I’ve been kind of slipping on updating this blog. It’s not that my belief that creative minds and voices have much to contribute to the civic dialogue has diminished. It’s just that creative minds and voices are also preoccupied with activities that are part of that engagement. Last week was a big Hill week for the Hispanic Congressional and Congressional Black Caucuses. I was involved with a Hill screening and briefing for the documentary film Pushing the Elephant to support a bill that addresses violence against women around the globe.
It’s that old life happens between plans thing.
When I clicked on the President’s Weekly this weekend, I thought it was a repeat about the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Hardly so. What it is is a reminder about the crippling impact anonymous campaign financing on the democratic process. It’s not that the Citizens United decision opened a new frontier in the U.S. political culture. It just sanctioned the bag of dirty tricks by law; and those who benefit are trying to keep it that way. Obviously it’s a sticking point for the President this year. If people are demanding transparency in government why can’t that apply to persons and interests, private, foreign and otherwise that influence government, policy, and governing?
As November’s mid term elections approach, the President’s message unintentionally brings up a discussion about media literacy in the political sphere. What is fact. What is fiction. What is opinion. What words, images, and messages persuade, manipulate or just fall flat. There was a time media literacy was viewed as a retreat by educators from a losing battle in reading literacy. But not so now. Messaging is a constant for anyone who has access to a audio and/or video device, space, public transportation, consumer packages.
The National Association of Media Literacy Education defines “media literacy” as such:
Within North America, media literacy is seen to consist of a series of communication competencies, including the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, and COMMUNICATE information in a variety of forms, including print and non-print messages.
Media literacy empowers people to be both critical thinkers and creative producers of an increasingly wide range of messages using image, language, and sound. It is the skillful application of literacy skills to media and technology messages.
Whereas media literacy asks us to be critical thinkers, the President’s weekly asks us to scrutinize the source, i.e. follow the money trail.
What is clear is that Congress has a responsibility to act. But the truth is, any law will come too late to prevent the damage that has already been done this election season. That is why, any time you see an attack ad by one of these shadowy groups, you should ask yourself, who is paying for this ad? Is it the health insurance lobby? The oil industry? The credit card companies?
Of course, without the benefit of laws that require full disclosure, all we can do is talk to the invisible hand.
Transcript available here.