Our news and social media sources offer an array of information, opinion, demonstrable fact, and pure fiction. This often leads to a challenge when it comes to navigating the boundary between truth and propaganda. Beyond Civility hosted a panel discussion in conjunction with Xavier University’s Ethics/Religion and Society (E/RS) Program on the evening of November 11, 2019 where the panel discussed the often deceptive nature of the current news sources and social media in order to educate the audience of ways to spot “fake news.” The night began with an introduction to the night’s discussion by Beyond Civility board member and “Pantsuit Politics” co-host, Beth Silvers. Panelist and UC communications professor, Dr. Eric Jenkins, then followed with a presentation on propaganda. The night then proceeded with the panel discussion regarding modern propaganda and the ways in which many find themselves being swayed or misinformed by certain news outlets and political sources on social media.
The panel for the evening consisted of the moderator, Maryanne Zeleznik of 91.7 WVXU and five panelists: Kevin Aldridge, Dr. Eric Jenkins, Dave Giles, Gwen McFarlin and Amanda Sprengard. Each of the panelists brought to the discussion a unique perspective about propaganda in the modern age and how they see the media working to undermine the truth in order to change the way people think. While the views of each panelist differed from one another, the conversation remained respectful and enlightened the audience on the boundary between propaganda and truth.
Following the panel discussion Beth Silvers rejoined the panelists on stage and served as the question moderator. Audience members were able to send in questions they had throughout the night’s discussion and direct them to the members of the panel. This encouraged participation from both the panelists and the audience.
After the night’s formal event, Beyond Civility invited audience members and panel members to continue the conversation at the Civility Caucus. The Civility Caucus is a new component of Beyond Civility’s public events that encouraged audience members to engage and communicate with fellow audience members, panelists, moderators, and members of the Beyond Civility community. The environment of the Civility Caucus stimulated personal conversations and permitted participants of the Civility Caucus to have conversations that explored their personal thoughts and concerns regarding the night’s topic. However, the Civility Caucus also provided questions related to the night’s event to give participants a starting place for conversations if needed. As participants left the Civility Caucus, they were invited to share any final thoughts they had about the event by writing them down on a sticky note and posting them for others to read.