The Blurring Of News And Information

[oldembed width="420" height="245" src="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640" flashvars="launch=46691254^591468^1050817&width=420&height=245" fid="2"]
Up with Chris Hayes, Saturday, March 10, 2012. With Katori Hall, Rebecca Traister, Mike Daisey and Katrina vanden Heuvel.

I've had a harried week, so I've been offline most of the time. But when I had a chance to sit down at the computer and check my Facebook account, I was inundated with links to the wildly viral "Kony 2012" video (now up to an astonishing 68.9 million views). I watched it and ached for these child soldiers of Uganda--a story I've heard reference to before, but never in such an immediate and gut wrenching way. And because I've worked at this site for so long, it didn't take more than a minute before I thought to do a post for C&L and started researching the subject.

My research quickly turned up that Joseph Kony wasn't even in Uganda any longer and the numbers cited in the video--30,000 child soldiers--was a hyperbolic aggregation of the number of children over the years. At any given time, the actual troops were in the hundreds. I realized quickly that the story was more complex than I could do justice in a blog post and abandoned the post.

Nevertheless, the viral--if not completely factual nature-- of the video intrigued me, since I'm sure there are now millions of people aware of the LRA and the horrifying conditions in Uganda that had not even thought of it a week earlier.

And that is an amazing power. It is the same power that allowed some significant number of people to rise up collectively and scare off Rush Limbaugh's advertisers. There's a mind-boggling amount of information available to us, as well as a mind-boggling amount of misinformation. As a culture, we have morphed into one that demands that we be entertained by the like minded rather than be informed or have our personal beliefs challenged. Would a PBS news special on Ugandan child soldiers get nearly 69 million viewers in just a few days? Unlikely. Would Fox or any of the other cable channels be able to take a stab at the complexity and underlying American mixed messages in foreign policy in an honest way? Very unlikely.

So we learn about issues through viral videos and Daily Show clips. We may not get the whole truth, but we get small truths that may inspire us to greater ones.

Chris Hayes, showing a willingness to spend far more time on a subject like this than any other weekend show, spoke to Mike Daisey, whose one man show on Apple's factories in China raised awareness more powerfully than a dozen news stories on the nightly news on the blurring of news and "infotainment" and how information is disseminated.

I'm not sure how I feel about it, so I'm looking forward to your response. I worry that there are too many people painfully unaware of the world around them because we've made it so easy to focus on the entertainment aspect. But still, I am awestruck by how social media and avenues like YouTubes and blogs have allowed people to deal with truths without being part of some inner circle of journalists and push the journalists to stories they may have otherwise ignored.

What do you think? How effective do you feel this brave new world of citizen journalism is?

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.