Some Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day
And how the media landscape weakens our democracy and makes us dimmer.
I'm writing this on the day we remember Martin Luther King here in the States. During a recent #UnitarianUniversalist meeting, we were shown a thought provoking film, Selma, the Bridge to the Ballot. I’ve linked to it here and highly recommend it.
In case you didn't know, the march on Selma, Alabama was a turning point for the right to vote for people of color in the United States. It was hard to believe that as my parents were getting married in New York City, there were people being brutalized and jailed for trying to register to vote in Selma, Alabama.
What is also hard to imagine is that not that long ago, there was overt racism and discrimination codified in the law in some places in the United States.
During our meeting, there was some discussion on the complicit. The complicit being the otherwise reasonable people that stood by while these injustices were done to others. Maybe they were powerless? Maybe they agreed with the racist policies?
We will never know but it illustrates how no one thinks of themselves as a villain. It’s only in hindsight that we realize that we were blind to the reality of a situation.
The police that were beating children, grandmothers, and non violent marchers seeking equal treatment under the law thought they were on the right side of history.
The politicians that were ginning up hatred of people of color with their rhetoric thought they were doing the right thing.
It's this blind faith that propels people that should alarm us all.
One thing kept coming to mind as we watched the documentary on those days in Selma, Alabama. Would it have been different if there was a 24 hour news channel with commentators demonizing the marchers and promulgating the lie that the protestors are the problem?
What if #TuckerCarlson was talking to his viewers every day about the marchers on Selma the way he did the #BLM protestors? What would have happened then?
Those thoughts led me to the growing realization that with #TikTok #Youtube #Instagram and other social media outlets being consumed as legitimate news and information sources, we are sadly becoming less aware of the world around us and becoming less equipped to think critically.
Of course, entertainment is necessary and there's nothing wrong with mindless fun. The problem arises when we leave behind books and articles written by journalists and scientists seeking accuracy and instead consume content posted by creators prioritizing view, clicks or likes over validity.
The problem gets more serious when we fool ourselves into believing that social media platforms function as legitimate sources of information to accept and spread to others.
What can we do? Well for starters, stop consuming editorial content masquerading as news. Unfollow and unsubscribe from armchair pundits that are all too happy to tell you what to think and how to feel about current events. This applies to content creators on both sides of the aisle. I personally have unfollowed a number of channels that I considered newsworthy.
Another benefit of this is stress levels go down after this purge because these content creators are the ones with the most sensational and shocking headlines that are designed to get you to click.
If you agree with this then go ahead and clean up your content subscriptions and news feeds. If there is not a professional staff and named editor standing behind a given news source then consider removing them from your news app.
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