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.)

How to tell fake news from real news

In November 2016, Stanford University researchers made an alarming discovery: across the US, many students can’t tell the difference between a reported news article, a persuasive opinion piece, and a corporate ad. This lack of media literacy makes young people vulnerable to getting duped by “fake news” — which can have real consequences.


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Want to strengthen your own ability to tell real news from fake news? Start by asking these five questions of any news item.


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Who wrote it? Real news contains the real byline of a real journalist dedicated to the truth. Fake news (including “sponsored content” and traditional corporate ads) does not. Once you find the byline, look at the writer’s bio. This can help you identify whether the item you’re reading is a reported news article (written by a journalist with the intent to inform), a persuasive opinion piece (written by an industry expert with a point of view), or something else entirely.

Animation by Patrick Smith

What claims does it make? Real news — like these Pulitzer Prize winning articles — will include multiple primary sources when discussing a controversial claim. Fake news may include fake sources, false urls, and/or “alternative facts” that can be disproven through further research. When in doubt, dig deeper. Facts can be verified.

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When was it published? Look at the publication date. If it’s breaking news, be extra careful. Use this tipsheet to decode breaking news.

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Where was it published? Real news is published by trustworthy media outlets with a strong fact-checking record, such as the BBC, NPR, ProPublica, Mother Jones, and Wired. (To learn more about any media outlet, look at their About page and examine their published body of work.) If you get your news primarily via social media, try to verify that the information is accurate before you share it. (On Twitter, for example, you might look for the blue “verified” checkmark next to a media outlet name to double-check a publication source before sharing a link.)

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How does it make you feel? Fake news, like all propaganda, is designed to make you feel strong emotions. So if you read a news item that makes you feel super angry, pause and take a deep breath. Then, double-check the item’s claims by comparing it to the news on any three of the media outlets listed above — and decide for yourself if the item is real news or fake news. Bottom line: Don’t believe everything you read. There is no substitute for critical thinking.

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If you get in the habit of asking all 5 of these questions whenever you read a news article, then your basic news literacy skills will start to grow stronger. However, these are just the basics! To dive deeper into news and media literacy, watch the TED-Ed Lesson: How to choose your news. To find out more about what students need, read the Stanford University report, published here.

Animation by Augenblick Studios

Laura McClure is an award-winning journalist and the TED-Ed Editor. To learn something new every week, sign up here for the TED-Ed Newsletter.

Spotting Fake News Infographic

How to Spot Fake News! Fake News is most often used to describe completely fabricated stories. ​Many news outlets will exhibit some form of explicit or implicit bias while not falling into the fake news category. Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.  Follow this infographic to assess the credibility of news items.

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

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Your Fave is Problematic Pt. 1: To Love is To Destroy

When Jace Herondale, the male lead in The Mortal Instruments, was six years old he was given a very harsh lesson for his birthday by his father in the form of a pet falcon. A falcon he was instructed by his demanding father to make obedient. He bonded with the falcon, tamed it, and loved it dearly.  Upon presenting the falcon to his father, his father snapped the falcon’s neck before his very eyes. Jace’s mistake from his father’s perspective was that he had ruined the falcon, he’d been told to train it, not to love it. When recalling this story to Clary ten years later, the moment has clearly left its mark as he tells her: “The boy never cried again and he never forgot what he learned: to love is to destroy, to be loved is to be the one destroyed.” (City of Bones 329)

To be clear asking Jace’s adoptive father Valentine Morgenstern, who abused not only his children but his wife, for advice on love, would be much like putting Bill Cosby on a sexual assault prevention task force. However in the world of Young Adult novels, ‘to love is to destroy’ is an apt observation. (City of Bones 329) In the scope of fantasy of a YA heroine, these things will be true: she will be beautiful, she will save the world, and she will find true love. But all too often in YA, “I love you,” is used as a justification for female characters being subjected to physical and emotional violence. In YA, the romantic relationships are often endgame, but very rarely are healthy. (Taylor 389)  And the way that these relationships that range from unhealthy to outright abusive are portrayed, discussed, and ultimately received by fans is troubling.

