Recently, while attending a panel on Holocaust remembrance and human rights at Atlanta’s new Civil and Human Rights Museum, I posed the following question to M. Alexis Scott, former publisher of the Atlanta Daily World:
With the proliferation of modern media, where individuals can pick and choose media and messages that reinforce already-held beliefs while discarding or ignoring all media that might challenge that belief, how does one get a contrary message through? In short, how do we ensure that we’re not only preaching to the choir, but getting our message to those who we wish to reach – those minds we hope to change?
Scott’s answer? “I don’t know.”
Media and politics, while strange bedfellows, share a common goal – to deliver our message to as many people as possible in hopes of informing the electorate and planting the seeds of positive change. Back in the day – say, prior to 2000 – this process took place on doorsteps, with get-out-the-vote campaigns and the arrival of the daily paper and the nightly news. Today, for better or worse, the information war claims the Internet as its battleground, and, as we all know, if it’s on the Internet it must be true. Even if your true and my true are diametrically opposed to each other. Even if one of us is just flat wrong.
And speaking of flat and wrong…via the Internet, one can “prove” that the earth is, indeed, flat (Thank you, Flat Earth Society and members of certain religious orders). One can also “prove” that aliens have landed and are living among us, gathering information for eventual takeover. Internet sources can even reinforce with “evidence” the most disgusting and dangerous of beliefs – that certain peoples are inferior. That the Holocaust never happened. That terrorist groups, far from being deplorable, are actually ridding the world of evil, and should be lauded for their murderous efforts.
My friends, I do not know if the world is a more frightening place than it ever was. Maybe the proliferation of media has just brought more of the world’s long-standing problems to our attention. But what I do know – and what Scott echoed – is that for those among us attempting to reach disengaged or hostile audiences, the messages are just not getting through.
But it is imperative that we get through.
So I ask – if anyone hears me through the noise – how do I get through to you?