Would You Trust the Trump Administration to Teach Digital Literacy?

The most attention-getting news this Monday morning has been about a video played at a Trump 2020 conference at Mar-a-Lago. The video—shown as part of a “meme exhibit” at the right-wing American Priority conference—was built around a reedited scene from the film Kingsman: The Secret Service; it shows an actor with the president’s head imposed on him, fighting and shooting avatars of Black Lives Matter, Adam Schiff, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and various media outlets as they try to flee from “the Church of Fake News.”

“Content was submitted by third parties and was not associated with or endorsed by the conference in any official capacity,” American Priority spokesperson Alex Phillips said in a statement. Nonetheless, the violent fantasy fits right in with real rhetoric from President Donald Trump, who frequently describes media as the enemy of the people and throws around words like “traitor” and “treason” when talking about political opponents.

Oddly, some of those same opponents want to give the Trump administration more sway over how American children interpret news and online content.

The Digital Citizen and Media Literacy Act, introduced in the House last Friday, would give the Department of Education $20 million to help fund “media literacy curricula” for kindergarten through 12th grade.

“The funds would be available to local education agencies to create programs on media literacy and to state agencies to create ‘advisory councils’ to establish state-wide media literacy guidelines,” reports The Hill. But federal officials will be setting the parameters of those programs and deciding which groups get the grants.

The bill was sponsored by seven Democrats—Reps. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, Mike Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, and Lauren Underwood of Illinois.

In a statement, they repeatedly refer to Russian election meddling, social media, and the need to safeguard our democracy from foreign influence.

Americans (of all ages) surely have some problems with media literacy. But it seems unlikely that we can combat those with federally funded and guided training—especially under an administration with such a loose interpretation of truth. Meanwhile, the lawmakers lauding the legislation seem unwilling to extend their discussion of social media literacy beyond combating current boogeymen and reiterating Democratic talking points.

Over the summer, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Wisc.) introduced a bill similar to the new House legislation. “Adversaries are targeting our democracy with sophisticated information campaigns designed to divide Americans and undermine our political system,” she said at the time.

Another bill introduced by House Democrats recently (the Digital Equity Act) would also fund “digital literacy” training for various adult populations.


FOLLOWUP

“Antiwar” president ramps up military presence in Middle East. Trump is using phony antiwar rhetoric to defend his actions last week on Syria—even as his administration touts plans to send another 1,800 troops to the Middle East.


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