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Media Literacy Helps Reduce Fear & Hate

Participant Highlights: What was your key takeaway from today's session? 

We asked people to synthesize a key idea from their participation in each of the Courageous Conversations. Here's what people said:

Media literacy helps reduce fear and hate

Examine Multiple Points of View
  • “I think these conversations actually bring people out of their social media silos where algorithms may arrange your feed so you’re only fed media that you already agree with. Very important events!”

  • “There are the challenges of having these conversations with people from many divergent points of view and trusting that they are operating from a place of good faith.”

The Power of Critical Questions
  • “I'm grateful to have a structure for asking/analyzing information.”

  • “I found this to be a valuable experience. I’d love to do this with students!”

How Do We Know What’s Real?
  • “To me, it feels like most people who watched this video took the side of whether to believe him or not.”

  • “I'm finding it fascinating that first, we were talking about our perceptions, questions about the video. And now we're getting into the process of how we do this.”

Thinking about our Thinking
  • “I noticed how many different perspectives can arise from one short Tik Tok video. It is easy to see how our polarities have come to be.”

Questioning Media Message Intentions
  • "It is important to question how the media presents information. Finding people to work with to bring about constructive change. Don’t accept things on face value."

  • "The issue of extremists is hard for the mainstream media to address in a way which is instructive, informative, entertaining (ratings!), and provides a way to improve things."

  • "Media literacy is much more than just how the facts are reported."

Media’s Influence on Emotions
  • "Media can sometimes seek to invoke emotional responses. It does not always lead to action but the continuity of social issues."

  • "While we can learn from media, we often read into it based on our preconceptions."

  • "Different points of view are strong and unmoving. How do we reach a middle ground?"

Pathways to Radicalization
  • "There are people who are ready to go from anger to activism and if we look we can find places of opportunity to make a difference."

  • "Ingroup and outgroups are part of understanding violent extremism, and that extremism can exist without violence."

Looping for Understanding and Deep Listening
  • I can see the benefit of using looping to deescalate high conflict and get a person to communicate the whys of how they feel. This strategy allows trust to form between people and allows people to share.”

  • “Engagement and interaction with people, treating them like people with value helps both parties feel valued. I like the looping for understanding as a way to achieve this.”

  • “The use of looping as a helpful tool in communication with conflicting conversations.”

Productive Conflict
  • “I kept on thinking about the polarization we have in this country and how courageous conversations could help diffuse the conflict.”

  • “The recognition that emotions play a key. The difference between high conflict and good conflict really resonated with me, particularly as it relates to emotions.”

  • “I have always avoided conflict (no matter the circumstance), but now I know the difference between healthy versus high conflict!”

The Role of Vulnerability in Conflict
  • “That vulnerability is OK in conflict and it may help begin to resolve conflict.”

  • “Vulnerability in this setting is so powerful along with genuine respect and trust.”

  • “I enjoy learning how to communicate with vulnerability and listening, interested in the Monica Guzman video.”

The Role of “Fire Starters” in Conflict
  • “The Fire Starters! Helpful to identify and categorize the “accelerants” in these conflicts.”

  • “Recognizing forces in high conflict situations.”

Profit is Gained from Conflict and Controversy
  • “Conflict entrepreneurs are successful in what they do; in the absence of tuning them out or shutting them off, being aware of their influence and harm is a first step.”

  • “It is very intentional to influence people and actually have them change their behavior, sometimes in a very negative manner.”

Conflict Entrepreneurs Come from All Walks of Life
  • “That there ARE ways for us to check media bias. Also, conflict entrepreneurs are active on both sides of the political spectrum, and we all need to be aware of that.”

  • “Conflict entrepreneurs are on both sides of the political spectrum and we need to evaluate the language used by media personalities to see what their message actually is.”

Conflict Entrepreneurs Use Specific Strategies
  • “The six strategies were interesting, as was the discussion question, which is my key takeaway — pleasure, profit and power acquired by conflict.”

  • “Learning about specific techniques used so it is easier to identify them when encountering (mis)information.

Narrative Persuasion
  • “Feelings are more powerful than logic or argument and so we must seek commonality.”

  • “The importance of establishing common ground with people you’re talking to about the topic at hand - you’re both in the same tribe at the end of the day!”

  • “How ineffective facts likely are in countering conspiracy theory.”

  • “The importance of examining my own biases when addressing a conspiracy theory.”

Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracies
  • “Conspiracy theories and conspiracies are separate ideas.”

  • “Conspiracy versus conspiracy theories and harmful/harmless outcomes of these theories.”

  • “The need to understand the utility of conspiracy vs conspiracy theories (tend to linger longer, are more harmful, feed off other conspiracies, for instance, QANON + other)”

Harms Conspiracy Theories can Create
  • “Harmful conspiracy theories drive a wedge between groups that gets in the way of understanding, empathy, and truth.”

  • “That there are harmful and non-harmful theories that elicit various emotions from people.”

  • “Conspiracy theories can help us to make sense of events that have no clear explanation, but they do harm when they damage reputations and are power- or money-seeking.”

  • “There are many ways to think about conspiracy theories - especially considering if harm is caused and if so, to whom. I like the lenses we used to consider conspiracy theories.”

Critical Thinking about Conspiracy Theories
  • “Conspiracies should be examined by asking 3 questions: claim, evidence, logical length within.”

