Opinion: Media literacy is an essential education
The best way to combat disinformation is to educate children. Image: Free pik
Understanding the media is the only way to combat disinformation
We live in a time when the truth hangs by a thread. Disinformation through social media has resulted in millions of people accepting lies as a reality, alongside a widespread rejection of facts and science. Be it conspiratorial cults, political lies or the frenzy of manipulative politicians, we live in a time when powerful people can control mobs through a single social media post.
In order to be able to fight disinformation and its forces, we as a society have to educate ourselves about the topics of media literacy. It is imperative for everyone to recognize false information and understand how it spreads.
Media literacy is based on the critical analysis of media, which can range from mainstream news to advertising, movies, social media posts, video games or books. Simply put, the best way to engage with a medium is to ask questions such as: Who did this? Who paid to have this done? Who could benefit or suffer from the news? Doesn’t the message leave out any information?
A strong understanding of media education encourages people to question the messages we encounter and understand what is essential in today’s political landscape.
Perhaps the most dangerous modern example of weapons-assisted disinformation is the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that former US President Donald Trump is waging a covert war against satanic pedophile cannibals who lead the Democrats, Hollywood, and mainstream media. While these claims are obviously ridiculous and have no factual background, QAnon’s disinformation has spread to millions of people around the world. 56 percent of Republicans in the United States say QAnon either largely or partially votes, along with 35 percent of independent voters and 9 percent of Democrats.
To be clear, QAnon is not a harmless or ironic internet conspiracy. Acts of violence have been committed by supporters of the sect in the real world, from alleged kidnappings and murders to acts of terrorism and political death threats. And then there is the failed attempt at insurrection on Capitol Hill, where many QAnon believers came out in droves to attack the heart of American democracy. So much damage has been done by lying.
Even Canadians are not safe from the disinformation infection as the armed person who drove through the gates of Rideau Hall in search of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted QAnon theories on social media.
With so many people involved in such fleeting misinformation, we must realize that the solution is not so simple as pointing out their mistakes to these misled people. Conspiracy theory supporters have fallen victim to cult-like behavior control, which means their fanatical devotion to disinformation is unlikely to be broken by the truth.
While media literacy is important for sensible people, the best way to combat disinformation is through children’s education. Elementary schools should start teaching media literacy, especially in the context of social media, as future generations will be among the first to be fully educated in the social media age. In raising Canada’s youth, we will have a future generation that is not nearly as prone to violent misinformation as we have seen today.