farm Bill can be designed to do.
Host Raj Daniels 13:53
So farm free or die. I watched “Current Revolution,” the second part of it, your interviews with the Navajo Nation. In the newest movie, is it a similar method they used, where you interviewed farmers that are perhaps being affected by climate change?
Roger Sorkin 14:10
Yes, we interviewed farmers in Tennessee, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota and Maryland. And in a quick side note, we were supposed to go out and do it, but because of COVID, we couldn’t, so we actually rented a number of cameras and shipped them to the farmers. And a couple of the farmers who are in the film, took up the the flag there and ran with it and did the filming for us. We were on Zoom calls with them, showing them how to use the gear and remote directing. So they were very collaborative in the process. And I think an unexpected surprise was that it’s even more authentic because they were that much more involved in the filmmaking process.
So you know, whereas maybe we didn’t get the beauty shot because of some amateur cinematography in a few cases. We’ve got people being really candid. That candor, we might not have gotten to that degree if we had shown up with our standard film crew. So I thought that was an interesting thing. And I think other filmmakers who are listening to this would appreciate that. So that’s really what we did. I mean, we asked them about what’s going on in their lives. What is causing them to struggle? What are their challenges? What do they want.
And it was surprising to us, a lot of farmers, they were the conservative farmers who would say things to me, like, “You know, I’m not a fan of the government coming in and telling us what to do. I’ve never been, it goes against every fiber of my being. But in this case, we know that the government is needed in order to put up some guideposts on this new carbon exchange that I’ve just signed up with, so that I can have an incentive to do regenerative agriculture.” And it’s hard for them to get that price on carbon, it’s still, as one of them described, “the wild west out there,” in terms of a carbon market for them to measure their carbon, get a price on it, sell it reliably and predictably. And so they want the government to come in and do that.
So that’s one of those things that made it into the film, because the farmers were saying it was important to them. And it’s one of the things that we’re going to be really driving home when we get out there with this film, which comes out in February. And that’s, I think, an area where we’re going to have more political bias, and then maybe on some other polarizing issues. I mean, you know, there’s a lot of head scratching moments in politics these days. But I think I would be surprised if there were any politicians who said they don’t want to help their own farmers in their own states get through an economic hardship. I mean, it’s an easy talking point for them. And we’re teeing it up for them.
Host Raj Daniels 17:00
So how is regenerative agriculture tied directly to the upcoming Farm Bill?
Roger Sorkin 17:06
Well, our hope is that it will be tied. I mean, the bill is still in the process of being written. What we’re trying to do is make sure that these priorities are the ones that the focus of this bill should have. You know, so I’m not a policy expert, I couldn’t tell you, line for line, what the policy says. But we are really trying to make sure that farmers are the ones that are doing the talking, that they’re the ones whose voices are being heard.
And they’re the ones that are saying, “We need a new cash crop, we need a new commodity. Carbon is an obvious choice. Give us the incentive to do that.” And in the process, we know we’re going to help create a cleaner environment, we’re gonna have a better food product, and we’re going to help deal with climate change. That’s really the strategy in a nutshell. So it’s really up to the legislators to determine how much regenerative agriculture, which is the best tool for sequestering carbon, if that’s written into the farm belt, and if that’s a major focus of the Farm Bill.
Host Raj Daniels 18:17
You mentioned the interviews from the farmers being or having the opportunity to have them be more candid because they had the cameras and they could essentially, you know, walk around and say what they needed to say, wanted to say. Did any of the farmers reflect that they felt like they had been perhaps misled or misinformed regarding climate change?
Roger Sorkin 18:37
No, no, not at all. And you know, we didn’t really get into the conversation. I mean, I did have a conversation with one of the farmers. It didn’t make it into the final film. I mean, that’s an editorial choice of mine. I mean, I didn’t think it would be helpful to put it in. But he does say on camera, “I don’t know if climate change is happening, because it’s manmade, or because the climates always been changing.” He was citing what I consider to be debunked talking points, but I didn’t challenge him on it.
