Restoring Sanity, Encouraging Media Literacy

Tens of thousands of people showed up to partake in the “Rally to Restore Sanity and Fear” in Washington, DC last weekend. And for some completely miraculous reason, I had the privilege of having cable TV and actually being able to watch it live! (Okay, I was at my parents’ house.. not entirely serendipitous nor magical, but exciting nonetheless.) The program had several big names, relevant talking points, and of course lots of “lolz”.

Personally, I found the rally successful in a variety of ways. It was poignant without being preachy. Lessons were learned.

Some may argue that this was preaching to the choir—and yes, while it is likely so, you can’t disregard the movement’s worth as a whole. Especially from a media literacy perspective. American politics are and forever will be fueled by media coverage—news outlets decide what to report on and what to deem as important. This is why people still believe Obama is Muslim and that a mosque is being built DIRECTLY ON “ground zero” (Thank you Sarah Palin).

One of my most favorite aspects of Colbert and Stewart in their programming in general is the incorporation and application of media literacy skills throughout their programming. Since it is essential a parody of formal television news, the replication of format and presentation allows viewers to witness and consider strategies used by media outlets to get a variety of messages across. Both individuals educate viewers on being media literate without even trying.

Although the whole appeal of the show is political satire, it truly is a program that encourages critical thinking about the politics that affect us. It subtly promotes awareness about the messages we are receiving, and where we are receiving them from. They always make an effort to compile news and demonstrate tools media outlets incorporate to manipulate what we automatically intercept as “truth”.

The idea that a fake news show is as substantive as real news programming, coupled with the fact that many young people are replacing ‘real’ news programming to learn of current events is both exciting and scary.

Personally, I find that fake news has been an absolutely fabulous tool for encouraging civic engagement in our communities. Yet the subject of apparent media bias has to be taken into account as far as education viewers on specific issues. These shows have a very liberal slant–do you think people are entirely aware of this as they are watching? And if they seek these programs as a primary source for current events, do you think viewers are missing out on a whole realm of important subjects and perspectives? Do you think any awareness on current events is better than none at all? Lastly, do you think it has helped or hurt politics in America?

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