LETTER: Why you probably didn’t hear about the largest climate rally in history
By Sam Corden
This past Sunday bore witness to a noble cause that received very little U.S. media coverage: The People’s Climate March. All across the globe, citizens marched arm-in-arm with banners and chants referencing a cleaner tomorrow in hopes of reaching our world’s most influential policymakers, calling for less talk and more action. As the world continues to change at an alarming rate, the global march preceded the U.N. Climate Summit, scheduled for September 23. The only problem is, not enough of us heard.
The march, which took place in more than 100 cities spanning the globe, was estimated to have roughly 580,000 participants, according to Avaaz, one of the many groups that helped orchestrate the event. Although this level of participation is unprecedented for a climate rally, two of the largest news sites in America, CNN and Fox News, didn’t cover it heavily, for reasons we can only assume.
However important this rally was in regards to saving our future, the one thing that remains certain is that we must not forget to check our informational blind spots, no matter how inconvenient that responsibility may be. Despite living in a country that advocates for free speech, the presumption that all available and important information will be provided to us needs to end. We need to realize the simple truth: We read what’s put in front of us and quickly leave it at that.
Without digging too far into the past, it’s easy to see how the news media has shaped popular opinion with what they’ve chosen to show us and when they do so. Depending on which image you chose to empathize with, Trayvon Martin was either a child or a thug; depending on which station you watched, the Iraq war was either a necessity in the name of democracy, or an utter waste of time; and depending on how you chose to view the Ray Rice case, he was either a fist-swinging fiance, or a misunderstood guy who caught the initial break he deserved. These opinion-shaping viewpoints are a dime a dozen, but we must not forget the topics that are swept completely under the rug by major news outlets.
My point is simple: The media conglomerates we’ve deemed gods of the informational world have become emboldened and practice little restraint when shaping our national dialogue. As these media giants have grown stronger, true journalistic outlets have been suppressed, and our collective attention span has shortened.
Although I may never know the full truth of the matter, there’s more than enough text illuminating government and corporate censorship of our news to satisfy me of its validity for a thousand lifetimes. But it’s the lack of camaraderie I feel around this issue that I find most troubling.
We live in the midst of a presidential administration that has charged more individuals with treason-related crimes under the Espionage Act than all other presidencies in our history combined. Public outreach and slander-ridden attack ads run presidential campaign budgets into the billions of dollars. And we live and die by the news we’re told is important, only to dismiss it once it leaves our screens for good.
Our founding fathers fought for our right to obtain accurate information and for the protection of those who offer it; a past we’ve clearly chosen to leave behind. Although branching out from the norm, I challenge you to dig a little deeper, not just sometimes, but all the time.
As college students already spending time and money to shape our minds, we should also make an effort to discover the full picture and make that the informational norm, regardless of how tough it is to track down. We must keep our desire for accurate and wholesome knowledge alive, and understand that without its availability for contemplation and discussion, the full truth may never be uncovered.
Read often, read around, and don’t let anyone do your thinking for you — not even me.
Sam Corden is an MSU alumnus with a degree in environmental studies. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.