by Amanda Goemmer
All of us, whether we are aware of it or not, are currently immersed in a culture of fear.
We turn on the television, go online, turn on the radio or open a newspaper and we are bombarded with huge amounts of fearful material constructed specifically to hold our attention. We are all drifting in an ocean of information, most of us without the proper tools needed to decipher all of the messages numbing our overloaded, information-logged brains.
There are various negative repercussions to this set of unfortunate circumstances, one of which is that we cannot see through the crap, so to speak. We allow the fear we are immersed in to rule our lives. It drives us to consume, to be still, and to act – many times – irrationally.
It is crucial that individuals be aware that news media is based upon deviant information. It is out of the norm, not the norm itself.
For example, we are attracted to crime stories because someone has committed an act that is abnormal for the members of our society. Therefore, it is an uncommon act, and not something that represents the nature of all the other members of our society.
After the attack on the twin towers in 2001, Islamophobia began spreading through the U.S. like wildfire.
Sadly, trusted news anchors and other influential people have many times failed to mention that not all Muslims are terrorists, just as not all Christians blow up abortion clinics or go on oppressive crusades. Terrorists are extremists, and they live all over the globe.
Many American citizens have a tendency to hand over their freedom at a moments notice when standing in the face of a potential threat.
The Patriot Act, which violates many of our constitutional rights, passed without much difficulty due to the understandable fear that engulfed the nation immediately after Sept. 11. However, President Obama recently agreed to have the Patriot Act extended. How many times will it be extended? How many of us, and for how long, will have our rights infringed upon in the name of security?
We do need to address terrorism, and punish those few fanatics who would sacrifice innocent lives in order to support their individual causes. However, we need to proceed with caution. Life without freedom isn’t worth living, even if you are safe.
After studying Paolo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” I began to see that those who are living in our society today could actually consider themselves to be oppressed.
Not in the blatantly obvious way that many of us imagine when we hear the term oppression, but in our minds. Our minds, and therefore our thoughts, are in chains, and no one can break them but us.
We have to set ourselves free, and then decide whether we are willing and capable of finding a way to make a change that is apparent in our world.
In the words of a brilliant Mad Hatter, we have to begin at the beginning.
All of us need to learn about media literacy, what it is and how to develop our skills so that we are not being controlled and molded into fear-munching zombies who are incapable of critical and meaningful thought.
Media literacy is the constant ongoing process that all individuals should be engaging in every day to ensure that the goals and beliefs that they hold are their own.
Unfortunately, many of us spend our days in a state of automaticity. That is, we place our minds on autopilot.
If we aren’t engaged in what we are doing, then we are at the mercy of those who create our media.
I have only this small bit of well-intended advice to give: Awaken; drag yourself out of the ocean and to the shore. Sputtering, lungs burning, find out if you are who you really think you are, or if you have been programmed and dozing all this time.
It can be painful, even lonely, but it is necessary for your survival.
I am sure some readers will wonder why a journalist like myself is writing about media and how dangerous it can be. To address that yet unspoken question, I have struggled with my role as a creator of media, and the impact that media may have on those who consume it.
I would like to have an affect on those who consume these words. I am hoping that those who read this will stir from their slumber, and seek to develop their media literacy skills.
I cannot force anyone into an awakening. I cannot make you do anything, not really.
However, I can point you to the tools you need to begin developing your media literacy skills.
It is simple: start researching, be engaged and most importantly, look into some of the classes offered here at CU that cover media literacy.