Sunday, January 22, 2017

Alternative Facts Or Educated Students, Which Will It Be? by Dr. Michael Flanagan


The #WomensMarch was the largest unified political demonstration of our lifetime, up to this point at least. This unprecedented political protest originated from a Facebook post and an event invitation. Social media may be the biggest advantage We The People have in resisting the oligarchy that controls us. The reason I say this is because on Saturday, during the Women’s March, as millions took to the streets around the world, Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer berated the White House media pool for accurately reporting the comparatively small size of the inauguration crowds. He was also already trying to discount the numbers of people marching in Saturday’s Women’s March.



On Sunday, there was Trump surrogate Kelleyanne Conway, saying things like: The Trump administration needed to “rethink [its] relationship with the press” and using the phrase “alternative facts” when discussing Spicer’s press briefing. Previous administrations have controlled and manipulated the media; but this current one is intending to completely disregard facts, truths, and freedom of the press.


Establishment politicians have long been trying to use the “talking heads” approach to journalism. Instead of viewers watching, reading, and listening to fact-based information and making their own deductions and decisions, we are inundated with people on camera, usually a split screen, telling us their versions of events. No need for us to be bothered by actual evidence. In the age of social media, and “fake news” we need to remember that evidence includes the use of reliable research, visual evidence, verified documents, and witness testimony.  


In an effort to promote real citizen journalism we need to hold each other accountable for what we post, especially on social media. Lately, after such a divisive political campaign, I find myself citing sources for almost every conversation I have. Not only that, I now reference multiple sources and write an analysis for each post. When I am in a discussion with someone, usually someone who feels extremely strongly that what I have just posted is completely wrong, I ask for cited evidence to back up their opposing argument. As an answer to my request, I often receive a vitriolic comment that includes the word “libtard” somewhere. Or, I get a conspiracy link from Infowars, the Blaze, or better yet, a Youtube video of someone’s opinions speaking over undated and out of context video. It is then I realize that the person I am arguing with must have missed the class on the differences between a fact and an opinion.


As teachers, and as citizens, it is crucial that we reinforce critical thinking skills to our children now more than ever. Regardless of our personal politics, we must teach our students that what they may hear, or even want to believe, is not always the truth. We can not allow FOX News, or CNN to dictate our thoughts or those of our students. Rachel Maddow or Bill O'Reilly should not be doing our thinking for us.


Participating in political actions, sharing informative articles, and calling senators, can have a positive effect on an important issue. The more people who take part, the greater the impact. This Saturday in NYC, while I was in a sea of humanity I knew even then that a page had been turned in this country. We can not allow this genie to be put back into the bottle through lies and repression. We will resist political oppression and economic corruption with facts, heart, and soul. Millions marching peacefully, with a unified message, en masse, can change the world. If the media intends to continue the blackout of protests like #StandingRock, or focus on a handful of anarchists instead of millions of peaceful protesters, then we citizen journalists will ignore the media. We will speak directly to the people, because we are the people.


We must all become citizen journalists, and continue to teach our children to cite facts and research sources. There is no room in any of our classrooms for alternative facts. Just as there is no place for it in our government. We must hammer these con men and propagandists at every turn. Tweet Spicer. Tweet Trump. Send them all of your pictures and videos from the march, and any other demonstration you attend. In the words of the three ladies I met at the march, We Will Not Be Silent!

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