Depending on which side of the political divide you live on (the last centrist was euthanized in 1996 by order of the Reform Party) there are always wing nuts. There are those who bemoan the growing of sod, as it removes spotted owl habitat, or those who think that the only good (state name of minority group here) is the one in the ashtray.
Either end of the political spectrum is inhabited with loons. Neither end of the spectrum will change their minds, or change the subject, depending on the state of their medication. Being a media junkie, we watch both ends of the parade, as it shows exactly how each extremity spins reality for their own aims.
For example this headline “Town Tags Homeless with GPS trackers…” courtesy of the Drudge Report. If you’re of one particular political bent, this speaks to 24/7 monitoring of dangerous, drug-addled homeless hate-filled maniacs who want to lower your property values, invade your home and make you buy another shotgun for self-defense of your property and family members. Grrrrr! Tag’em all with a .303!
Or, if you actually click on the link and read the story from United Press International, (Danish town outfits homeless with GPS trackers) the story is about a town in Denmark who have asked for 20 volunteers to carry a tracker in their pocket for a week so they can see where the homeless go to provide services and social workers where the homeless actually are.
Perhaps this might even be somewhat enlightened and intelligent, in that if you don’t know where these folks hang out, you can’t put things and people in place to help them not be homeless.
We’re not saying Drudge has a particular bent, but they know their audience, leaving out the little info-nugget about it being a town in Denmark and the aim of the project being to actually help the homeless.
Which is where media literacy comes into play. Being bombarded with all kinds of media from that firehose of an internet, we have turned off actual media literacy from overuse. When there were actual newspapers and television stations, we could take the time to digest and reflect on what was presented to us as news, then make up our minds as to what our take on the item would warrant.
Today what passes for news consists of a local outrage or two, the newest diet secrets of the stars and why (name of any product) will either kill you in a week, or is the salvation of all your ills. Weather, some sports, giggle a bit for the camera and gone.
There are some outlets that actually have news that tries to explain things, or at least act as some kind of first-draft of history. The BBC and the CBC both take their journalism with a modicum of seriousness.
Newspapers have devolved into distant wire stories edited with all the skill of a moron with ADHD and the frantic reporting of a 12 year old on their fifth can of Red Bull covering the cops, the courts, city hall and the arts for both print, podcasts and video blogs at the same time. You get more content reading the government nutrition label on bottle of water.
News consuming has devolved to “Am I in imminent peril of being swallowed by an alien invader?” “Do these pants make my ass look fat?” And, “Should I bring an umbrella/parka/sunscreen with me today?”
Which explains why we’ve turned off the media-literacy modules in our brain: It can’t cope with the mouse-droppings that pass for mass consumer news from the usual content sources, so we barely scan headlines and fall into the trap of thinking that is the whole story.
The hed is rarely the whole story. Take the time to dig a bit. Reinvigorate your media literacy and question why a media outlet would spin a story that way. If three reputable sources report more or less the same thing, then it’s probably close enough to have an element of truthiness about it and you can choose to ignore it, or investigate it some more.
Maybe we need a World Media Literacy Day?