HINRICHS: Those in power are misconstruing history


Opinions Column: Unveiling the Truth


Where knowledge is power, information is a weapon. Information is the key that, depending on the whim of its controller, can either lock the masses in chains or liberate them in understanding.

In Texas, 15 people determine the fate of the nation’s children — because the state of Texas determines which resources and textbooks are used. Rather than the local districts, the State Board of Education (SBOE) sets the textbook standards for roughly 5 million school children. But, what happens in Texas, does not stay in Texas. Since it is one of the largest textbook markets, private publishing corporations must alter their textbooks in order to fit the preferences of the SBOE. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) signed Senate Bill 801 into law giving the SBOE greater authority, providing them the power to deem which content is “suitable for the subject and grade level for which the instructional material was submitted."

While on the surface this may seem innocuous, the iceberg beneath the murky water is waiting to sink this nation. The hinge from which this corrosive power is attached is the word “suitable.” In the past 20 years, this SBOE has deemed facts about evolution and climate change, accurate accounts of slavery and civil rights struggles and truthful information about labor leader Cesar Chavez, civil rights icon Dolores Huerta and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall all unsuitable content for their textbooks. The conservative leaning SBOE continuously pushes personal ideologies and the agendas of interest groups into the classrooms of young children who act as sponges soaking up the words in textbooks as facts.

The power of the SBOE cannot be understated. In 1995, the Board deemed an image of a woman carrying a briefcase unsuitable. To their misogynistic principles, a more suitable image was a woman placing a cake in an oven … and that was the image published. These images teach students unjust patriarchal gender roles.

History not taught is history forgotten, and to forget is an injustice to the past. The Texas State Board of Education has the power to erase history and social growth as long as the authorship and biases of textbook making is not acknowledged.

Understanding the source of information, or misinformation, has become pivotal as we are force fed information and news every second not knowing the originator or their personal biases.

In Maryland, the seemingly obscure company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, announced in May a $3.9 billion acquisition — solidifying the corporate consolidation of local news. While Sinclair is already the largest owner of local news stations with more than 170 stations, its clout will now grow even larger by acquiring Tribune Media’s 42 stations in 33 television markets. Following the acquisition, Sinclair, one of the nation’s most conservative media companies, would run programs in seven of the 10 largest markets, including the top three. The FCC is currently reviewing the purchase.

However, in December of 2017,  Politico reported “(President) Donald (J.) Trump's campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage.” While no cash reportedly was exchanged in the deal, the man in charge of approving Sinclair’s acquisition is Trump’s Federal Communications Commission Chairman appointee Ajit Pai. Pai attended a meeting with a top executive of Sinclair the day before Trump's inauguration at the company’s headquarters.  Pai is expected to approve the deal.

The unusual present danger of Sinclair is its practice of producing segments that push a socially conservative agenda, which are then sent to their stations as  “must runs.” These segments in the past have included opinions comparing political correctness and multiculturalism to cancer and statements like “there is one step that is proven to dramatically decrease domestic violence: marriage.”

Sinclair also sends out the mandatory program, “Terrorism Alert Desk,” which perpetuates hate mongering, Islamophobia and feeds into the irrational, unsubstantiated and illogical belief that all Muslim people are terrorists.  Among uncorroborated news stories on Islamic State group are stories simply covering the use of hijabs and burqas, which has absolutely no connection to terrorism.

The danger of interjecting blips of propaganda within the trivial local news cycle is that people trust the neighborhood, friendly face providing their misinformation.  In fact, the Pew Research Center published a study revealing that a higher percentage of adults in the United States trust the information they get from local news more than national news.

At a time when factual reporting is attacked by the brand of “fake news” and alternative facts are passed as reality, do not be manipulated and do not ignore the man behind the curtain. We must move toward a greater understanding of the implicit biases of sources and require transparency in authorship.

Luke Hinrichs is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in Political Science and Economics. His column “Unveiling the Truth“ runs every alternate Wednesday.Wednesday


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Luke Hinrichs

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