Because I know, for me, it’s my medium, it allows for me to just quietly not include something in the finished product. So I wouldn’t include that line, because I don’t think it’s true. But his next line was something like, “But we’re getting beat down by the weather. We’re getting slammed by unpredictable climate patterns that we’ve never seen before.” I mean, he could recognize that as truth. So there’s no point in debating the cause of it, which goes back to our previous film, Tidewater.
Again, I think why that film was so successful in reaching the audiences we were trying to reach is we didn’t get pulled into unnecessary debates. We didn’t allow ourselves to have to play defense on misinformation talking points. I don’t blame this farmer for saying those words, you know. There’s a lot of bad information out there. But I’m not going to include that in the film. So but when he does say, “I need help. I’m getting flooded out every three years with 100-year storms. Every three years.” You know, he said that, and that’s where we converge.
I mean, we come back to this concept of the basic human need. We all need the farm fields to stop flooding and preventing farmers from having successful harvests. That affects the food security for everybody. So that’s the frame that we’re trying to maintain in this film, and really, in all of our work. I mean, anytime there’s some silly debate about climate change, we just always pull the lens back to the main idea and the big picture.
So yeah, we talked about climate change, but some of the farmers, we wanted to, and some were more forthcoming than others. I mean, I wouldn’t dare say all of them said something questionable. There’s really only one of them that that said this, what I considered to be questionable. All the others hadn’t no problem at all, saying, “I would be proud to, to have my work to, to be incentivized,” first and foremost, because they gotta have some kind of incentive to do this work. I
mean, making a living in farming is so hard. “I want to be incentivized to be a climate change hero,” No one said it in those words, but I’m paraphrasing that they see that they’re in a great position to be one of civilization’s heroes. I like to think about the origins of civilization, and how farming is often cited as one of the marks of the birth of civilization. It’s nice to think that farmers could continue to help civilization stay strong. Because look, if climate change — first thing, climate change, we’re all going to feel it, as unless our living rooms are under water, our food supply is going to be hit. That’s something that’s going to wake us all up pretty quickly.
So we’ve got to make sure our farmers are strong and resilient. And that foreign countries are not coming into buying up farmland because our farmers can’t afford to stay on them. So there are a lot of issues in rural America. And it’s just that farmers are there on the frontlines, and we got to pay attention to them, and we got to help them.
Host Raj Daniels 22:30
Now, you and I are both part of this, what I want to call media complex. Recently, I heard a term, “media-ocracy.” Are you familiar with that term? Yeah. What are your thoughts about the role that media is currently playing — I know, it’s a very macro question — media is currently playing in society overall.
Roger Sorkin 22:49
Oh, boy, what a question that just keeps on taking on a different answer. I mean, I think of media almost as water or air at this point. You can’t get away from it. And it’s too simplistic to blame “the media” for anything, I think you have to blame the media ecosystem that we’re all a part of. We choose where we want to get our information from. You didn’t used to really have a choice, you either had a TV in your home, or you didn’t, or you had a radio or you didn’t notice, like three main stations, and they kind of mostly reported straight news. Probably a lot of things were covered up, right, like you never heard about John F. Kennedy’s affairs on any of the big networks in the 1960s, early 60s. But, you know, nowadays, this concept of people, quote, unquote, “doing their own research” is just a symptom of a dysfunctional media ecosystem. I don’t know how we solve it.
I mean, I rack my brain about this all the time, I think the only way to solve it might be for us to all unplug together for a extended amount of time, which is completely unrealistic. But it’s hard to break through. It’s hard to have a message that’s going to stick. I think it’s a reason why a politician like Trump could get away with so much in such a short period of time, because it’s just so easy to move on to the next outlandish thing instead of letting a message sit and fester for a little while. And that’s the same with the good news. I mean, it just gets covered over.
It’s just constantly — to keep the good information relevant requires an awful lot of maintenance and repeating and strategy. And then you look at statistics, like, “What is cable news’s role in this?” Probably less and less every day. I think, to blame “the media” — and who’s even reading newspapers, right? I don’t have any of that data handy. But I’m sure we’ve all seen trends where we know that the traditional news sources are losing viewers and readers and listeners. And, you know, the new and up-and-coming social media platforms just continue to grow. It’s almost like Whack-a-Mole trying to keep up with them all.
