Thursday, July 19, 2012

Despite Internet Reformation, Citizens Are Lacking in Media Literacy and Civics Education

J.T. Waldron

The greatest threat to the power elite has been the internet reformation and it is justifiably compared to the Gutenberg press, which circumvented the elite religious aristocracy and gave birth to the Renaissance period.  Today's explosion of source material has brought forth a new age of enlightenment among a segment of the population willing to analyze, collect and discern content from all walks of life.  Those who paid attention now find themselves miles apart from those who obtain their news and information from conventional sources of newspapers and television programming.  A new world has developed as establishment propaganda campaigns become thoroughly discredited amongst the crowds that understand 9/11 Truth, Wall Street, Iraq WMD's, the war on terror, Jessica Lynch and the Gulf of Tonkin.

This vortex of information is closing fast, however, as the media monopolies redirect and restrict access to what once seemed like an infinite pool of information.  As peoples' attentions are directed towards screens and devices providing content that is becoming more limited and insular, basic societal attributes like media literacy and civic education seem to have suffered along the way.

Diminished Interest in Current Events

In 1990, the daily newspaper circulation in the United States was more than 60 million. 2006 marked a decline in circulation to 50 million.

The internet reformation is tapped as the primary cause of such a decline in readership, which can be described as the first wave of change in the perceptual landscape, that is, everything available as media for public consumption.  From the early 90's, an initial wave of readers migrated from paper and ink to various television and internet sources.  This trend was attributed to a younger market forgoing the more thorough details found in newspapers in exchange for web browsing and television sound-bites.  This decline also signifies a decline in media literacy as people are less inclined to ask questions about what they watch, hear or read.

Educator and journalist David T.Z. Mindich reports a lapse in consumption habits among younger readers. “When young people are asked about current events, particularly political affairs, they are far less likely to know the facts than their elders are — and further, young people are far less likely to care about their lack of knowledge. This runs alongside a declining interest among young people in the consumption of the various news media, from newspapers to radio to television” .

Technological Barriers

The second trend involves a decline in cable television audiences.  Inflicting a devastating effect on advertising revenues, CBS, Discover, News Corp and Scripps have recently been downgraded by Citibank entertainment from "Buy" to "Neutral".   Consumers are using their cable modems to download and watch movies and programs normally accessed through cable subscriptions.   The reaction to this trend by bandwidth providers is set to have a constricting effect on the perceptual landscape. Monopolies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable have begun instituting "data caps" to limit consumers' access to alternate sources of programming.  Once the restrictions are in place, programming provided by the cable provider will not be subject to that cable provider's restrictions, but Netflix, Amazon and Livestream will be subject to the bandwidth restrictions.   The range of information that people can access online will be further reduced by cable company verification systems allowing access to only certain kinds of programming.

Another means of subtly redirecting traffic to fewer options online is through the proliferation of 'I-Shephard' devices like I-phones and Blackberries.  Specific sites and locations are accessed though the convenience of a scanned pattern, which habitually bypasses the need to choose from a list of titles and sources.  These direct links are like blinders on a horse that narrow its vision.  Another attractive feature of these devices for those who wish to control what we learn is that each device becomes the single center of attention for its owner and has the inherent outcome of discouraging people from actually talking to each other.

Missing Skill-Set

The Occupy Movement is probably the single greatest example of a society ready for change but paralyzed by its inability to critically negotiate the various influences designed to render it ineffective.  Comparing the larger more widespread Occupy Movement to Berkeley in the 60's (which is well documented by the documentary film entitled "Berkeley in the 60's") demonstrates how our predecessors understood the need to obtain single objectives consecutively.   Up to the 1960's, three courses in civics and government were provided in U.S. high schools.  Two of the courses explored the role of citizens and encouraged critical debate about current events.  Eventually, this curriculum was whittled down to a single general government class.  Civics education and any discussion of our role as citizens in a free society were eventually dismissed as a skill-set to be acquired outside the educational system. Requirements by state assessments and the Federal 'No Child Left Behind' Act thoroughly gutted the civic mission in schools for increased focus on math and reading.  Over the past 40 years, the establishment has won its battle to corrupt school curriculae by dismantling civics education and discouraging critical discourse.

Today's U.S. citizens lack the fundamental exchanges once found in various community meetings, churches, schools and town halls.  Media literacy and civics education is almost completely absent as the state plows forward with its erosion of civil liberties.   This is also evident in what the public seems to absorb as "alternative" or "dissenting" in the perceptual landscape.  Celebrated cults of personality offering the trojan horse of a few key issues that ring true are blindly followed by people setting aside their own scrutiny for the work of another figurehead.  Crowds of self-proclaimed progressives following Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now", for example, are receiving the full pitch for humanitarian plunder into Syria based on deceptive reports from Washington-based "humanitarian activists".  So many progressives seem willing to support another NATO war crime.  The inability to discern truth from fiction is our society's Achilles heel.

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