Are you getting the truth about major events such as September 11, the War in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina? According to the Poynter Institute's Dr. Roy Peter Clark, "The truth is being distorted from all corners, and Americans don't see it, or if they do, too many don't seem to care."
The most powerful antidote to these distortions, Dr. Clark says, is critical literacy. Here are seven things Dr. Clark says you can do to recognize manipulation in government, media, business and advertising:
- Find three political bloggers who represent the right, the left and the middle. Consult them to help you sort through political issues and media messages.
- Look for role models of candor and accountability, people in public life who have proven to be reliable over time. Look especially for folks within a movement or political party who have the courage to speak against the interests of their own party.
- Prefer people who want to have a vigorous conversation to those who want to shout at each other.
- Do not be seduced into thinking that every hot-button issue requires you to be on one side or the other. There may be a middle ground. Don't be afraid to be puzzled or uncertain about an issue. It's okay to be working to make up your mind.
- Get up off the couch. Join a club. Volunteer. Sing in the choir. One way not to be fooled by political or media manipulation is to learn from direct experience, from reality and not reality TV.
- In an age of celebrity culture, try to pay more attention to people for what they do than for who they are.
- Be a skeptic, but not a cynic. A skeptic doubts knowledge. A cynic doubts moral goodness. The cynic says, "All politicians are liars," or "all journalists have a secret bias." The skeptic says, "That doesn't sound right to me. Show me the evidence."