Although werewolves and the characters are fictional, dating violence among teenagers is an all too real problem. The CDC defines teen dating violence as the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a relationship. 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from someone they’re romantically involved with. 1 in 10 high school students report having been physically hurt by a significant other. Girls and women between 16 and 24 experience intimate partner violence at three times the rate of the national average. 94 percent of those women and girls are between the ages of 16-19. (Loveisrespect | empowering youth to end dating abuse)

Teenage girls identify heavily with characters in the YA books that they read. In some cases, teenaged readers sometimes look to these characters for a model of how to handle real life situations.  (Kokesh, Sternadori 7) It’s normal and expected that female characters will find their soul mates before the age of 18. In fantasy, in particular, the relationships are written as being “fated.” (Taylor 391) As Kristina Deffenbacher noted the prominence of soul bonds in these books complicates narratives surrounding dating violence and not in a positive way. (Deffernbacher 926) It’s not inherently wrong to have a heroine or character involved in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, provided that the relationship ends.  More than that so long as the author makes it clear in the text the relationship was unhealthy or abusive. Making them permanent normalizes abuse. (Taylor 389) These narratives unfortunately rarely go that way.  As these characters are written as being destined to be together instances of abuse are easily brushed off, because the idea is that a relationship with a soulmate cannot be toxic as it was written in the stars. (Deffenbacher 923) Clary Fray, Celaena Sardothien, and Maia Roberts although all on varying spaces on the spectrum of unhealthy relationships each of their relationships represents a different sort of unhealthy relationship found in YA fantasy novels.

Maia Roberts and Jordan Kyle in The Mortal Instruments are an example of abuse being rationalized. Maia Roberts does not trust beautiful boys and with good reason. Her brother Daniel’s innocent looks are what made her parents disbelieve her when she tried to tell them about his violent behavior towards her until he died. The next beautiful boy she meets is Jordan Kyle, who would become her first boyfriend and her solace in a town where she was ostracized for being a curvy biracial girl in a sea blond hair and blue eyes. At least for a little while.  Further, into their relationship Jordan becomes possessive and jealous and more than once is physically violent with her.  Having had enough, Maia tried to end the relationship. Jordan responded by knocking her to the ground. Feeling like the only way out is to show Jordan their relationship is over Maia kisses another boy in front of him. She hoped that, that would be the end of that except that one night walking home a wolf follows her and bites her neck so hard that she winds up in the hospital. The bite is so brutal that years later she wears the scars from the attack on her neck. When thinking of the event later this would be recalled:

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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. 

Your Fave is Problematic: Jordan and Maia

So since Todd says Jordan will definitely be in season 3 of Shadowhunters, I figured today would be as good a day as any to start sharing my senior thesis. You know that time I examined The Mortal Instruments and Throne of Glass. I’ll be starting with the chapter on toxic relationships in YA. I’m willing to answer any asks I might get on this, but dear stans if you send me hate I’ll block you.

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.”

Your Fave Is Problematic: TMI and ToG

Ok, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna post my senior thesis. But, it’s hella long so I’m probably gonna post one section at a time and out of order. If anyone’s interested in the full doc message me and I’ll send you a link to my google doc. I’m gonna start with unhealthy relationships, I’ll probably start with Jordan and Maia’s from The Mortal Instruments. Friendly reminder to any stans that might come across this. To question and challenge media with problematic content is my write as a human being. I’m not attacking the authors or saying I hate the characters (unless I do dislike a character which I’m totally allowed to do). I’m criticizing their work as scholars who came before me have done. As bell hooks said, “Not only will I stare, I want my look to change reality.

Noam Chomsky: ‘10 Strategies of Manipulation’ by the Media

Renowned critic and MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, one of the classic voices of intellectual dissent in the last decade, has compiled a list of the ten most common and effective strategies resorted to by the agendas “hidden” to establish a manipulation of the population through the media. Historically the media have proven highly efficient to mold public opinion. Thanks to the media paraphernalia and propaganda, have been created or destroyed social movements, justified wars, tempered financial crisis, spurred on some other ideological currents, and even given the phenomenon of media as producers of reality within the collective psyche. But how to detect the most common strategies for understanding these psychosocial tools which, surely, we participate? Fortunately Chomsky has been given the task of synthesizing and expose these practices, some more obvious and more sophisticated, but apparently all equally effective and, from a certain point of view, demeaning. Encourage stupidity, promote a sense of guilt, promote distraction, or construct artificial problems and then magically, solve them, are just some of these tactics.

1. The strategy of distraction

The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites, by the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information. distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public interest in the essential knowledge in the area of the science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics. “Maintaining public attention diverted away from the real social problems, captivated by matters of no real importance. Keep the public busy, busy, busy, no time to think, back to farm and other animals (Quote from “Silent Weapons for Quiet War”)

2. Create problems, then offer solutions

This method is also called problem -reaction- solution. “It creates a problem, a “situation” referred to cause some reaction in the audience, so this is the principal of the steps that you want to accept. For example: let it unfold and intensify urban violence, or arrange for bloody attacks in order that the public is the applicant ‟s security laws and policies to the detriment of freedom. Or: create an economic crisis to accept as a necessary evil retreat of social rights and the dismantling of public services.

