Ukraine, Israel, and the Need for Accurate Information

I came across this article in my feeds today, which details how the Russian media is handling the Malaysian Airlines incident. (Hint: not well.) Like, I assume, most of you, I’ve been following the news of the past week or two with no small amount of consternation. How in the world do we live on a planet where such awful things are possible? Why do people keep doing terrible things to each other, even in this “enlightened” era? Can’t we all just agree what’s acceptable and unacceptable, and then settle conflicts reasonably and peacefully?

Apparently not.

Not when we can’t even get people to agree on what the facts of a tragedy are.

I did study abroad in Jerusalem over the summer of 1999, and I had just a tremendous experience. One of the highlights of my  life, no exaggeration. The BYU Jerusalem Center is on Mount Scopus, overlooking the Mount of Olives. You can walk out the front door and be in the Old City in a few minutes. While I was there, I got to know some of the Palestinian and Jewish storekeepers. These are nice people. Normal people. I saw the way some of the Palestinians were treated, and the way some of the Jews were treated. It’s a train wreck of a situation, and the sad thing is the people themselves seem almost powerless to stop it. They’re good people held hostage to bad blood and worse propaganda and history.

The same thing seems to be happening in Russia these days, if any of that article is true at all. (Of course, when the vehicle you’re using for finding out news is reporting that that same vehicle is unreliable in other places, you reach a strange meta-point where you start to question everything . . .) So many of the decisions and opinions I make and hold are based on the assumption that I can become reliably informed to be able to make those decisions and develop those opinions.

The fact of the matter is that people in power tend to want to stay in power, and one of the best ways of doing that is to ensure the only information the people you govern receive is the information you want them to receive.

Sigh. As soon as I start writing sentences like that, I feel like I need to go looking for my tinfoil hat. But really, stories like this just reemphasize the importance of information literacy–teaching people how to find and evaluate information to make sure it’s valuable and accurate. The best chance a country can have of being on top of things and successful is an informed populace (in my opinion). And one of the best ways of ensuring that happens?

Public, uncensored libraries.

Yes, you can talk about your “freedom of the press” all you’d like. That’s certainly important. But these days, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell which reporters are worth listening to. (Case in point? All the people who think The Onion is real news.) Librarians–trained, actual, experienced librarians–do so much more than just recommend the next Danielle Steel novel. Especially school and academic librarians. (Right at a time when school and academic librarians are a vanishing breed in some areas . . .)

But this is a soap box topic for me, so I’ll sit down and shut up now before I really go off the deep end. Just had that knee jerk reaction to that article, and had to say something.

You may now go about with your normal Monday activities.

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