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Someone was fooled by the Russian bots, but we can’t find them

Listening to one my favorite podcasts, National Talky League,  and the topic of media literacy came up. The host dismissed the idea of media literacy being taught in schools and said instead parents should be teaching their children.

But who will teach the parents?

Because let’s be honest, everyone is terrible at this.

The host of that pod, and everyone talking about this topic, have one thing in common – they think they are/were immune.

“I’m too smart to fall for memes and fake news sites,” they say. And yet, someone must have.

More than a year of talk about fake news, twitter bots, paid Facebook ads. And I can’t find a single person who admits to being taken in by any of it. Or even admits the possibility.

How about I start? I don’t know if I was or wasn’t fooled by something I saw online. And that thought bothers me. A lot.

I have no idea if I was taken in. If I retweeted a fake account. If I saw something go through my Facebook feed. I’m a bright guy. Letters after my name and the respect of my peers. But it’s naive to believe I’m immune. It’s the same as those who think they are immune to advertising. You don’t have a super power, you are just a bit more critically-minded.

If no one fesses up to having been hoodwinked, we can only come to one of two conclusions:

  1. Those who were fooled have never been ‘unfooled.’ They are still unaware of the man behind the curtain.
  2. No one was fooled.

I’m inclined to think the former.

The media has frequently painted the bots and fake posts as being pro-Trump, so liberals seem to assume they never encountered it. However, the truth is more insidious. There were also bots and fake posts designed to sow dissent in the left. Pro-Bernie, pro-third party, and even pro-BLM and pro-LGBT. All of which were crafted not to encourage Trump voters, but to reduce voter turnout for Hillary.

I did not have a lot of exposure to pro-Trump voters during the last election, but I saw plenty of Bernie and Hillary supporters. And oh so many memes. Snopes has a list of election 2016 debunkings and I saw a great number of them come through my various feeds.

We are terrible at this.

We can’t begin to teach the next generation how to think critically when we can’t protect our own minds.

The first step isn’t deleting your accounts. The first step is pausing before you retweet or share. Is this a ‘fact’? Or is it a politically convenient lie?

Are you growing the knowledge of your circle, or are you scoring cheap points?

I was saddened recently when I questioned a friend who was spreading what seemed to me to be an obviously spurious story about President Trump. After painting me as a modern-day Neville Chamberlain, he admitted that it didn’t really matter to him if it was true. It *could* be true and that was enough.

So start teaching that to the kids. Be hyper critical of the news you read. Y’know, unless it’s a really great ‘take down’ of whoever is on your enemies list.

The RT button is easier than learning media awareness anyway.

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