Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

borchardt9_cifotartGettyImages_socialmediadialoguemicrophones cifotart/Getty Images

Only Democratic Literacy Can Save Democracy

Free, credible, and independent news media are a pillar of any functioning democracy, essential to enable voters to make informed decisions and to hold elected leaders accountable. Given this, media literacy must be pursued within a broader campaign to improve democratic literacy.

OXFORD – Depending on where you get your news, your view of how the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump is unfolding may be very different from that of your friends, relatives, or neighbors. You may also think that any version of the story that conflicts with yours is simply untrue. This lack of consensus on basic facts – largely a byproduct of social media – carries serious risks, and not nearly enough is being done to address it.

In recent years, the need to improve “media literacy” has become a favorite exhortation of those seeking to combat misinformation in the digital age, especially those who would prefer to do so without tightening regulation of tech giants like Facebook and Google. If people had enough media savvy, the logic goes, they would be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and quality journalism would prevail.

There is some truth to this. Just as it is dangerous to drive in a place where you don’t know the traffic laws, navigating the new digital-media environment safely – avoiding not only “fake news,” but also threats like online harassment, nonconsensual (“revenge”) porn, and hate speech – requires knowledge and awareness. Robust efforts to improve media literacy globally are thus crucial. Free, credible, and independent news media are a pillar of any functioning democracy, essential to enable voters to make informed decisions and to hold elected leaders accountable. Given this, media literacy must be pursued within a broader campaign to improve democratic literacy.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/FdSaJkd;
  1. lhatheway8_Spencer PlattGetty Images_stockmarketcoronavirus Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    A COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan

    Larry Hatheway

    The rapid escalation of the COVID-19 crisis may be setting the stage for a global recession. Economic policymakers have no time to waste in preparing a response – preferably one that makes full use of low and falling bond yields, below-target inflation, and the lessons of the last recession.

    0
  2. fischer166_JIM WATSONAFP via Getty Images_trumplookingangrywef Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

    The West’s Final Countdown?

    Joschka Fischer

    With the US presidential election approaching, no one can say they didn't foresee the possibility of Donald Trump winning a second term – an event that would pose an existential threat to the very idea of "the West." So why are European leaders spending their time squabbling over agriculture subsidies?

    8

Edit Newsletter Preferences