Category Archives: Minnesota politics and politicians

Information and media – Not weapons, but tools

Informational Power is where a person possesses needed or wanted information. This is a short-term power that doesn’t necessarily influence or build credibility. Vivian Giang

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. Malcolm X

The fact is, information and media are unique and powerful tools, to be wielded by sentient creatures for good or for evil. When the American Library Association was promoting the “information power” theme years ago I worried at the value-free assumption that the information would be put to good purposes. And when we hyped the potential of the communications media, from cable to the web, I wondered more….

My skepticism is affirmed today as we experience the reality of information and communications expertise brilliantly coupled to disrupt our democracy.

This should not be news. It was either Mark Twain or H.L Mencken who advised his readers to “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.”   The technology, but not the meaning, has been updated here. http://www.adweek.com/fishbowlny/ink-by-the-barrel-on-the-internet/252889

But that’s a diversion from the real fact – that the administration has effectively wed the power of information with the power of the media to shape reality.   Those in power wield information as a sword to silence, to pervert, to foment, to shape, to craft alliances and to conceptualize, then propagate, alternative truth.   We who are but “subjects” are ill-prepared to meet the challenge; we lack, or fail to unsheathe, the information/communications skills and attitudes to withstand the onslaught.

And still it is a real fact that we are not a passive people. The Women’s March and forthcoming March for Science clearly reflect our power to harness the human power to resist.

The first line of resistance to alternative facts is well-meant but knee-jerk –- placing blame and responsibility on the communications channels, or even the sources, of misinformation and disinformation is short-term and futile.

We are challenged to fully accept that information and communications technology have been “weaponized” – and that it is incumbent upon us to “arm” ourselves. We need to assume the responsibility to become critical thinkers – and to shape a learning environment that enhances the critical thinking of future voters, including both youth and future voters.

We can’t fall for the press-bashing and post-truthiness cleverly designed to divert our focus and our energy. Instead, we need to embrace the challenge to seek the truth and to stand firm when it is information is thwarted, perverted, suppressed, hidden from public view – or is not collected in the first place!

Thomas Jefferson, a man who dealt in truth, had this to say on the subject

Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government.” –  Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789

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Related posts – Selected:

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/marchers-will-support-research-science-real-facts/#respond

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/discovering-truth-starts-with-independent-thinking/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/creating-a-culture-of-encounter-some-info-tools/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/relax-learn-then-resolve-to-resist-post-truth-thinking/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/information-literacy-universal-challenge-of-the-digital-era/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/information-literacy-curriculum/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/national-information-literacy-awareness-month-2016/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/facing-the-facts-about-facts/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/scrubbing-history-scrapping-the-facts/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s March on Washington – Minnesota Style

Though some of us may know a politico or campaign contributor who is headed to DC for the inauguration later this month, most of us know (and envy) a friend or family who will be visiting Our Nation’s Capitol the following day to join the Women’s March on Washington. (https://www.womensmarch.com) on Saturday, January 21, not coincidentally the day after the Inauguration. These are the Minnesota marchers who will be hopping on the bus – or more convenient transport — to venture 1100 miles, don a fuchsia pussy hat and join hundreds of colleagues at the Capitol, then march from the Capitol  down the Mall to share a determined message to the new regime.

What some Minnesotans may not yet know is that the Women’s March on Washington has spawned a nation of state and local “sister” marches throughout the nation. None will be more energetic, committed, informed — probably cold – than the Minnesota marchers. Here are the basics as found on the very lively FB site for the Minnesota march: (https://www.facebook.com/events/1798874673734173/)

Starting at 10am we will meet on the John Ireland Blvd Bridge in front of Minnesota History Center (near the corner of John Ireland Blvd and Kellogg Blvd). From 10-11am we plan to get pumped up, meet one another, form new friendships and likely hear from a motivational speaker (who is yet to be determined). Please plan to arrive no later than 10:30am. At 11am we will start our march heading northeast on John Ireland Blvd toward the Capitol. We plan to arrive at the Capitol around 11:30/12pm. From 12pm until 2pm we will have a rally including entertainment, speakers, etc. If you are unable to participate in the march itself but wish to participate in this event, please feel free to join us at the Capitol around noon. The rally will end at 2pm.

