Opinion: Media literacy is essential education
The best way to fight misinformation is to educate children. Image: Free Pik
Understanding the media is the only way to fight misinformation
We live in a time where truth hangs by a thread. Misinformation through social media has led millions to accept the lie as fact, alongside a massive rejection of facts and science. Whether it’s conspiratorial cults, political lies, or the ravings of manipulative politicians, we live in a time when powerful people can control crowds through a single social media post.
In order to counter disinformation and the forces that drive it, we as a society need to educate ourselves on the topics of media literacy. It is essential that everyone knows how to recognize false information and understands how it is spread.
Media literacy is based on the critical analysis of media, which can be anything from mainstream news to advertisements, movies, social media posts, video games, or books. Simply put, the best way to engage with media is to ask questions like: who did this? who paid for this to happen? Who might benefit or suffer from the message? Does the message omit information?
A good understanding of media literacy encourages people to question and understand the messages we encounter, which is essential in today’s political landscape.
Perhaps the most dangerous modern example of weaponized disinformation is the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims former US President Donald Trump is waging a covert war against satanic and pedophile cannibals who run the Democratic Party, Hollywood and the media. General public. Although these claims are patently ridiculous and devoid of any factual basis, QAnon misinformation has spread to millions of people around the world. Fifty-six percent of Republicans in the United States say QAnon is mostly or partly true, alongside 35 percent of independent voters and nine percent of Democrats.
To be clear, QAnon is not some harmless or ironic internet conspiracy. Acts of real-world violence have been committed by followers of the sect, ranging from kidnappings and alleged murders to acts of terror and threats of political assassination. And then there is the failed insurrection attempt on Capitol Hill, where many QAnon supporters have come out en masse to attack the heart of American democracy. So much damage has been done because of the lies.
Even Canadians aren’t immune to infection from misinformation, as the gun-bearer who walked through the doors of Rideau Hall while searching for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released QAnon theories about social networks.
With so many people involved in such volatile misinformation, we must realize that the solution is not as simple as showing these misled people the error of their ways. Conspiracy theorists have fallen victim to cult-like behavioral control, meaning their fanatical devotion to misinformation stands little chance of being shattered by the truth.
While it is essential for reasonable people to learn media literacy skills, the best way to fight misinformation is to educate children. Elementary schools should start teaching media literacy classes, especially in the context of social media, because future generations will be among the first to be fully brought up in the age of social media. By educating the young people of Canada, we will have a future generation that will not be as susceptible to violent disinformation as the one we have seen today.