Host Raj Daniels 25:13
I agree it is. Now, you’ve been on this journey for about seven years, what are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about yourself?
Roger Sorkin 25:21
I think maybe that I would despair, if I didn’t continue to do the work that I’m doing. I maybe am acknowledging the fact that you have to give yourself hope. Even if it’s false, at the end of the day, you can’t let yourself think it’s false hope. You have to think that your actions are going to have some impact on the world. And the jury will would be out on on any of us until we’re long gone. And then people can look back and see if our legacy on this planet was had any sort of good effect or not.
But I’ve learned that I have to actually believe it, that it’s all about the work. I found a skill set that I gravitated to and thought I could do pretty well, and then just decided that I would stick with it. Because I wouldn’t know what else to do. I mean, I’m long beyond the point where I would go and look for a day job somewhere in an office. You know, there was the time where I thought that this isn’t going to work out because it was sort of a hybrid model. I mean, we’re a nonprofit that makes films, we don’t really make any money off the films, we just get enough money to make them, which is great. I mean, it’s been a model that finally has started to work for us. But for a while it looked like it was going to be financially not tenable.
So no, I don’t want to sound trite and say, “I learned that I know how to persevere during hardship.” But I guess, I guess that’s what I’m saying on a certain level, and I guess this isn’t so much about me. But I also think that the times that we’re living in, people are hungry for a bright spot, and they’re hungry for at least a pathway to a new solution, or a more thoughtful solution. I think we’re offering something like that in the work that we’re doing, in the way we’re telling the stories, and the way we’re engaging with audiences. We don’t just do films, we also do communications toolkits, and we write simulated town hall exercises and mock debates for schools built on some of the issues that are in our films and developing curriculum materials. So there are a lot of ways to do communication, skill building, and narrative dissemination beyond just creating a film.
And so we’re thinking about that media ecosystem in every single way we can reach people through different types of information. So it’s been, a challenge; like I said, it’s a challenge to break through the noise. But we are reaching the audiences we think we need to reach. It’s hard to measure quality quantitatively. But we do get a lot of feedback where people are saying that our film helped them break through, whether it was their city council meeting, they just passed a measure that after people started talking about the issues that they learned in the film. We’re just a tool to keep people focused on solutions to climate and resilience issues.
Host Raj Daniels 28:28
Let’s talk tactically for a minute, how do you give yourself hope?
Roger Sorkin 28:32
I’m optimistic, and I’m cynical. And I think cynical in the sense that, I think the only way to move people to take some kind of action is — the first thing you have to do is show them how it benefits them as individuals, even if they happen to be altruistic people.
If you told them, if the most selfless thing about them is, “it’s going to benefit your community and your neighbors.” That makes them happy. So in that sense, it’s, it’s appealing to their self interest. They want to be happy, they want to feel good about what they’re doing.
And on the other end of that spectrum, of course, it’s someone who’s just looking at the bottom line and saying, just show me the money. And so in that sense, I’m always trying to speak to the person who just wants to see the money, also, because I feel like if you can’t show the money with your argument, then it’s not going to be as effective as it could be if you could show it. And so in our case, it’s not hard to show that that investing in climate solutions is going to be better for your bottom line in the long run. It’s going to help all these other things down the line, like it’s going to improve quality of life,give people better health, and better food and all that, and improve national security.
]But if your only issue is, “How much money is going to be in my pocket at the end of the day,” well, dealing with climate crisis is also going to help you either stop losing money sooner or start making money sooner or some combination of those two. So I’m cynical in that way, that I I’m under no illusions about human nature. I plead guilty to it also. But I’m hopeful in the sense that we’re pretty amazing as a species. We are pretty smart, at least compared to all the other species. And we’ve done some really cool things with our technology and our brains. And I’m really hopeful that if we just oriented our brains towards common sense, at least what I argue is the common sense that we put in all of our stories, then we can do it.
So I am hopeful because of the capacity of a human civilization. I mean, it’s pretty impressive when you step back and you look at what we’ve done. You know, I’m impressed by it. I’m awed by it. And I think we can keep doing it.
