Brainwashed or Blind?

Image by Fann Xu

Image by Fann Xu

Lilly Hogan ‘18

Recently, I decided to peruse The New York Times for an interesting article. I don’t often go on The New York Times app on my phone, but when I do, I mean business. I am looking to enrich my life with news of the outside world, information that doesn't solely pertain to this small and very concentrated bubble that I live in. I always want to want to click on articles with words like “GOP,” “FDA,”“Prime Minister,” “Peace Talks,” or, “Guns.” Instead, I end up choosing things like “Caitlyn Jenner Meets Her Critics,” a video where Caitlyn Jenner goes to a high school in Brooklyn and somehow blows away her fourteen-year-old critics merely with her sublime presence. Most recently, I started reading totally inane pop culture articles with the intention of becoming totally lost in their content, but it completely backfired on me. It was actually quite scary. The thing that I was trying to avoid came back at me and reared its interesting, important, and, fact-filled head.

The article’s title was “Students at Fake University Say They Were Collateral Damage in Sting Operation.” This title sounded like the 2006 teen movie Accepted. This title sounded like a very silly, weird, joke, which is neither meaningful nor worth my time. So of course, I chose to click on it. The article was about a fake University that the United States Government created in order to catch foreigners trying to illegally obtain workers visas through maintaining student visas. I found myself becoming extremely disturbed in reading this article; not only do I find the motives of the government questionable, but the way that the government carried it out was also problematic. Why did our government make such an effort to catch a group of people who only want to stay in our country to be able to work in OUR labor force? Most of these people seemed to already have an undergraduate College education and jobs, but solely needed a way to not be deported. The fake University officials also never flat-out told their students that the University was artificial. I clicked on this article and I was reminded why I often avoid “serious” news articles. I avoid them because they confuse and irritate me. They tunnel information and place news into a certain context to prove a point, or masked opinion. While I did research this further, I still had far more questions about this topic after I had read it than before. My biggest questions being “what is the author not telling me?” and “what really happened?”. I am a busy college student and I feel as though I don't have the time and energy to thoroughly research the history and current state of fake Universities in the United States. It’s because of this that I’ve chosen to have The New York Times app on my phone, to feel informed though hyper-fast gratification. Yet every time I try to inform myself, it shows me how little I am informed and makes me question the reliability of the people who are conveying the information.

Is it better to subject yourself to the rhetoric of people you are not certain deserve your trust than to not read the news? Is it better to possibly be a bit brainwashed than to never open The New York Times app on your phone? Ultimately, I think it is. I think it is better to be a person that listens. I think we have a duty, as citizens of the world, to attempt to understand what is happening around us. However, I also think we have a duty to question what we observe and to not be overly trusting, even with The New York Times.

These questions are especially interesting with relaunch of The Bennington Free Press. When we, as students, read The Bennington Free Press we know or know of the person writing the articles and most of the time, we have first hand experience of what the articles are talking about. This really changes the relationship between the receiver and giver of information in a very positive way. We have the knowledge and therefore power to partially see the way what we are reading has evolved in way that we normally do not.