Long ago and far away a library educator friend published an early info age book that promoted and explained the role of the library as an access point to information useful to the citizen activist. Her intent was positive, to explain to activists the potential of reliable, authoritative, timely information that would affirm and validate a proposed action. When her publisher suggested the title “Armed for action” she objected to the militaristic tone….
Now I realize that my friend was prematurely wise to eschew the “armed” image. In this age information has morphed into the transportable “weapon of choice” to foment political action. Though weaponizing information is usually attributed the Russians it is important to acknowledge that Putin’s tactics are not unique…
To be certain of the implicit evil of weaponized information, I checked with Merriam-Webster to affirm that use of the word “weapon” definitely connotes negative intent: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weapon
In truth, information is simply a resource, the user determines the use… My friend’s benevolent theme may seem naïve now – though just when information deserves no blame for the fact that it’s been weaponized. Though history is replete with lies, the digital age opens the floodgates to their unfettered flow and proliferation.
And so we are drowning in a flood of commentaries on the weaponization of information; a smattering of opinion pieces are listed below.
Okay, information can be used as a weapon. And yet the essential power lies in the receiver of information who is challenged to think and act according to the content and source of the information. The “armor” we need today rests with the individual or institution that will take or resist action based on the weaponized information.
As a society, we are called upon to grapple with the challenge to make “critical thinking skills” the norm—or in today’s parlance, how do we “normalize” critical thinking… I prefer, and frequently quote, my good friend Ruth Myers who would often ask, How do we inoculate learners with a healthy dose of “perceptive paranoia?”
The Founders, influenced by Jefferson, envisioned a democracy founded on citizen access to and wise assessment of information. Knowing this, we should focus not so much on the weaponry as on how we harness the power of good information (aka truth) to support this democracy. In a word, how do we sustain a political system based on truth, and arm “we the people” with the power to recognize bald-faced lies when they are aimed at us with malicious intent.
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