These days both the national and, even more, the Minnesota sites are bursting with updates, anecdotes, calls to action and more! Anyone with a device and a comfy chair can keep up with the latest, share ideas, express an opinion and support the marchers in Minnesota and in DC.

There will be a post event gathering at sites around the state, including at the East Side Freedom Library which is opening its doors, providing hot beverages and encouraging marchers, including virtual marchers, to share their experiences, opinions, commitments and hopes. (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/womens-march-open-house/)

UPDATE: Emily’s List announcement:  http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/watch/emily-s-list-to-sponsor-women-s-march-on-washington-847831619542

UPDATE 1/6 – The Minnesota to Washington Women’s March has joined the blogosphere:     http://www.eramn.org/national-march-blog

Facing the facts about facts

I’m telling you a lie in a vicious effort that you will repeat my lie over and over until it becomes true. Lady Gaga

There are longer, but no more compelling, characterizations of the scourge of disinformation – so serious that the sitting President of the United States brought up the subject just this week – notably at a joint press conference with German President Angela Merkel.  In that meeting President Obama spoke of the perils of  “active disinformation, very well presented.”

The heart of the matter, the President said, is that, “if we are not serious about the facts, about what is true and what is not, and especially at the time of social networks, when so many people receive the information in one sentence on their phone, if we cannot tell the difference between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have a problem.”

The power, influence and tenacity of disinformation is evident – everyone has a story of having been duped, even having shared or acted on a kernel of disinformation planted with malice aforethought to skew public perception and action. We are conditioned to believe what we read or see, particularly if the information is well presented by “credentialed” spokesperson and/or, better yet, backed up by inscrutable, and thus infallible, metrics.

Disinformation is no respecter of receiver: Did any of us believe, if just for a minute, that Pope Francis favored a presidential candidate in the recent election? Or that that climate change might be just an overblown theory? or that the CIA was somehow behind the Malayzia Airline crash? Or that Ford Motors was planning a major move to Mexico?

Back in the pre-social media day the term “information literacy” was fashioned to put a name on an emerging Information Age challenge. Last month we even offered a hasty nod to Information Literacy Month. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/information-literacy-universal-challenge-of-the-digital-era/

The fact is that efforts to build information literacy skills lag far behind the ubiquity, fluidity and instant gratification of social media.   Far more insidious is the harsh reality that the wizards of disinformation have mastered the tools to manufacture palatable lies, to present the fake information in irresistible nibbles, to package propaganda a fact — then “repeat the lie over and over until it becomes true.”

For me the spark of hope that springs eternal ignites when Gaga and Obama sound the same alarm – that the power of disinformation is real, pervasive and a threat to this democracy.

The forefathers established a nation built on the premise of an engaged citizenry.   Informed voters (as narrowly defined by the white men who wrote the rules,) would have access to information by and about their government and the skills to consider both the source and the content of information. Relevant, valid information would be communicated to the citizenry not in 140 character blips but in pamphlets, newspapers, orations, even books! http://www.constitutionfacts.com/founders-library/founders-reading-list/

Disinformation is hardly a new idea. In 1710 Jonathan Swift penned The Art of Political Lying” in which he expressed his dim view of fake information:

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.

Information power and politics – An implicit but real challenge

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

Nearly two decades ago, 1998 to be exact, the library community launched a vigorous campaign in support of “information power.” That campaign morphed in time into the push for “information literacy” as described in last month’s blog post.

(https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/information-literacy-universal-challenge-of-the-digital-era/) The distinction is subtle – and the message is clear. Information, misinformation, communication, control and permutations of the truth matter.

More than policy, money, good looks or ground game it is information that will determine the Election of 2016.

