Media literacy needed now more than ever

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | John F. Kennedy Jr. is the central figure of the Qanon conspiracy theory that has continually promoted misinformation.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

Nov. 3, 2022

Next Tuesday, Americans will be given the opportunity to elect their next public representatives. All 435 house seats and an additional 35 Senate seats will be up for election in what President Biden called “the most important election of our lifetime” in a speech at a Democratic National Committee event last week.

According to AdImpact, Pennsylvania has seen $301 million in the 2022 general election through the beginning of October. The state’s Senate seat is currently the sixth-most expensive Senate election ever, and it trails only Georgia’s Senate race between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker in this cycle.

This isn’t news to anyone that has turned on their TV or been on the internet these past few months.

The strategies deployed by the people who are looking to become elected leaders are looking to elicit the fear of the masses. According to The Washington Post, “Democrats [have] made protecting abortion rights the central theme to their pitch to voters in the midterms.”

On the other hand, Republicans “have instead zeroed in on three issues where they believe Democrats have real liabilities; the economy, rising crime rates and an unpopular first-term president.”

With the infusion of social media ads now a steady strategy for political campaigns, it can be hard to differentiate between the facts and the fake.

It can be impossible for those that do not understand the need for media literacy.

In a 2021 study by the Media Literacy Now organization, the United States ranked 15th out of 44 countries in areas that indicate effective media literacy education. According to the same reports, in terms of press freedoms, “The U.S. is not a leader,” ranking 18th from Freedom House and 27th from Reporters Without Borders.

Much of the conversation about making Americans more media literate starts in the classroom.

There are calls for classes that teach young people the importance of being able to discern the quality of information they find online or to responsibly share and create content.

We should be doing everything in our power to secure the future of this nation by empowering the upcoming generations with the intellectual wherewithal to withstand the onslaught of misinformation and disinformation.

What about my racist family member who still thinks that Donald Trump is the president, Biden is dead and John F. Kennedy Jr. is now a Conservative leading a crusade of internet conspiracy theorists that will save the world from a kabul that consists of Tom Hanks and other random Hollywood stars?

Misleading voters to sway their impressionable minds is not a new concept. There are now just more avenues where consumers can get their information.

We should be aware of our informational intake, just like we are aware of the type of food we put in our bodies.

Some of us may choose to have a steady diet of Cheez-Its and Mr. Pibb, but we are aware of the damage those snacks are doing to our digestive system. We should take the same precautions while digesting information.