media literacy

“Fake” news is a real problem and here are some great tips to evaluate what you’re reading!

(Keep in mind though, that much “news” is also based in some fact, but often tilted to represent a bias or ideological slant. In general, watch out for sensational/alarmist headlines, no sources cited in the text, and lots of emotional/judgmental language. Good sources for relatively unbiased news: The New York Times, BBC News, Associated Press, and NPR.)

Not sure if a news source may be biased? Ask a librarian!

(Image from IFLA. Text reads: Consider the source: Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and its contact info. Read beyond: Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story? Check the author: Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real? Supporting sources: Click on those links. Determine if the info given actually supports the story. Check the date: Reposting old news stories doesn’t mean they’re relevant to current events. Is it a joke?: If it is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure. Check your biases: Consider if your own beliefs could affect your judgement. Ask the experts: Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site.)

Recognizing Rhetoric

How do you get what you want using just your words? Aristotle set out to answer exactly that question over 2,000 years ago with the Treatise on Rhetoric. Rhetoric, according to Aristotle, is the art of seeing the available means of persuasion. And today we apply it to any form of communication. 

Aristotle focused on oration, though, and he described three types of persuasive speech. Forensic, or judicial, rhetoric establishes facts and judgements about the past, similar to detectives at a crime scene.

Epideictic, or demonstrative, rhetoric makes a proclamation about the present situation, as in wedding speeches. 

But the way to accomplish change is through deliberative rhetoric, or symbouleutikon. Rather than the past or the present, deliberative rhetoric focuses on the future. It’s the rhetoric of politicians debating a new law by imagining what effect it might have, and it’s also the rhetoric of activists urging change. In both cases, the speaker’s present their audience with a possible future and try to enlist their help in avoiding or achieving it.

But what makes for good deliberative rhetoric, besides the future tense?According to Aristotle, there are three persuasive appeals: ethos, logos,1:47and pathos. Ethos is how you convince an audience of your credibility. Logos is the use of logic and reason. This method can employ rhetorical devices such as analogies, examples, and citations of research or statistics. But it’s not just facts and figures. It’s also the structure and content of the speech itself. The point is to use factual knowledge to convince the audience, but, unfortunately, speakers can also manipulate people with false information that the audience thinks is true. And finally, pathos appeals to emotion, and in our age of mass media, it’s often the most effective mode. Pathos is neither inherently good nor bad, but it may be irrational and unpredictable. It can just as easily rally people for peace as incite them to war. Most advertising, from beauty products that promise to relieve our physical insecurities to cars that make us feel powerful, relies on pathos.

Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals still remain powerful tools today, but deciding which of them to use is a matter of knowing your audience and purpose, as well as the right place and time. And perhaps just as important is being able to notice when these same methods of persuasion are being used on you.

From the TED-Ed Lesson How to use rhetoric to get what you want - Camille A. Langston

Animation by TOGETHER

Examples of conservative hypocrisy on my Facebook feed:
  • A girl was told that she was not allowed to mention Christianity on a paper for class. She said, “They’re impeding on my right to practice my religion.” The class was focused on Eastern religions and she was supposed to explain in detail what Buddhism was.
  • “Welfare mothers should have their kids taken away!” *person in question is literally a baby factory and trying to push out kids just to have the “experience”*
  • “I’m SO media literate.” Only reads Fox News and whenever someone points out the lies in it they are a biased snowflake. 
  • “You’re such a snowflake, why do you always have to disagree with me?” …..Brenda I literally just told you that I agree with your stance for once, why you gotta be like this?
  • “Boycott Hamilton! How dare they attack Mike Pence?” I just literally sat here and watched you attack an innocent barista because they didn’t give you a Christmas themed cup.