On the scale of egregious crimes and/or sins with which this democracy should come to terms is the fact that messing with the facts – the misuse, withholding, manipulating, skewing, or otherwise communicating anything other the truth — is wrong.   The fundamental premise of this and every democracy is the power resides in an informed citizenry. That truth is pretty well spelled out by the Forefathers in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On the one hand, the meaning of information – whether in the form of the great American novel, a database or a tweet — is inherent. Still, that meaning is influenced by the medium of communication and, ultimately determined by the recipient. Individuals and institutions produce information that is conveyed by a plethora of media –all of which have a stake in the information game. The sources and conveyors of information then interact with receivers who bear the responsibility to evaluate both the content and the source. The power of the information rests in the source, the medium of communication, ultimately in the receiver who weighs the complexities then acts accordingly in light of source/content validity and personal values.

Information power and communication power are inextricably linked. Decades ago, Marshall McLuhan, author of The Medium is the Massage, laid out a framework for re-thinking information power. A review of those basics is in order at this juncture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OseOb_wBsi4)

The fact is, instant transmission of information and misinformation leaves no time for reaction or reflection – there is no pause between communication and action! Though we may know how to locate information, we are ill-equipped to assess the information, the source, the channel of communication, the ownership, the relevance, much less the validity or value of the overload of information with which we are bombarded.

Within hours of this post the last vote of the 2016 election will have been cast, counted and verified. The influence of information/misinformation and of communications media is stark and inexorable. This election is a wake up call for this democracy to get a grip on digital age information skills, attitudes and values.

No matter the outcome on Tuesday we have some serious thinking to do. My hope is that we will embrace the challenge to grapple with the some tough issues including information power, the role of the media, and about how we as a democracy shape and share the power of information to create a better world.

As we struggle to restore the soul of this nation it is wise to reflect on the reality that good information in the hands and minds of good people has immense power to heal.

 

Voting matters – Early, curbside and with a smile!

This morning I braved the chill, boarded the #32 bus, and headed for the WaterBar on Northeast Central Avenue to cast my vote. (I had long since affirmed that the WaterBar, a community hangout, was simply leased for the duration of the voting season). Possibly because the pop-up voting site was at the WaterBar, my after-voting sense was one of “cleansing.”

The process was beyond efficient; it was inspiring. I walked into the site a lone senior, a bit apprehensive that all of the paperwork was okay and that I could pass for an eligible, even informed, voter. What I found was a welcome, a sense that I was among fellow citizens, all engaged in a powerful process that, despite the ugliness of the campaign, rises above the tawdriness of the day.   My instinctive response to the warm environment was, Yes, when they go low, we do go high.

Basic fact, the process was assembly line efficient. It took me less than 10 minutes to go through the proof of registration and to cast my vote. If there were a gap it was only in my pause over down ballot choices where I had not been as diligent as I should have been about the research….

With pride I thanked the cordial staffer who offered the “I voted” sticker with a smile and an appreciative citizen-to-citizen nod.   I left the WaterBar with the clear understanding that the voter reigns in the voting process.

As I headed back to the bus I cast a sidelong glance at the sign that read “curbside voting.” I might have left it with that quick glance had I not encountered a proud staffer en route to the bus stop. At about 20 paces she spotted my “I voted” sticker – and took time to thank and congratulate me. Wow!   Ignoring the fact that the good woman was freezing, I succumbed to her warm smile and decided to ask the question that was on my mind: What’s “curbside voting?”

What I learned is that curbside voting means that anyone with physical challenges to poll access has a host of friends at hand. Staffers will reach out to verify registration, provide ballots, witness the secret vote, submit the secret ballot, and otherwise assure in every way that the voter enjoys equal access to the voting process. Curbside voting works! The challenge is to spread the word and the ways!

En route home I stopped to reflect over a cup of Aki’s famous coffee – My experience indicated that the mechanics of the voting process were in perfect order. Yes, I had fulfilled my duty. Far more important, my appreciation of a fair and open process was affirmed. And so I sipped my coffee with a powerful sense of good will, patriotism, and affirmed commitment to the common good. I had experienced the support of committed staff who clearly cared that the system works for all.

I also thought about the ways in which the WaterBar, a Northeast treasure, is yet another example of that sense of good will and affirmed commitment to the common good – a perfect polling site. Learn more about the WaterBar here:

 

 

Lively mix of issues and media at ESFL this month!

