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In Parts 1 and 2 I discussed the importance of critical thinking in forming political opinions in order to not sound like an ignorant idiot.  A close cousin is the idea of having some level of media literacy.  Ok.. let’s start with the definition of what exactly that means.  Essentially the following is a currently accepted definition…

“Media literacy is the process of evaluating, analyzing, accessing and creating media by using critical thinking about the messages received. When people are media literate, they can understand and decipher fact from fiction when faced with complex messages in the media.”

Reference:  HERE

It’s easy to see that some level of media literacy is a requirement of some level of a critical thought process.  Again, most of us get our news from media in some form.  We read the media then formulate our own opinion.  Obviously there are a lot of so-called “media sources” that are biased in their presentation of news and many generate “news for entertainment value” (fake news).  Even mainstream news sources can have slants of bias, or what I prefer to call “programming bias” (the idea that some bias seems to come through when real news is interlaced with opinion, balanced or not, as a result of programming strategy).  It’s having an understanding of the extent of any bias, perceived or real, that any media company might exhibit and taking that into consideration, and not gospel.

One of the big objections of those folks who are on the conservative right, and farther right, is that mainstream media is not to be trusted; fake news, bias galore, and totally liberal.  The amazing thing is that those folks then prefer to get their news and interpretation of it from strictly conservative media outlets.. and outlets flat out far right who hide their obvious racism and radicalism behind the Constitution and their idea of patriotism.  It has been my observation that people occupying the far right “Ignorati” prefer getting their news and analysis from places that think for them.. and hold their same political ideals.  By comparison, I prefer thinking for myself.

Brass Tacks –

When you get down to it, the TV networks seem to have a more neutral news reporting.  TV programming schedules  are very strict because the major TV networks have a large variety of entertainment programming.  That’s their business.  The evening news or mid-day news.. is in fact, pretty much news with little or no analysis.  That generally comes on the Sunday programming schedules (Meet The Press, Face The Nation, etc.) and watching that is a matter of intentional choice knowing what it is all about.  The mainstream cable news networks are a totally different animal.  They are news 24/7.  So they have room in their programming schedules for detailed analysis.  Now, that places a bit of an interpretive fog, or a blur, when reporting the news because the average person then has to filter through opinion to try and get to the basic truth first.  It’s “breaking news” announced objectively, then immediately talking heads have to give opinionated analysis, thus blurring to many viewers the objectivity of reporting unbiased news.

Now, we know that some of the cable networks do try and balance their opinion talking heads.  The reality is that it’s all about viewer perception.  If one talking head is more dominant in the discussion a viewer could think the news reporting was biased toward that person.  My whole point in explaining all this is that you have to accept some responsibility for media literacy; understanding media limitations and accepting that as part of critical thinking.  Just getting pissed that it’s all liberal bias and retreating to the warm confines of some mindless conservative blog, or Facebook, or tweets to get your “factual” news just identifies you as having… idiotic, non-objective opinion.   Is your opinion valid?  All opinion is valid.  The question is, do you want to be taken seriously, or do you prefer to be a member of the Ignorati.

Here’s how I do it (not that you asked or even care).  I am a news junkie in general.  My fave is CNN, but if CNN has one of their side programs going on I will shift to TV network news (that typically has no commentary).  I am not a Fox lover partially because of their conservative slant but mostly because of my preference for the CNN or TV network personalities.  While CNN and other cable news networks will have the talking heads do their interpretation of news almost immediately (which for some viewers looks like bias) I find it handy for my lifestyle to have some “help” in forming opinion by using the immediate pro-con analysis.  I can easily filter what’s important.

While on duty at work I can carry a walkie-talkie and that also picks up FM radio stations.. but the only station that comes through properly is a local one that has conservative talk radio personalities all day.  One of those is good old Rush.  Now, here is a case where he is the only show in town for me.  So I accept the fact that some of his reporting will have some actual facts yet most will be peppered with conservative bias.. which is his thing as a radio personality, and I accept that.  He makes a ton of money helping to spread fear.  Who am I to object to that form of making money on selling opinion.  But I do filter what he says for my own consumption… and honestly, sometimes I share a thought or marginal opinion he might echo.  But here’s the thing… what irks me is that there’s people “out there” who thump and stomp their approval on everything Rush says, or what they read on far right blog sites, like it’s a drug fix.  By comparison, there is NO one person, one blog site, one source, that I would blindly follow off any opinion cliff as being a total representation of what I might believe.  I totally surrender to NO particular thought.  Yet I am just as much an American and a patriot as much as the most fervent ultra-right fanatic, but for entirely different reasons, using far more critical thinking.

These three-part posts illustrate that critical thought plus media literacy can help to make one’s opinion a little more credible in the eyes of those with alternative opinion.   Again…

 “Media literacy is the process of evaluating, analyzing, accessing and creating media by using critical thinking about the messages received. “

There’s a final followup post to this series HERE if interested.