Host Raj Daniels 30:45
You mentioned the early days, kind of challenged with financial issues, what brought you to this work, and what’s your why? What keeps you going?
Roger Sorkin 30:53
So my first job out of college was in public radio, I was a producer at a public radio station in Baltimore and did audio documentaries, produced a daily show, and really met a lot of people from different walks of life in different public affairs issues that they’re all working on. So got pretty steeped into policy. Didn’t get a degree in policy ever, thought maybe I would study that somewhere along the way. But I really enjoyed approaching public policy through journalism and through media, then went to study documentary film, and wound up working at a number of different production companies on documentaries after that program, and then had my own video production company where I mostly did work in DC for nonprofits and academic institutions.
So again, always around interesting organizations that were focused on really interesting issues of all kinds. Around 2010, I came across a document project I was working on for one of my clients at the time. I had to become somewhat familiar with the Quadrennial Defense Review, which the military puts out every four years. Tt’s a strategy statement on where the military is and where it needs to what it needs to do. So I guess it’s sort of their version of the State of the Union, but for the military. And in it, they had the phrase threat multiplier, climate change as a threat multiplier.
And I thought, “Wow, that is such a striking phrase.” And it occurred to me then, that of all the environmental filmmaking that I’d known of, I didn’t know of any that there was talking about climate in terms of national security. So I started to explore that issue some more, finally got so interested in it, I didn’t have a client who was going to hire me to make a video about it. So I started making my own independent film about it and just felt like it was a story that really needed to be told within that frame.
So I wound up interviewing a lot of folks at the Pentagon in the defense space, a lot of troops that came back from Afghanistan in Iraq and talked about how they were spending too much money, and too many lives were were lost in terms of just getting fuel and protecting fuel, when other missions were not getting done. And so you had a lot of veterans moving into the clean energy space, because of that reality in Iraq and Afghanistan, because we hadn’t thought about our energy equation as well as we could have.
So at the same time that the military was beginning to talk about this as a threat multiplier, there was a lot of activity on renewable energy in the military. So that film, the burden covered a lot of what the military was doing to make that transition. And so that was really the first thing that got me down this road. And then, once that film was done, I was able to move into making other films, rather than go back to works for hire, which we’ll do every now and then, but what American Resilience Project does is just creating our own independent films, trying to have action around the policies that those films are designed to influence.
Host Raj Daniels 34:05
Well, you shared what got you here, let’s move into the future. It’s 2030. Let’s say your favorite publication, Fast Company, Fortune, Forbes, any publication, was going to write a headline about the American Resilience Project. What would you like that headline to read?
Roger Sorkin 34:23
Wow, that’s a great question. Um, let’s see, I think a great headline would be well, I mean, if it has to be about American Resilience Project by name, that’s one thing. I mean, I like the fact that we, we can just present the truth and not have to worry about who the author or presenter of the truth is. You know, I think a lot about the trust — just a little side note here. I mean, I think that people want to get information from a trusted messenger first and foremost. I sometimes will knock Al Gore every now and then, in terms of climate communication, because even though an Inconvenient Truth was a great wake up call and a really important film, there are people that never were going to listen to Al Gore anyway. And you know, there was no way they were going to spend their time with him on film. So they didn’t trust him as a messenger, they didn’t want to hear anything from them. So they didn’t watch Inconvenient Truth. You know, so far today, American Resilience Project is not associated with political brand. And that’s good.
We’re trying to just stay outside of that lexicon if we can. Again, I make no bones about my own personal political views. And you could probably extrapolate from some of the arguments that we’re making that we’ve got a soft spot for progressive values.
But we’re a non-political organization, we’re nonpartisan. And we think that there is truth that transcends whatever those political or progressive or conservative values are. We call them those values for added convenience, but they don’t have to always be. Clean air and food security don’t have to be called progressive or conservative. And if you try to do that you’re distorting the meaning.
So back to your question is, what do I think the headline would say? I think the best headline that didn’t mention us would be something like “Right wing news media suffers drastic loss of viewership.” Like, ensure then that maybe the sub headline would be “Nonprofit is credited with knocking down the door of misinformation and in defending democracy against toxic, weaponized lies.” That’s what we want to do. We’re going for what we really feel is objective truth. And we make what we consider to be airtight arguments.
