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By Carlee R.

The democratic structure of the United States government allows for “the people” to make the ultimate decision in presidential elections. The hopeful candidates will spend millions of dollars in advertising and campaigning, in hopes of swinging the votes of the citizens in their direction. Some of these dollars will go to television advertisements that either glorify themselves or put down their opponents. Campaigns will oftentimes make wild claims about their opponents, hoping to get more votes. Some of these claims can be true, but some can also be false. Furthermore, the people of the general public also receive mixed information because of the biases of different forms of social media. For example, there are many news channels that are considered too conservative and also some that are considered too liberal. This results in confusion for the general public, who does not know what to believe from these biased social mediums. Media literacy education can help us determine whether these claims should be taken seriously or not.

Media literacy allows for the continued practice of the First Amendment. We do not need to censor information from the public that could be considered offensive or untrue, but rather with media literacy we have the ability to decide for ourselves what to believe and what not to believe. We can practice media literacy through asking questions in order to gain a better understanding of the media. When given information by the media, we must dissect the information to discover whether it is credible or not. We must pay attention to who is sending the message, what the embedded values of the message are, where the message was placed for our consumption, why the message was sent, and how we and others view the message.

Media literacy education is helpful in the democratic process. When receiving messages through advertisements on television during campaigns, we first must consider who the message is coming from. For example, during the 2012 election, there were many television advertisements that were criticizing Barack Obama. One in particular was an advertisement in which Barack Obama was quoted as saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” When looking deeper into this, I noticed that Mitt Romney’s party funded these advertisements. Upon further research, I discovered that this quote was taken out of context. It was actually Obama quoting an email from an aide to John McCain, his former presidential opponent. This quote actually had nothing to do with Obama’s campaign strategy and concerned McCain’s campaign strategy from the last election. Obviously these advertisements were biased because they were produced by Obama’s opponent. Furthermore, these television ads were primarily placed in Los Angeles, known to be a very liberal city. The purpose of these advertisements were to try and convince potential Obama voters to change their minds and choose Romney instead. This is the reason why the majority of the candidates’ spending on television ads was done in Florida, known as one of the major swing states. As a democrat, I could have easily been offended by these television advertisements that were harshly criticizing Obama. Instead, using media literacy, I realized that Romney’s party had a purpose in placing these ads on television, just like Obama’s party placed ads that criticized Romney as well. I was also able to realize that most of what was said in these ads was untrue or was reconstructed in order to paint Obama in a negative picture, which lowered the validity of what was said in the ads.

In this country, though many people may not realize it, media literacy education is very important. Our country is filled with many politicians who sometimes deceive us and try to get us to believe what they want us to believe. Through media literacy education, we can easily determine the validity of the claims of politicians through various social mediums and weave through the biases as well. This will help us work towards becoming a more informed nation on our politics.

Works Cited

"The Basics of Media Literacy." The Basics of Media Literacy. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2013.

Dominick, Joseph R. The Dynamics of Mass Communication: Media in Transition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.

Fineman, Howard. "With 'Blood Libel,' The 2012 Campaign Has Begun." The Huffington Post., 12 Jan. 2011. Web. 05 Apr. 2013.

"Mad Money: TV Ads in the 2012 Presidential Campaign." The     Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.

"Mitt Romney Ad Charges Obama Said, 'If We Keep Talking about the Economy, We're Going     to Lose'" PolitiFact. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2013.