In last week’s Trinitonian, columnist Megan Reynolds wrote of the courage necessary for free and uncensored self-expression, and she was right. Speaking freely, especially as an artist, sometimes takes courage. However, to be courageous is not to be reckless or blind in your belief. In today’s world, most are oversaturated by intensely aimed messaging. Through facebook and social networking, through movies, through the radio, news media and advertisements, we are constantly bombarded with information, and the continuous stream of consciousness which has now become much of the mass media does not come without a cost.
According to a January 7 New York Times column by Leon Wieseltier, “Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability.” While we wish to express this as eloquently, Wieseltier certainly is poignant in how often “words cannot wait for thoughts,” but this phenomena is seen as much by media consumers as it is its producers.
Unfortunately, this problem is not isolated to media outlets, but it is also pervasive in the perceived necessity to form – and often assert and express – opinions on a wide range of topics. From sexual assault to marijuana use, ebola to sex ed, and widely across the political spectrum, people have breadth in their opinions. Often we know some – what we think is enough – about a topic, and without criticism or review, we base and voice our opinions hastily. So, we challenge everyone to question: why do we believe this to be true? And if it wasn’t, would we change our beliefs?
In the 17th century, Galileo Galilei proclaimed after much study and evidence that in fact, the Earth revolved around the sun, rather than the opposite. Convicted of the most extreme heresy, he spent the last years of his life blinde and under house arrest, only decades later, his discovery was championed and is now the foundation of the astronomy we know today. While most of our disagreements do not end in the isolation of our opponents, today’s debates are often characterized by unyielding stances and staunch proclamations of what we believe to be true. Disagreements end discussions, and our “knowledge” remains untested and therefore, largely unqualified.
As we scroll our facebook feeds and watch our desired news clips, remember that all of the information which we are absorbing has been carefully selected and edited. It conveys a message, and the reasoning behind that message may or may not be sound and may or may not have changed. In the same way which our newsfeeds only represent the smallest, most idyllic pieces of our lives, the videos we stream, the news we read, the movies we watch show only one side of the story, and unfortunately as we have proliferated our avenues of media accessibility, we have not always maintained a critical eye towards what we consume.
While the time for new year’s resolutions has long since passed, it is never too late to set personal goals. So, this year, and in fact, this lifetime, we challenge you readers to be critical and careful media consumers. Please, by no means let this remove the joy from your daily scroll or the laughs we all often share from those great buzzfeed articles, but that does not mean we should not be selective as we form and express our opinions on larger topics. Rather, explore the things you are passionate about and let the latest evidence and comprehensive facts inform your opinion. We just ask that as a generation and as a readership we act with courage, and we have the strength to discuss, change and sometimes withhold our opinions accordingly. Within the first pillar of journalistic ethics, we hope that as a newspaper and as students, we all can aim to seek truth and report it.