This New Book Will Document How The Tech Industry Is Resisting Trump
In the months since the election, some of the most surprising and impactful resistance to the Trump presidency has come from the tech sector. After Trump announced his travel ban against refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries in late January, the co-founders of Lyft pledged $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union; Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, said the company would house refugees for free. In March, the New York-based Meetup announced a partnership with advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League and Planned Parenthood to coordinate protests among activists already working to resist Trump.
The new magazine Logic, which takes an almost literary approach to describing and demystifying the tech sector, is producing a special-edition book to chronicle the efforts of the tech sector to disrupt Trumpism. The book, Tech Against Trump, is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter, and will feature interviews with a wide range of tech-industry employees—from software engineers to designers to cafeteria workers—who are involved in active resistance efforts. Ben Tarnoff, a writer and one of the founders of Logic, tells Fast Company that Tech Against Trump will both document these efforts, and act as a guide to inspire further action. Bay Area-based artist Gretchen Röehrs, who illustrated the travel-ban protests at San Francisco International Airport, will sketch portraits of each industry employee featured.
Logic is “as new as it could be,” Tarnoff says. The founding team–a group of five writers, designers, and engineers–came together in 2016 with the idea that the tech industry has been underserved by the existing discourse around it. So much of tech-related conversation centers on innovation: what’s new, what could be broken apart and made better. Tarnoff and his co-founders, instead, wanted to focus on the narrative of the industry–the stories behind the new developments. As Logic’s founders write on their website: “Tech is magic. Tech lets us build worlds and talk across oceans. Whatever kind of freak we are–and most of us are several kinds–tech helps us find other freaks like us.”
The first issue, which came out at the end of March, is called Intelligence: It contains a deep dive into the gender gulf in coding and an examination of technology’s interference in emotional intelligence, among other subjects. “There are a lot of little magazines that we really admired that gave space for this longer, more thoughtful writing on a range of subjects–a place like The New Inquiry comes to mind–and we wanted to do something like that specifically for technology,” Tarnoff says, adding that while a print journal about technology might seem counterintuitive, they’re hoping to inspire a different way of thinking about the sector as a whole. Logic will publish three issues per year: Up next on the 2017 docket are Sex and Justice.
But much like the rest of America, the founders did not anticipate a Trump presidency. “As we were putting together the first issue of Logic, we noticed this upsurge of organizing and activism from tech workers,” Tarnoff says. “It really energized us; it felt like there was an opportunity there to get a lot of voices together of all different folks who were either working within the tech sector or using technology to fight Trump, and collect them into a single volume.”
One of the people Logic spoke to for Tech Against Trump was David Huerta, the president of SEIU United Service Workers West, a coalition that represents around 8,000 of janitors and security guards on tech campuses throughout Silicon Valley. “The types of challenges they’re facing–low wages, difficult working conditions, high housing costs–all predated Trump, but Trump will make everything worse with his war on organized labor and immigration,” Tarnoff says. “They’re vulnerable in all sorts of new ways, but they’re also developing strategies to fight back.” Part of that, Tarnoff adds, will be fostering solidarity between blue-collar and white-collar tech workers; the pushback from high-level executives against Trump’s harsh immigration policies has already begun to build that foundation. “One of the things we’re trying to do is expand the traditional definition of what a tech worker is, and give all voices in the industry a platform to share and communicate,” Tarnoff says.
The authors are also interested in how tech itself is fueling a new type of resistance. In Tech Against Trump, Laurie Allen, the head of the Digital Scholarship Department at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses organizing DataRefuge, a massive data-rescue effort in which she and other organizers have been scraping information from federal websites that they believe are counter to the current administration’s policies–information on climate change and the environment spring to mind–that might be removed or made inaccessible. “It’s a fairly technical undertaking, and a good example of how tech is being mobilized in the fight against Trump,” Tarnoff says.
Tech Against Trump surpassed its Kickstarter funding goal within two days of launching its campaign, and the book will be available in June, Tarnoff says. “The momentum that was unleashed by the election was extremely encouraging,” Tarnoff says, “but the challenge becomes: How do you keep that train moving?” Through the book, Tarnoff says the Logic team hopes to provide one small piece of the answer to that question. “The folks we’ve spoken to have really useful lessons that they’ve drawn from this experience, even though it hasn’t been that long,” he says. “They already have knowledge about what works, what didn’t, and what comes next. Those are the questions we need to be asking.”