I recently produced a 9-minute documentary on Understanding Media: The Smear Campaign. It draws on an eclectic mix of cultural icons — everything from The Manchurian Candidate to I Love Lucy to Family Guy:
I was happy with the way it turned out, because I think it manages to do two things clearly:
1. Show how entertainment and news have become the same thing now;
2. Illustrate the mechanics and ethics of media smear campaigns.
I ask questions like “Why should we care whether news stories are true or false?” I stress the connection between media literacy and good decision-making. The principles are universal.
The points made in the documentary can be used as building blocks to explore characteristics of modern media, including the Internet. The next obvious question is “Why is it a problem if news and entertainment become indistinguishable?” The simple answer is that news is ideally supposed to give us factual information which we need, while mass entertainment is more like bread and circuses — something to please the popular taste by pandering to the lowest common denominator of appetites and prejudices. Continue reading