The kicker? I’m literally describing one person. I wish I could make this shit up.
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Stonewall (Movie) - Whitewashing & Trans Erasure

The plot of the movie follows the perspective of a gay, white, cis-male protagonist. When historically, an African-American, butch, lesbian woman, Stormé DeLarverie, actually accounted for the pivotal moment that sparked the Stonewall riots. Transgender people of color, Marsha P. Johnson or Sylvia Rivera, among others, also played an immense role in Stonewall. The movie is capitalising on the erasure of the people who started the Stonewall movement by whitewashing, cis-ifying and rewriting LGBTQ history.

Conventionally the media presents an image that the world is built by a young generation of white, straight, cis men acting as knights in shining armour. The movie also applies this ideal, although the protagonist is gay, he is still a white, cis-man. In short its about a white boy saving the gays. The movie thus serves as a disservice to the individuals who fought and started the LGBTQ liberation.

Revised on August 7th 2015: Original version made it seem as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera sparked the Stonewall movement, and although they were pivotal, Stormé DeLarverie’s involvement ignited the Stonewall movement. 

So here's what I've found about the NAACP bombing today

-NAACP office in Colorado Springs was bombed at 11am today
-no one was hurt, but part of the building is burned
-no mainstream news has covered this, even though suspect is still missing
-here’s the official description of the suspect:

“The FBI said it is looking for a person of interest, described as a balding white man in his 40s who may be driving a dirty, 2000 or older model, white pick-up truck with paneling, an open tailgate, and a missing or covered license plate.”

How I Met Your Mother – Fatphobia

“Over 200 women, spanning six continents, 17 nationalities, 74 sexual positions, and not a single fatty. It’s impressive.”

This is said by a character in Barney’s imagination, and it is just one example of the fat phobia in How I Met Your Mother. It usually comes from Barney but other characters are guilty of this as well. For example, this is an interaction between Marshall, Barney, and Robin.

Marshall: He’s rich? Please tell me he wrote you a big, fat check. A check so fat, it doesn’t take its shirt off when it goes swimming.

Barney: That is a big, fat check. A check so fat, after you have sex with it, you don’t tell your buddies about it.

Robin: A check so fat, when it sits next to you on an airplane, you ask yourself if it should have bought two seats.

The show constantly puts down overweight people, especially women, and makes it into a joke. For example:

Barney: […] why can’t there be a day for those who are single and like it that way?

Marshall: Now you just sound like a fat girl at Valentine’s Day.

While giving advice to Ted about a threesome, Barney asked if “the aggregate weight of both contestants [is] under 400 pounds” In another episode, Barney revealed that he talks to overweight women at the gym, but will not have sex with them until they have lost weight. He also installed a body weight calculator under his doormat, and explained it with:

Let’s say the young lady you’re bringing home is dressed for winter. Under those layers, an unwelcome surprise could await you. The scale with body fat calculator I’ve hidden under the welcome mat makes sure you never have banger’s remorse.

When talking to a minister about his wedding, there is the following interaction:

Minister: If you want to get married in my church, you’ll stop breaking the ninth commandment.

Barney: Uh, no fat chicks?

Minister: Thou shalt not lie!

Barney: With fat chicks?

The show treats larger women as if they are a joke and not real people, and this is a common problem in media that needs to stop.

Updated on August 5th 2015: Changed overweight to larger women, seeing as overweight implies that there is a weight standard people should conform to. 

chthonicly  asked:

Do you have any book recs about critical thinking/debate skills/media literacy?

Agh, off the top of my head that’s tough. There was a really great book I read about critical thinking for an archaeology class in undergrad but that was literal decades ago and I don’t have the book anymore. Most of my critical thinking training was, well, “on the job” as it were. I had a really good mentor who often modeled oppositional thinking for me – taking the opposing side of an argument in order to strengthen the one we were making, or in order to take it apart. He never “played devil’s advocate” for the sake of it – he just tried to always come at a question from all angles in order to make sure that the eventual answer was the strongest it could be. 

Okay, I have one general recommendation for you and two weird workbook recommendations. 

