Media-With-An-Agenda (A.K.A. “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”)

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We live in a Democracy: a government that works based on the premise that the citizens of the US will educate themselves on the issues at hand, and vote on leaders who they feel will make the best decisions to address those issues.

However, educating ourselves is becoming increasingly difficult. Many are getting their news by following the social media links of others that share the same views, using the same television and radio resources, and going to the same print materials. And news is no longer simply that: it’s often reported with an opinion and bias attached — and people seek out news that validates and strengthens the views they already have, rarely pausing to question long-held opinions or look at issues from a different perspective.

I’m in a bit of a unique situation. The product of “worlds collided”, I’m the daughter of a highly-educated, Liberal father from the North and an intelligent, Conservative mother from the South. One’s voting Clinton, the other would vote Trump. I’ve grown up close to people on both sides — and learning to question everything.

To illustrate a problem with today’s sharing of information: namely “agenda-driven” articles — I’ve selected the write-up linked from the photo above. Versions of this “viral letter” have appeared several times in my social media feeds — and the fact that anyone is responding in agreement hurts me to my core. It’s important to note that, while this is an article hoping to advance Trump’s cause, the same techniques are applied to advance Clinton’s. I’m not looking for a political debate, but simply looking to explore the dangers in blindly following any one person or agenda.

As a professional copywriter, I see right through the intentions, here — and hope the following guide to messed-up media, using this article as an example, will help many pause, always, to rethink their views:

  1. Check Your Sources
    To start, every iteration of this letter I’ve seen is said to be written by a “military mom”: always unnamed. That’s a big clue that it’s a puff piece. Since it’s full of legally slanderous accusations, (meaning the writer could easily be sued because it’s an attack containing obviously false and inflammatory claims), this likely writer-for-hire has been careful to hide their identity.
  2. The Facts Matter
    The first paragraph builds entirely from the “military mother’s” statement that the Khans came from Iraq and Afghanistan, and their “countrymen” blew up her son.It takes little effort to find that the Khans actually immigrated to the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an ally of the United States that fought beside us against Iraq. The spite this writer aims their way quite literally has nothing to do with them.

    This article hopes to confuse those uneducated about the many different Muslim countries and populations — growing a passion that all Muslims must somehow be connected to enemy organizations, evil, conflict and terror. The entire rant is disturbingly uninformed and misplaced.

  3. Question HOW You Know Things
    DID YOU KNOW: Muslim women choose to wear the hijab or other coverings for a variety of reasons. For most women, wearing hijab is a personal choice made after puberty that is intended to reflect one’s personal devotion to God (comparable to wearing a nun’s habit). Most wear the hijab because they believe God has instructed women to wear it as a means of showing modesty and care of their body.Many white, Christian people have never studied the Muslim religion, may not know Muslim people personally and are rather isolated from others not like them. The second paragraph of this letter is a perfect illustration of the false beliefs that have perpetrated because of this isolation, often confused for knowledge people feel they have about this diverse group.
    The paragraph addresses Mr. Khan, insinuating he exhibits possessive, sexist behavior towards his wife: a conclusion drawn from a simple observation of how she dresses and noting that, in this interview, she didn’t speak. (She’s done many other interviews). The writer says, hatefully, that Mrs. Khan should take off her robes. This comes from a complete lack of education and misunderstanding of Muslim marriage dynamics, what Muslim dress means and why it’s worn.
  4. Don’t Justify
    When you fact-check things you read, don’t ignore facts that challenge your perceptions. It’s difficult to admit we’re wrong, and so easy to dive back into long-held beliefs by justifying them with other false memories, gossip and stories. When you learn something new about an issue, another person, etc. — make yourself process that new information. And know it’s okay to change your mind about how you feel about it based on new facts. The FACTS matter.

In this situation, given the facts about this couple — I would hope that anyone who previously agreed would take a step back and feel alarmed that they were mislead. And I hope they’d long to apologize and correct that actions taken against these innocent people who simply wanted to discuss the loss of their son — and the pain and injustice they feel when efforts are discussed to ban “their kind” because of religion or skin color. Their point was a simple one: they have fought and lost hard for this country, and they deserve to be here — and to be respected.

I can’t pretend to know what my friends experience when they are looked down upon and treated so terribly by people who don’t understand them. I can’t imagine being egged, as my friend’s 78-year-old grandmother was, walking from the grocery store, simply because of the way I look and dress — believing I’m behaving in a peaceful, kind way. It breaks my heart for them, and I feel writing this article is the least I can do to hope this twisted, hateful speak, beliefs and behavior stop.

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