Cruising around on the inter-webs, I realized that I was taught something, 5th, 6th grade? Not sure when, maybe a little later.
Let’s now call it the “smell test.”
The question, does it pass the “sniff test?”
What it amounts to, though, is “media literacy.” The old joke, decades out of sync?
“I read it on the internet — it has to be true.”
That stopped being funny. It’s a point, though, and gradually drifting away from twitter, as a form of amusement and water cooler chat? I tried the micro-blog app, then Mastodon. There was one other, I think, maybe two, but the point, in my own mind? I’ve seen this before, the migration from one platform towards others.
I doubt I’ll give up on twitter altogether, but I’m less inclined, I think of it like facebook, I send it material, but my stuff starts with me, and gets bounced out, rather than me pulling in a feed from there.
I like civil discourse. I tend to lean liberal, but only a little.
The problem being, I suppose, that we’re not being literate when we consume our media, in its various forms. My first real exposure? I was driving my old truck, and it only had an AM radio, a former fleet vehicle, kind of beat up. I was listening to a talk radio show, at the time, a well-known, right-wing, bloviating bourgeoisie.
Rolling down a street in old East Texas, I listened carefully while the orator constructed an argument, and the conclusion was a leap. There were steps leading up to the conclusion, but then, there was an absence of supporting fact, the trail went from A to B to C, and that forcefully concluded with 17. The numbers and the letters didn’t align. Weren’t even part of the same set of symbols. Weren’t connected, but the oration was masterful, the rhetoric, sublime.
Pissed me off, too.
There was a logical leap, but the supporting evidence didn’t — in any way — connect to the conclusion but this was talk radio, and it didn’t matter. Well-spoken, a few big words, but the tone and texture outweighing what the meat was, or wasn’t, as I listened carefully to the argument, and I was able to see logical loopholes, big enough to drive that truck through. No logic.
Brilliant rhetoric, but no facts to support the final statements.
Cut to commercial.
I miss the days of old when I could trust a channel to give me both sides of the story. That’s clearly missing now, but learning to read which way it falls? What the intended sway might be? That’s part of media literacy, I would hope. One of my first college classes was supposedly Freshman Composition, but rather than call it that, the school called it Rhetoric, which, oddly enough, is about winning an argument, not always about facts.
To be sure, the original definition of the term rhetoric was about the artful composition of the material that is presented, but within the current climate? That’s shifted. Like that talk radio host, it was about winning an argument, and the actual facts had little to do with the outcome.
Pesky thing about facts? They stick just like a booger.
As a final thought, gratefully lifted from a meme online someplace?
Take careful note of the characters who claim the election was rigged, stolen, or otherwise tampered with when that desired outcome lost, but when the chosen outcome wins? The election was completely fair, legal, and there was no hint of impropriety.
I don’t know that it can be taught, but some kind of media literacy would surely strengthen us.
As always, I beg to remain your humble servant, &c.
Some conditions may apply.