General recommendation: George Bernard Shaw. He was a playwright in the late 19th and early 20th centuries up through WWII (he lived to be 94 and only died when he fell down a flight of stairs, I’m pretty sure he’s an immortal who faked his own death). He was a Fabian, a vegetarian, an advocate for the total revision of the English language’s spelling structure, a genius, a feminist, to an extent an anti-racist, and a nutball. He wrote plays that deeply challenged peoples’ most basically held beliefs about the roles of women, violence, and politics in society. Some of his stuff is a little dated compared to Tumblr discourse, but watching his characters challenge basic assumptions is a great way of learning how to think about the most deeply held and unquestioned beliefs we have. Try Mrs. Warren’s Profession (sexism), The Devil’s Disciple (one of my particular favorites, mostly religion), or Major Barbara (violence and industry) to start with. His short plays are quite good too. 

And here are two exercises you can do: 

Go to and read any comic you like. As you read, position yourself in opposition to whatever the comic is advocating, and work out how you would argue against it. If you can’t, google around a little for how other people may have argued. There are very few things that are wholly and entirely wrong in this world, but I believe Chick Tracts are one of them; they are evil and predicated on preying on hate and fear, but they’re good practice. You can confidently assume that they are wrong, so the workout is to figure out HOW they are wrong and how you would refute them. (This is presuming you don’t have past traumas associated with religiously driven *ism that make it hard to read these – if you do, don’t do this, it’s not worth it.) 

(I once decided to really apply myself to getting to the root of chick tracts, and I discovered that there is no root. These comics are not produced by a church or a ministry; they’re just a company that caters to a specific brand of evangelical church, which is why they are so generic and so much about what you should hate, as opposed to what you should have love and compassion for.) 

You can also find and watch any episode of Ancient Aliens, or any television show that features Giorgio Tsoukalos, Erich von Daniken, or David Childress. The theories of Ancient Aliens are full of “science” so you will probably have to google for refutations, but you can study how they are refuted by real scientists and also you can pick apart how the show presents speculation as truth (the most obvious technique is to ask a question and then say “the answer may lie in [total change of subject]”). The whole alien debate is full of both whackjobs and earnest, dedicated scientists, and you can learn a lot from both. 

One final thing I will say, and again this was taught to me by my mentor, is that critical thinking is not about winning. That is the opposite of critical thinking. Critical thinking is about learning, and discerning truth not just from lies but also from ego. You don’t use critical thinking to trick yourself or others into affirming a position that you know to be wrong; you use it to study your position and, if necessary, change it. It requires humility as well as diligence. But the upside is that once you know you are right, you have a myriad of tools at your disposal to prove it. 

Readership, recommendations for books and websites about critical thinking, debating, and media literacy are welcome – toss ‘em in comments or reblog, as per usual I don’t repost asks in response to other asks. 

[Fan fiction is] a reaction to large publishers, a reaction to mass media,“ she says. "It’s a reinterpretation from a minority point of view, a female point of view, an LGBTQ point of view, a queer point of view — it’s reinterpreted to represent people who are often not represented in mass media.”
—  Nistasha Perez, from this article about Amazon’s Kindle Worlds

via Washington Post

A composite image has been making its way around the Internet that appears to juxtapose images of the throng in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 during the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election with the audience present during that of Pope Francis.

But here’s thing, the photos weren’t taken at those times.

The lower photo (shown below this paragraph), which features a sea of smartphones and tablets, was, indeed, taken during the announcement of Pope Francis’s election. But the top photo (shown above), which shows an audience with far fewer gadgets was taken during the funeral procession of Pope John Paul II — a very different mood and event type. 

You can blame Reddit, where this likely originated, but a better target is yourself/me/us/the lack of news literacy training. It took the Internet about 24 hours to suss out the false premise here, which is decently fast, but by then the image had already spread far and wide (and studies show that mistakes travel further, and remain in people’s memories longer, than any sort of corrections.) Again, a mirror unto ourselves, the abyss gazes back into you, etc.