Once again Barbadians are being urged to seek out information from official news sources only. Reiterating this call is Prime Minister of Barbados, the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, who noted that there is a lot of stuff going around on social media which can be considered as false information.
Here in Barbados the damage done by “fake news” is irksome, but can go on to cause pain to persons’ lives and livelihood. Misinformation on approaching weather systems, the state of individuals’ health and any number of topics can be framed and manipulated into misleading messages that are then consumed by members of the public.
However, while the PM’s stance echoes one taken by this paper in the past, we go even further in encouraging media users to improve their media literacy, which involves in part the ability to access, analyze and evaluate media messages. This suggestion comes in light of the current state of affairs in the United States of America, with major fallout and deaths as a result of the effects of COVID-19, reported social unrest in many areas, and political and economic upheavals at every turn. Viewers of American news are bombarded with conflicting reports on all of the aforementioned subjects, which leaves one unsure and undecided at best, or righteously justified in misbeliefs and misbehaviour at worst. This occurs, not because there is an agenda to publicise incorrect information, but because many are unwittingly provided with incorrect information by the very official sources with whom they confer. And though news organisations are able to dissect truths from untruths in most cases, in the final analysis, they are not the origin of the information but the receivers, and as such will be susceptible to any inaccuracies that are well concealed.
Still, they are far and away more trustworthy than privately-owned, subsidised news sources which blatantly pursue an agenda and tailor their content towards one perspective, rarely mentioning opposing views. These types of sources, frequently found on Youtube, Facebook and other social media platforms, are usually lacking in objectivity.
Introduce media education
In light of these and several other challenges to obtaining unfiltered information and considering the huge impact that the news has on society, it is prudent to arm members of the public, especially younger adults, with the education necessary to critically analyse the media and media messages being disseminated. People need to be taught how to raise the right questions about what they are seeing or hearing, thus making them competent and literate in all media forms so that they cannot be mislead by interpretations of the facts.
This move would go a long way towards ensuring true democracy within a state as the most important element, the people, would be empowered and uplifted to a level where they are fully equipped to make decisions about their livelihood. Media organisations would still remain the main source of news, but a complete knowledge of the process of news production involved would help on the way to seeing the entire truth.