Pitts: To survive, we must teach children critical thinking and media literacy | Remark
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” — Martin Luther King
Dr King didn’t know half of it.
Those words, after all, date back to 1963. At the time, the idea of American citizens and lawmakers attacking their own democracy would have been unthinkable, flouting precautions in an unimaginably deadly pandemic, ignoring an unthinkable threat to our very planet. . Of course, at the time, the information was going through a few reliable channels: Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, the local newspaper.
There was no social media. The production and dissemination of information were not yet the prerogative of everyone.
Things have changed. The unthinkable, the unimaginable and the unthinkable are hard on us. We are faced with not one, but three simultaneous existential emergencies, and while each is distinct, it is time for us to understand that in the end, they are not different threats at all, but rather different manifestations. of the same threat.
Which means that the insurgency crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, and the climate change crisis are really, at bottom, just facets of a disinformation crisis.
If you consider how belief in falsely risky information spread through social media – for example, Donald Trump won, vaccines magnetize the skin, cold spells refute global warming – has hampered, if not crippled, our response to these. problems and others, the veracity of it becomes evident.
Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley are long dead, many local newspapers are just a shadow of themselves. Social media claims to be filling the void and as a result disinformation has reached critical levels.
It’s not that no one saw it coming. The warnings date back at least two decades, including in this very space. But the threat seemed so moot. Who knew it would have such real and profound effects? Who would have thought that it would split this country – this planet – like an ax, separating so decisively the informed from the proudly uninformed, the followers of the bonkers theories and wacky beliefs that would have been mocked in the public eye in 1963 but this, in 2021? , find the strength of numbers and online validation? And this now appears to be a clear and present danger.
Just last week, for example, a United Nations panel of experts released a report warning that climate change has brought us to the brink of disaster: “code red for humanity.” This is a truth underscored by our own eyes, by the centuries-old events that now occur every year: devastating floods, scorching heat, raging fires, raging storms. The damage, we are told, is irreversible. We can only mitigate it.
You’d think such a bleak prognosis would leave us united on the need for immediate action, but Fox News saw little to fear, appealing to climate denier Marc Morano to assure viewers the UN just wants take their cars. “You are fooled,” he said, “if you fall for this UN report. “
And so on.
The need to teach our children well – media literacy and critical thinking, in particular – has never been more urgent. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to call this a question of survival. After all, the insurgency crisis threatens our country, the COVID crisis threatens our health, and the climate crisis threatens the only planet we have. But the disinformation crisis has provoked or exacerbated them all.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.