Inside Audible

Yesterday’s Tragedy and a Future Lit by Hope

Audible founder and Executive Chairman Don Katz shared the following with our employees in an internal note.

The path to yesterday’s acts of sedition was all but paved by the creation and aftermath of the events in Charlottesville, by rhetoric we heard during the first presidential debates that clearly legitimized those wearing “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirts in the Capitol yesterday, and all of this was exacerbated by a parallel, destabilizing narrative designed to undermine the very concepts of democracy and free elections.

Audible exists to unleash the power of words. We listen.

Even Donald Trump’s allies have called his words “selfish,” but in fact they were traitorous. As a longtime student of words and their capacity to define the human condition, and as someone who lived the dark days of 1968 through 1973 and has spent the past 46 years either writing words professionally or working with so many others to create a company that now conveys words to millions, I will pause to observe that yesterday’s tragedy was part of a dark continuum of anti-democratic actions that included the support and complicity of many elected leaders beyond Trump. Demagogues capable of drawing forth the worst and most violent elements of society have successfully ignited fear and ignorance and murderous violence in ways that have marked the darkest days of history – and they have often been enabled by professional propaganda operatives as well as mainstream media supporters dedicated to undermining truth. People in power violated their oaths in pursuit of power over months and even years, and they know what they created. It is perhaps stating the obvious for many of you who understand why we are headquartered in Newark as part of defining a company around a higher-order sense of moral purpose and meaning that if the mob yesterday had been Black, the outcomes and, in all probability, the number of deaths would have been different.

Many of you I am so proud to work with have joined the Audible family over the past four years, so you may have missed the note I sent employees in January 2017 calling the racist executive order focused on immigrants a heartless assault on democratic principles and an evocation of people’s worst fears and capacity to hate. Messages like this to our global employees have challenged actions by this administration and this president’s assault on gender status, and our statements about racism and trans rights also reiterate what we stand for and understand as an unacceptable status quo.

Back in the fall of 2016, in the wake of the last presidential election, my internal note stated: “History teaches over and over again that allowing people to surface the best in themselves draws out selflessness and even altruism. But the past is also marred by passages – often attended by the kind of broad economic displacement happening on a global plane now – when fear and anger draw out the worst in many of us. As a company we will not tolerate a sensibility internally that diminishes anyone who works here because of who he or she is – from where someone comes from to who someone chooses to love – and we will also stand behind any employee whose civil rights or dignity is challenged from outside Audible in any way we can.”

Today, I am once again proud to work at a company that seeks to define itself around “advancing equality” and compassion and the power of giving people a chance. I will remain fearful over the next 13 days as so many of us around the world have feared the news each morning for all of 2020, because the nation’s leader chose to attack the soul of the United States of America. But beyond the coming days, I see a future lit by hope as the “work of democracy” turns to repairing the damage. Audible’s actions in Newark and elsewhere have endeavored to create programs and pursue principles to help address the unconscionable chasm between haves and have-nots made so much worse by people entrusted to lead and by a plague made worse through their actions.

Onward to a better world –

Don Katz

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