Impoverished Politics: Taking control of information

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article does not necessarily represent those of Maryville College or the Highland Echo staff.

Ever since the Islamic State, IS, ISIS or whatever you want to refer to it as, became the most talked about, most vilified terrorist group in the world this summer, the West, especially the U.S., has seen a spike in fear-mongering and Islamophobia matched only by the same behaviors in our country directly following Sept. 11, 2001.

This past week, leftist political commentator Bill Maher said some unsavory things regarding Islam, calling it a violent religion. His comments were nothing short of ignorant and caused backlash from everyone from religious scholar Reza Aslan to actor Ben Affleck.

Instead of arguing the correct point, which so many have made, about how Islam is not a violent religion and how putting an awful, bigoted label on 1.6 billion people is wrong, let’s focus on the issue of dangerous misconceptions being spread by the corporate media.

Whether it’s FOX, CNN, MSNBC or the HuffPost (Huffington Post), news outlets in the U.S. tend to sensationalize and water down news until it isn’t news anymore. Reporters generalize, as with Muslims in this case, and this grossly inaccurate information spreads among the populace, filling our nation with awful opinions and ideas.

The same way that our politicians are bought and sold by lobbyists and corporations, the media as we know it is greatly influenced by powerful, rich interest groups. These people in large get to decide what news we hear and what side of a story is represented.

Last year one of my favorite news personalities, Abby Martin of ‘Breaking the Set’ on RussiaToday made big news in mainstream American media when she spoke out against Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine. Martin, though pleased that her fiery opinions were finally being represented, critiqued the fact that she was never given publicity any time that she spoke out against American military actions.

When we went to war in Iraq in 2003, no one dared to speak out against the military campaign, and even now it can be hard to find honest, unadulterated journalism, at least in mainstream outlets.

It’s important to take every news piece you read or hear with a grain of salt, but I think it’s also very important to see the slants embedded in a news source and actively seek out stories written on the same issue from different angles.

Another important way to take control of the information you read about the world is to look at sources from outside of the U.S. Reputable sources such as RussiaToday and Al Jazeera have easy to use applications for English readers that can give a perspective on current event that you would never see just turning on the television.

The press is one of the only industries directly protected under the constitution, because a free, unhindered source of information is vital to keeping the country informed. This freedom is under attack everyday by the censorship inherent in succumbing to a corporate media giant. Take responsibility for the information you listen to, and it will make you infinitely more informed and balanced as a citizen. It is your right to be informed, and even more so, it is your right to be informed of the unbiased truth.

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