Media Literacry

Containment. It’s not just for nuclear weapons.

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Have you seen this video?  More than 1.5 million folks have!  USA Today is warning us that our boarding passes have lots of information that can put us at risk.   But, USA Today started a trend.  CBS News posted the same data.   NBC, too.  Among many others .  OK.  You get the picture.

Part of that hype is true- but NOT the way they depict it. And, as opposed to your banking information, your Yahoo account, your social security information that has been active targets of thieves, your boarding pass ranks near the bottom of the heap.  ( Snopes is one debunker of these myths. )

Given the plethora of inappropriate information in these posts, you’d think that now- some 18 months after they were first posted, they’d have been removed from the web and YouTube.  NOT.

That’s part of the problem with fake news.  Even when data is found to be false, not all the offending sources remove it.  Oh, I know.  Many of my wrong-wing friends complain that newspapers don’t put those corrections on page 1, but found on page 3 or 4.  (That may be related to the fact that most of the errors are pretty innocuous.  Moreover, the articles, when posted on the web, are immediately corrected, with notes on the bottom indicating same.)   Yet, I do recall when Dan Rather and CBS News overstated their case about George Bush, the corrections were large and loud.  (Amazing how those big error corrections are often overlooked.)

But, that’s not the purpose behind this post.  This post (and the one from yesterday) is aimed at helping you not blast me with fake news.  And, helping all of us teach our kids how to discern if something they are about to forward is true.  The new slogan of the Washington Post says it all:  Democracy Dies in Darkness.

Democracy dies in darkness.

It is critical that we all develop media literacy.  We need to recognize fact and eschew rumor, embrace reality and expose hoaxes.

We cannot run and share the first item we are told.  Think back.  To 9-11.  None of us accepted the fact that someone would intentionally fly a plane into the Twin Towers.  Now, almost every one of us will spread the rumor that Johnny Appleseed has come and wrought havoc in Bowling Green.

Media Literacry

When we hear something, when we read something, we must consider where we see it.  Is this “fact” found in a multiple of sources?  (Oh, no.  Did Dewey really win the election against Truman?)

Once we see something, it’s important to verify it’s true before we hit forward.  Or, tweet it.  Or post it on Facebook.

You know, the Chofetz Chayim had a teaching that makes this point clearer.  The Rav Israel Meyer HaCohen Kagan was known as the Chofetz Chayim (Choose Life); his life’s work involved teaching ethics and the (Jewish) laws of speech.

A gossiper persisted in telling tales about folks he knew and folks he didn’t.  And, it made not a whit of difference if the story were true or not.  Because he enjoyed the attention he received as he spread these rumors.  Until one day, his stories devastated the reputation of a fellow business leader.  And, the rabbi of the town recognized who was the culprit. 

He summoned the gossiper to his office to discuss the situation.  The gossiper said it was not big deal- and the rabbi could check out the facts, finding them to be as he stated.  The rabbi responded that it made no difference– this gossip, this slander, this “lashon hara”  (evil tongue) must cease.  The gossiper realized he went too far this time and asked how he could undo the damage.

The rabbi asked him to bring a feather pillow from his house.  He must certainly have at least one; the gossiper (proud to the end) said, he had a plethora of feather pillows.  The rabbi only wanted one.  When the pillow was brought, the rabbi opened the window and demanded the gossiper cut the pillow open out the window.  The gossiper said it’d make a mess, but the rabbi demanded the action.

Of course, the feathers went every which way.  After a few minutes, the rabbi commanded the gossiper to gather all the feathers; he may not miss even one.  The gossiper complained that it would be impossible, the feathers are gone.  To which the rabbi responded, just like your story- it can never be recalled.(Hmm. Notice the similarity to the “facts” on the internet?)

All of which makes the next rule so difficult to achieve.  Yet, we must try.  Should we drop the wrong hint, disseminate a hoax, we have an obligation.  To remove it- and replace that post, that tweet, that eMail with a full blown retraction admitting our error.

Given how hard that is- and how impossible it will be to reclaim all the other places other folks spread our misinformation (even though it was not malignantly posted), we realize we must be skeptical each time we are presented with “facts”.   It is our job to verify information before we post or spread it.  (This is why it takes me hours to write my blog posts!)

It is our job to use our brains.  To consider if something makes sense, that it could have happened.  And, if it happened-, are we sure that we understand the why?

We owe it to our friends and our family.  And, probably our nation and the world.





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