This week’s readings and video were certainly entertaining. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there seems to have been a surge in conspiracy theories, mostly on random Facebook posts, but it was alarming to read just how many people are in fact involved in the QAnon movement. One of the interviewees in the video, Mirko, raises an important point when he says that media literacy should become a school subject. Now that information, any information, travels so easily and can reach so many people, and that medias onto which we rely to stay up to date with events have become a part of our everyday life, it is crucial that we learn to use them wisely from a young age. I think that it is the main reason why ideas like those put forward by QAnon and other conspiracy theories groups were able to convince such a large number of followers. There is a clear lack of knowledge on how to find reliable and trustworthy information on the Internet. Combined with the boredom, panic and questions that the pandemic brought, this created the perfect mix for people to get caught up in wacky theories (intelligence test? Virus created by Bill Gates?). In a normal context where people would not have that much time to kill spent on social media, or would not have had sanitary measures to question, their judgement would not have been clouded (at least, for the majority… conspiracy theories will always attract a minority), but the pandemic allowed for the explanations provided by QAnon to make sense to them.

I spent some time reading the comments under the video, and one in particular was interesting. It compared Attila Hildmann, seen in the video, with Hitler. Now this is a bit far stretched, but there is a parallel to be drawn with a charismatic leader (Hildmann seems to enjoy and even need to be the center of attention, given his career and the fact that his convictions allow him to draw people to his cause of ‘telling the truth’) or the speeches based on conspiracy theories that call for people to unite and fight against an imagined enemy. And frankly, considering how Hitler succeeded in convincing a lot of people, it is a bit scary to think that history could repeat itself, with the same means, albeit for different reasons.

On the subject of means, other than the appeal of ideology that is expressed in the video and in Scott’s article, what emanates from the readings is how such theories rely deeply on appearances and rumors. Just from the choice of the words in Scott and Kalmar papers (theirs, and the ones they cite), it can be understood that there is a particular attention on how the ideas are formulated in order to attract people and numb judgment. Vocabulary such as ‘alleged’, ‘propagate’ or ‘reinvent’, along with the description of the methods used by Viktor Orban, for example to nurture the hatred towards Soros and his supposed plan to force Hungary to accept migrants (posters, spreading false stories, etc.), illustrate just how narratives are a powerful tool.

3 Replies to “Appearances”

  1. Hello,
    Thank you so much for this response to this week’s readings.
    Concerning the idea of implementing social media literacy in school levels (whether it’s young schoolers or older individuals in the system), do you think it is possible to teach this subject and or literacy on social media in an unbiased and more solely informative way? Or is said initiatives inevitable to have a particular political and or ideological leaning?
    Thank you so much.

    1. Hi! I would say that unfortunately I don’t think that it can be taught in a totally objective way. Probably just the fact that the teacher is affiliated with the school, that maybe is itself affiliated with some company, would influence what is taught, but at least it would give the basis and hopefully students will be able to make their own mind.

  2. Hi Morgane! I like your point on media literacy and its value to younger generations. One benefit from including media literacy in elementary and secondary schools would be its added value to older generations (such as parents, grandparents, and other guardians) that can learn from the younger generations. I find that the older generations struggle to discern facts from misinformation, especially on Facebook. Meanwhile, younger generations can often be radicalized via TikTok or Twitter since information is presented in an easy-to-consume format, and the arguments often seem legitimate. The far-right and the far-left manipulate the truth to radicalize supporters, framing their messages in quick soundbites that fit their narratives. It would be interesting to see how media literacy in an academic setting can address this polarization.

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