3. The gradual strategy

[of] acceptance to an unacceptable degree, just apply it gradually […] for consecutive years. That is how they radically new socioeconomic conditions ( neoliberalism ) were imposed during the 1980s and 1990s: the minimal state, privatization, precariousness, flexibility, massive unemployment, wages, and do not guarantee a decent income, so many changes that have brought about a revolution if they had been applied once.

4. The strategy of deferring

Another way to accept an unpopular decision is to present it as “painful and necessary”, gaining public acceptance, at the time for future application. It is easier to accept that a future sacrifice of immediate slaughter. First, because the effort is not used immediately. Then, because the public, masses, is always the tendency to expect naively that “everything will be better tomorrow” and that the sacrifice required may be avoided. This gives the public more time to get used to the idea of change and accept it with resignation when the time comes.

5. Go to the public as a little child

Most of the advertising to the general public uses speech, argument, people and particularly children ‟s intonation, often close to the weakness, as if the viewer were a little child or a mentally deficient. The harder one tries to deceive the viewer look, the more it tends to adopt a tone infantilizing. Why? “If one goes to a person as if she had the age of 12 years or less, then, because of suggestion, she tends with a certain probability that a response or reaction also devoid of a critical sense as a person 12 years or younger.

6. Use the emotional side more than the reflection

Making use of the emotional aspect is a classic technique for causing a short circuit on rational analysis , and finally to the critical sense of the individual. Furthermore, the use of emotional register to open the door to the unconscious for implantation or grafting ideas , desires, fears and anxieties , compulsions, or induce behaviors …

7. Keep the public in ignorance and mediocrity

Making the public incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used to control and enslavement. “The quality of education given to the lower social classes must be the poor and mediocre as possible so that the gap of ignorance it plans among the lower classes and upper classes is and remains impossible to attain for the lower classes.

8. To encourage the public to be complacent with mediocrity

Promote the public to believe that the fact is fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and uneducated…

9. Self-blame Strengthen

To let individual blame for their misfortune, because of the failure of their intelligence, their abilities, or their efforts. So, instead of rebelling against the economic system, the individual autodesvalida and guilt, which creates a depression, one of whose effects is to inhibit its action. And, without action, there is no revolution!

10. Getting to know the individuals better than they know themselves

Over the past 50 years, advances of accelerated science has generated a growing gap between public knowledge and those owned and operated by dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology and applied psychology, the “system” has enjoyed a sophisticated understanding of human beings, both physically and psychologically. The system has gotten better acquainted with the common man more than he knows himself. This means that, in most cases, the system exerts greater control and great power over individuals, greater than that of individuals about themselves.
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. 

Your Fave Is Problematic and Fangirl Feminism

Ok, so we live in a society filled with problematic assumptions and beliefs. People who create media do not exist in a bubble are exposed to this. Consciously or even unconsciously these stereotypes are perpetuated in their work. This doesn’t mean they are bad people (unless they are) and it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person for enjoying a work of art (unless you attack people for being critical). An entirely unproblematic media creation doesn’t exist. I’ve studied political science, gender studies, and communications. I know the way these three things interact and intersect. They’re not just stories. And yet as a person who loves stories, I know that if I stopped watching things or reading because of problematic elements, I’d have nothing to read or watch. Don’t get me wrong. There are things that cross lines for me and for the sake of my sanity I’ve had to break up with certain shows and book series. But I think usually we use the word problematic because it was some redeeming qualities. Although there are things going wrong, there might be things going right.

A few of my problematic faves:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer=Pros: awesome female characters. great character development. meaningful friendships between women.  Cons: not intersectional at all. rape culture galore. “nice guy” trope. conflicting narratives.

Doctor who=I actually really like doctor who. I fell in love with Matt Smith’s madman with a box. The show gets dark, but sends a constant message of hope. Moffat can write an intro that intrigues you and an ending that will leave you sobbing, but that man skimps on the details and often doesn’t respect his own mythology. Plus, I don’t think he knows the definition of psychopath or sociopath.  Amy was my first companion, there’s a special place in my heart for the girl who waited. But, I think he might think a strong female character is a girl who likes to play with guns. And the Pond vs. Williams thing. I resent the implication that keeping your maiden name is a sign of clinging to one’s childhood.

Supernatural=Profound relationship between brothers. Terrifying and hilarious all at once. Interesting female characters, it’s a shame the writers can’t stop fridging them. 

I could go on, and on, and on. I might actually in the summertime. 

The point of all this to say you can love something and be critical of it, but you shouldn’t ignore the problematic elements because you love it. And we can and should challenge writers whose work perpetuates harmful practices and stereotypes, especially if their target audience is under 18 and lacking media literacy. 

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 www.chick.com 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.