How to defend against the Russian disinformation war & fake news

Source: The Only Way to Defend Against Russia’s Information War – The New York Times

I was relieved to read this opinion piece–as far as I know, the first to deal with the bottom line of Russian interference in our democracy: how do we teach the ultimate targets, presumably those infamous low-information voters, how not to buy into fake news and propaganda?

All the talk has been about Russian disinformation, which clearly shook up our election, and how we’re going to block it, cope with it, respond to it, get rid of it. Et cetera.

But the talk should be about why a vast majority of us voters did not get suckered: what did we know that the other ones did not? Well, we knew how to get facts from the news, and how not to form opinions before we get the facts.

So how do we teach everyone to distinguish facts from fakes?

As Nina Jankowicz writes in her thoughtful piece (my bolding):

The creation of a Western media antidote to RT is floated regularly, even though the channel has only about eight million viewers in the United States each week. (While it has more viewers on YouTube, they are largely brought in by memes or disaster videos, not news.)

What no one seems to care to discuss is the people who are targets of Russian disinformation, why its narratives find fertile ground among them and what can be done to change that.

Here’s what Ms. Jankowicz suggests:

All is not lost. Disinformation can be defeated without the establishment of a shiny new initiative cased in the language of Cold War 2.0. Instead of “rapid information operations,” the United States should work to systematically rebuild analytical skills across the American population and invest in the media to ensure that it is driven by truth, not clicks.

The fight starts in people’s minds, and the molding of them. In K-12 curriculums, states should encourage a widespread refocusing on critical reading and analysis skills for the digital age. Introductory seminars at universities should include a crash course in sourcing and emotional manipulation in the media. Similar courses could be created as professional development for adults, beginning with state employees. Large corporations could be offered government incentives to participate, too.

Training like this has a proven track record.

And I am an example of how well this training works, as I’ve described in a number of pieces beginning with How I Learned The Facts of Life.

Must say, though, Ms. Jankowicz makes such teaching sound mechanistic and grim, like memorizing multiplication tables, and sort of forever.

It isn’t. It’s challenging and exciting and mind-opening for us as students. And for teachers? Any teacher who takes up Larry Fink’s Method (oh, read my piece–it’s fun and easy to grasp) will find it doesn’t take very long to let students show themselves how not to be brainwashed.

In fact–and I mean that–it takes only as long as it’ll take you to read How I Learned The Facts of Life.

There. To make it ultra-easy I gave you the link again.

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