  • “The power of analyzing media on the fly (in this case analyzing the video) even when we’re using that media in support of our claim or lesson.”

  • “I mostly believed that conspiracy theories incited fear and only fear but the chart opened my eyes to the fact that they may be used for other reasons and gains too.”

  • “I think one of my biggest takeaways is that conspiracy theories encourage more research and taking that deeper dive!”

Awareness Building: Who You Decide to Trust
  • “Introspection. The breakout session made us think about whom we trust and why. Several of us had epiphanies during the discussion. Wow!”

  • “To assess the credibility of the influencers I follow, even for something as little as a recipe or book recommendation! Also, to monitor how much I am exposed to, even if I don't realize it.”

  • “How easy the brain wants to trust someone who is ‘like me'"

Disinformation Leads to New Choices
  • “As trust in the mainstream media erodes, social media can provide outlets for independent journalism that can be just as good (or better) than the big boys (gender tag intended).”

  • “Younger people are more inclined to trust influencers on social media whereas older folks trust TV and traditional media (NYT, CNN, Etc) i.e. it's generational.”

  • “Trust in traditional sources of information is very low.”

Influencers use Communication Behaviors to Build Social Connections
  • “Rage as clickbait for attention works. It shouldn't, but it does.”

  • “Influences are like slick sales people. We need to critically listen to their presentations to learn if they are worth our time.”

  • “There are reasons why we connect to different people with influence (our connections to their experiences, their power and authority, etc.) we can look for those reasons when deciding who to trust.”

Understanding the First Amendment
  • “There is a lot of education that needs to happen about what the first amendment allows and doesn’t allow. There also needs to be education around AI and data gathering by tech companies.”

  • “The difficulty with regulating first amendment rights in a digital world. The challenge of how to protect people from hate speech and misinformation when it is protected by the first amendment.”

  • “A very thought-provoking conversation on how the first amendment has shaped our culture and history. I have an even deeper appreciation for the first amendment.”

Distinctions between Terms: Free Speech, Hate Speech, Content Moderation, Cancel Culture and Censorship
  • “The complexities of free speech or not and the overlay now, of the intro of AI which may make truth so much harder to discern.”

  • “Looking at who should monitor - the platforms, individuals or the government. I appreciated the discussion. And I appreciated the difference between hate speech and hate crimes.”

  • “Speech is a tool for creating bridges of ability and stability or a dam for creating damages and difficulties. Free or not free?”

Regulation of Social Media
  • “We have a lot of work to do in, especially with social media. Who has authority to regulate speech, especially if the government has to purchase data from corporations for infomation they do not have.”

  • “Many people are concerned with whether and how to regulate electronic platforms.”

  • “Regulation is difficult and AI makes it more difficult.”

Propaganda is Targeted and Appears in a Variety of Forms
  • “Propaganda is being more targeted and it is important for us to develop our own value and beliefs systems to be able to measure whether it is harmful or beneficial. This takes time and reflection!”

  • “Learning about geo-fencing and different varieties of propaganda.”

  • “Digital and computational propaganda could be helped by a wide and deep public conversation about AI, algorithms, and targeted propaganda.”

Propaganda can be Beneficial or Harmful
  • “It’s hard to decide what is beneficial or harmful. It may be that we have a hard time discussing values in our polarized world. For me, it comes down to our base emotions. This session felt good.”

  • “I’m still having difficulty defining what “positive propaganda” is.”

  • “propaganda doesn’t have to be OVERTLY harmful for it to be potentially damaging.”

  • “Some people are quick to defend propaganda when it suits they're political agenda(s).”

The Challenges of Recognizing Propaganda
  • “It's really hard to differentiate between ads, propaganda, news, and mis/disinformation.”

  • “Persuasion and propaganda straddle a fine line.”

  • “Deciding what is considered propaganda, and whether it is harmful vs. beneficial is extremely subjective. Nearly all information could potentially be considered propaganda.”

Kindness and Community-Wide Support can Prevent Radicalization to Violence
  • “The importance of kindness and community engagement in counteracting radicalism.”

  • “Showing compassion to others is the most effective way to respond to anyone who has fallen down the hole. Empathetic listening and making people heard—even when you disagree…is a first step.”

  • “I should have intervened, but I didn’t know how — that’s not an alibi. But now I have some strategies for how to intervene the next time.”

Active Listening and Media Literacy Help People Respond Appropriately to Hate Speech and Harassment
  • “To remain open, even to those whose viewpoints seem abhorrent.”

  • Active listening strategies and empathy toward the lived experiences of others are ways to show compassion and understanding to vulnerable individuals who might lean toward radicalization.”

  • “This was one of the more difficult issues. It strikes close to home for many. Sometimes listening—witnessing—and then being a sounding board are the best we can do. Begin a dialogue over time….”

Feelings of Grievance can Lead to Social Isolation and Polarizing Us-vs-Them Thinking
  • “I loved learning about what makes someone more vulnerable to radicalization — uncertainty about future, past trauma, feelings of victimization or isolation. So helpful to consider / ID root of ideas.”

  • “The idea of going down the rabbit hole to ‘reclaim power’.”

  • “Loneliness aids in people going down the rabbit hole, and loneliness does not just impact disenfranchised groups, it affects everyone including very wealthy people…interesting to add nuance.”


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