Like I always thought in my mind, in one of these narcissistic moments, if Tucker Carlson ever actually wanted to have me on his show, he obviously would have me on to try to make me look stupid and liberal, and girly, and all that stuff that he spews. But all I really would have to come back to keep saying is like, “Tucker, are you against saving the lives of our troops and saving our taxpayers money? Why are you against the military moving into renewable energy?” Just that’s it, there’s an objective truth there. You can’t put a chink in that armor.
So that’s that, you know, I guess the essence of that story is what we will measure as our success someday. And what hopefully a 2030 headline will say about American Resilience Project is that we kept our heads down and focused on keeping our eye on the prize here and not taking your eye off the ball when it comes to messaging. You can pick a message, you stick with it. And it’s the only way, especially in this very disjointed media ecosystem, that your message is ever going to have success. It just got to take some time, and you can’t get drawn into side debates. And you’ve got to chart the playing field and not get pulled off it.
Host Raj Daniels 38:05
Well, let me give you a second suggestion for our headline. How about “American Resilience Project Mends Partisan Fault Lines?”
Roger Sorkin 38:13
Yeah. Or dissolves them? Or redraws them. That’s the realistic one. You’re never going to dissolve them. I mean, I’m under no illusions that it’s going to be combined. It’s it’s redraws and expands them and gives maybe a more three-dimensional perspective to what those lines look like, as opposed to a two-dimensional spectrum that goes from left to right.
Host Raj Daniels 38:39
Well, Roger, let me move into my last question. And this could be professional or personal. But if you could share some advice, words of wisdom or recommendations with the audience, and it could be, you know, perhaps how to get involved or even which movies it could start with, the Farm Bill, any one of those? What would it be?
Roger Sorkin 38:56
I would say, please do get in touch with us. We’re trying to build as much of a community around this narrative building effort. At the end of the day — and this is one thing that we’re realizing as an organization.
When we first started, it was, what film are we going to do next? What’s the policy objective for that film? Now, it’s those questions, but it’s also, “What can we do to counteract all of the disinformation and noise that’s out there,” counteract disinformation and rise above noise.
And so we need as many people as we can, understanding what the narrative is here. And I said a moment ago about the playing fields. That’s the narrative. People need to understand that, and this takes many different forms. We have resources on our website, that our sample testimony templates or scripts for people who want to testify at their public service commission hearing to talk about energy rates, or renewable energy, or rooftop solar in their community, I mean, really wonky stuff.
We’re trying to get folks involved in increased civic engagement, that’s a really important part of this. Get people involved in civic action. And so you can go to our website and learn about how to do that we’re still developing some of these resources. So of course, as a nonprofit, we’re always looking for funds to help us develop them. But if you just go to amresproject.org, you can see all of our films. Films are for free for personal use. We are still licensing them for academic and corporate use and for broadcast and other distribution platforms. But if you just want to watch it, just go to the website, you can watch them for free.
And then think about who do you know in your life? Who do you know that needs to hear this message or change their understanding of the issue? And it could just be something simple, like your uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, where you instead of avoiding conversation about politics, you actually know how to have the right conversation about politics, where you’re going to help redraw those partisan fault lines in your own daily life. I mean, that’s what it’s going to take. It’s not going to be solved by just someone like me making a movie.
The movie is just a starting point. It opens the door to that conversation, but people need to get out there and get out of their comfort zone. And learn how to be better communicators themselves, right? Like not hide anonymously on social media, throwing flames, no matter whether you’re Democrat or Republican or whatever. That’s not a way to communicate, and we shouldn’t be communicating that way. So so we want to, I guess, help re-educate society that has gotten away from its ability to have constructive conversation and communication throughout.
So that’s really what, and maybe that’s a better answer for your question about the headline. 2030. I mean, we want to give humanity an ability to resolve conflict more effectively through communication.
Host Raj Daniels 42:01
Well, Roger, I really appreciate your time today. I will put a link to your website in the show notes. And I look forward to watching Farm Free or Die myself.
Roger Sorkin 42:10
Great. Thanks, Raj. Really appreciate it.
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