The East Side Freedom Library (www.eastsidefreeodmlibrary.org) continues to explode with creative ideas, provocative programs, and an open door to all who wish to share the energy that fuels this amazing community resource. Here’s what’s up in the weeks to come:

  • Wednesday, October 5, 7:00 p.m. Free and open — Deregulating Desire: Flight attendant activism, family politics, and workplace . Author and former flight attendant and union activist Ryan Murphy will discuss his book by this title. Held at the ESFL 1105 Greenbrier Street in St. Paul.
  • Friday, October 7, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Screening and Discussion of What Happened Miss Simone? (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4284010/mediaviewer/rm346220288) The evening, is co-hosted with A Greener Read Used Bookstore. (http://www.agreenerread.com.  Festivities  begin at 5:00 p.m. at the bookstore (506 Kenny Road) with viewing and discussion of the documentary. This will be followed by discussion of Come Back Africa (https://comebackafrica.com) at 7:00 at the ESFL, 1105 Greenbrier Street.
  • Friday & Saturday, October 15-16, it’s a “political graphics workshop” featuring Design and Screenprint from the Living Proof Print Collective. (https://wehavelivingproof.com) Presenters are Aaron Johnson-Ortiz and Aaron Rosenblum. Attend one day or both – it’s free but take time to register at http://goo.gl/forms/NXeFeJVBV7tqewlf2
  • If you actually survive Election Day 2016 you‘ll need to pause and reflect on it all by taking in a series of post-election talks on “Turbulent Times in the Race for the Presidency: An Historical Overview.” The series will explore the issues that have “driven political energies in the past two years – and in the more distant past. Presentations are set for Tuesdays in November (the 15th, 22nd, and 29th) 12:30 p.m. at the Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Avenue North. The series features presentations by Peter Rachleff, History Professor Emeritus at Macalester and founding Co-ED of the East Side Freedom Library.   The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is co-sponsor of the series.

Questions? info@eastsidefreedomlibrary.org or 651 230 3294.

 

Direct Support Professionals – Clarification + Resources

Earlier this week this blog carried a piece about Direct Support Professionals Week which ends tomorrow. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/to-honor-and-thank-direct-support-professionals/) The intent was to honor and thank those good people who daily meet the needs of individuals with physical and mental challenges.

Unfortunately, that post contained a muddled sentence that implied the opposite of what was intended. With apologies, I want to correct any confusion and to share what was intended, i.e. that I totally support the opinions and data stated by individuals who are far more knowledgeable about what is a political football.

The fact is, those who care for our family members, friends and neighbors who are physically or mentally challenged are grossly and unfairly underpaid. In order to make that fact abundantly clear, I would cite a series of critical articles posted in recent months by Tim Benjamin, Editor of Access Press.

Though Tim has covered the issue of pay for Personal Care Attendants (Minnesota’s term for Direct Support Professionals) in numerous AP editorials, he has doubled-down in recent months, in particular since July 2016. Tim makes a compelling case that Minnesotans – all of us — need to pay heed to the fact that those who care for vulnerable Minnesotans are under–recognized, under-valued and woefully underpaid – and that this is the reason there is a woeful shortage of workers who are able, but disinclined, to meet what is not only a personal but a societal need. Click on Tim’s powerful and timely editorials starting here:

http://www.accesspress.org/blog/2016/07/08/editors-column-july-2016/

The Legislature has failed to come to grips, much less take action, on what is a public disgrace that diminishes the work of these professionals – with tragic results on the welfare of deserving residents of our state, a state that boasts of its compassion and commitment to the common good.

If you’re into data, read Dick VanWagner’s metrics-laden piece in last week’s Access Press: http://www.accesspress.org/blog/2016/09/09/by-the-numbers-is-there-really-a-shortage-of-pcas-heres-an-analysis/

Though there are other references to the issue, these are good places for each of us to learn about and frame the issue – then think about what we can do to face and remedy the crisis in care.

One priority is to follow monthly up-dates in Access Press –free and readily accessible at countless public newsstands that we pass by every day.  Click here to learn more about AP (http://www.accesspress.org) or subscribe to the online edition here: http://www.accesspress.org/subscribe/.

Read it and learn!