Letter: Cell phone? No, it’s a propaganda gizmo

To the Editor:

Many of us carry around a small device we call a cell phone. It really needs a new name. It can report the weather, send texts, look up information, entertain us with games, take and store our pictures, check social media, play music and, oh yes, call someone. But of all of the things this gadget can do, it is best at disseminating misinformation and disinformation. Maybe we should start calling them propaganda gizmos.

There have always been bad actors who sought out methods of influencing gullible people. But never have those bad actors had such a simple means of reaching millions of people with information that may seem true but is not. Recently, my Sauk first-year students reminded me in an assigned writing piece that they are fully aware that they must always be dubious of everything they read on social media and other sources. They know that there are people who very intentionally share distorted or false information. Of course, the intention of these malicious people is to get something – money, influence, beliefs, votes – from the recipient of the disinformation.

It is my generation that fails to preserve a healthy sense of distrust when we check the screens on our phones. If a post has a catchy graphic or is written in a style that appears to be from a reliable source, we often accept it as truth. If an email includes graphs and charts and accurate looking data, we assume the writer has based her information on factual resources. If we see a video that is professionally produced and cites something authentic sounding, we assume that the information is trustworthy.

But, sadly, chances are pretty good that much of the information on our propaganda gizmos is just that, propaganda. Take a lesson from the college freshmen in our community. If you are not sure that something you read on your phone is true, it very well might not be.

Sarah Bingaman, Dixon