P O S T E D B Y S A L L Y
Everything communicates. Learning what this means is one of the keys to good citizenship and good philanthropy.
I’ll state the case more strongly: The health of our society depends critically on the ability of each citizen to read, listen, and observe deeply; to interpret thickly; and to understand the promises and beguilements of media, both old and new. Because most of us lack these skills, or worse, fail to exercise them, we’re in danger of throwing away our democracy. We leave ourselves at the mercy of those who can exploit our ignorance to advance narrow interests.
Recent history has shown us, in a very dramatic way, how manipulation of the media can take a powerful nation into an immoral, disastrous war against an imagined threat.
The vast majority of Americans simply sleepwalk through the news. We consistently fail to detect propaganda, bias, and censorship in the media we consume.
Just as young people learn about the three branches of government in their civics classes, they should learn to identify lead-ins, angles, and talking points—and think critically about them. When they see an image, they should ask, “What’s missing from it? How was it manipulated? Why was this chosen by the editors from among all possible images?” Instead of passively watching television, they should pay close attention to the carefully constructed juxtapositions of images and sounds; they should make note of who’s given the last word in a discussion; they should challenge the narrow frame of a debate. And they should always make a point of asking, “Who pays for the news?”
I don’t think it’s an accident that in our hemisphere only Canada has mandated media literacy in its school curricula. In Europe, it was the Nordic socialist democracies that led the way.
Unfortunately, staying well informed and immunizing ourselves against manipulation by the media is only one battle in the larger war of ideas currently being fought on home turf. Once we know the truth, how will we be motivated to act? And what are the values that will animate us or fail to animate us?
Favorite media literacy links:
Source of images: Media Literacy Clearinghouse