It doesn’t cost us anything (apart from a little bit of time – which we all have – it’s just a matter of setting priorities), to create a more transparent and truthful world. In a society where information has never been more accessible, it may sound ridiculous to state that we often lack attentiveness, mindfulness and critical thinking when it comes to keeping up with world affairs. On the one hand, the fact that people are consuming media and engaging politically is already a first step towards a more responsible humankind, particularly in times of increasing political apathy and abstention. Yet, I am referring to a mindset that goes beyond (unconscious) ignorance, naivety or acceptance of information in this the age of mass communication.
In 2018 a large majority of people consume mass media; an intransparent apparatus where information is transmitted and consumed on micro- as well as macro levels. In today’s world, social networks not only enable broad masses to express their voice and opinion but simultaneously permits politicians to set agendas and defend their interests (for example Donald Trump’s never ending twitter stream.) Both examples have proven to be instruments of stretching or even hiding the truth. Now you might be thinking: what a paradox, why is she telling me that whilst writing a blog entry on a modern media. Yet, the point I want to make is: we should pay more attention to the type of media we are consuming on a daily basis. Unlike the German political scientist, Jürgen Habermas (The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 1962), I do not think that the media is destroying democracy – as long as you use the right media.
Now what do I mean by the “right media“?
Although being a reader denotes representing a passive position, there should always be an active “we“. Each and everyone of us, individually and collectively, are responsible for the well-being of our world community and this includes making the effort to distinguish truth and lies. I am by no means claiming the existence of “one truth“. News is always reported from a particular angle and everyone has the right to decide for themselves what the truth means to them. Nevertheless, it is important to read further, to not always accept information at face value but to research, question and reflect.
The independent German online news blog Rubikon is a good place to start. Initiated by Jens Wernicke, it describes itself as “the magazine of the critical mass“. It is a platform which independent journalists, professionals, experts and scientists from all over the world use to share thought-provoking content, provide critical perspectives and shed light on aspects of the news that we may find are being (purposely) ignored in the mass media, hence its name “alternative media“.
The world is not black and white. It takes self-initiative and individual responsibility to make the world a better place. For example, thinking about the 9/11 attacks, I always ask myself, how many people actually made the effort to take a look at the 9/11 Commission report. Published in 2004, it gives an insight into the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in an age where “terrorism“ constitutes one of the most preoccupying challenges to international security. The Swiss political scientist and peace and war researcher Dr. Daniele Ganser has raised my attention, remarking that in the 9/11 Commission report, the destroyed WTC 7 is not even mentioned.
On the other end of the spectrum, today, Donald Trump’s tweets incite a belief that that everyone who is not American is a threat. Whilst every politician has the right to a particular stance, his “make america great again” outlook undoubtedly creates an atmosphere of hatred linked to the information he shares. These are only a couple examples which have made me become more conscious about the importance of being a critical actor; trying to find a personal stance that is rational and reasoned, not that of the political elite diffused through mass media.
I encourage everyone to stay active and aware. As the German writer Erich Kästner said: “There is nothing good, unless you do it“. I feel privileged to write for STANDFrance for it enables me to critically confront the continuous stream of information we are presented to express myself freely.
This is Younna Christiansen’s first article written as a new member of the Communications Task force at STAND France. Younna is a Political and Social Sciences student and is currently in her second semester at the European Franco-German campus of SciencesPo Paris at Nancy.