Critical thinking begins by asking who is paying for the alternative media we consume

Gerry ChidiacThe media landscape has changed drastically in recent years. Few of us see current events through the lens of the CBC, CTV, CNN, or Fox News. Today most people turn to the alternative media of their choosing. The question is, do these really provide alternative perspectives on the world around us, or are they alternative methods used by the power elite to control the behaviour of ordinary citizens?

One source of “alternate perspectives” is PragerU. According to its website, PragerU is an educational non-profit where one can make tax-deductible donations because “We rely on the generosity of good-hearted Americans just like you to support our work.”

In fact, PragerU is under the same umbrella as another media source called DailyWire+. Both are heavily funded by billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks. They pay people like Jordan Peterson, Candace Owens, and Matt Walsh the same way the pharmaceutical industry funds broadcasts promoting vaccine mandates or arms industry-funded broadcasts feature “rent-a-general” experts to promote the war in Ukraine.

Russell-Brand alternative media

Russell Brand

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In other words, we cannot be any more trusting of the DailyWire+ than we are of CNN or CTV. As consumers of media, we cannot cease being critical thinkers.

What happens when we listen to Jordan Peterson, Candace Owens, or Matt Walsh with a critical ear? One notices that they present their perspectives emphatically and cynically, rarely allowing themselves to be challenged.

Jordan Peterson, for example, has a great deal to say about my profession, education. There is apparently a communist agenda underlying the Canadian school system from pre-school through university disguised as an effort to treat everyone with fairness and respect. Peterson attests that the word “equity” is essentially a code word for a movement intended to destroy our society.

I’ve looked up documents referenced by Peterson, and I’ve even taken his words to heart as I critique my own practice. My conclusion is that he is merely fear-mongering.

Mao and Stalin are seen in the same light as Hitler and Mussolini. All students and their informed political, ethical, and religious viewpoints are respected. I’ve supported Christian students in writing reports on the persecution of Christians in today’s world, pro-life students in presenting to their classmates on abortion, and other students in researching the history of gay rights. I fail to see where this type of equity is in any way a danger to our democracy.

I honestly find Walsh and Owens very hard to listen to. They engage in uncharitable monologues about ordinary individuals who are not present to defend themselves. They also tend to target marginalized groups like people of colour and members of the transgender community.

Why would billionaires pay millions to promote divisive messaging with little constructive dialogue? Could it be that they want ordinary people to fight among themselves so that they can divide and conquer, maintain control, and increase their wealth?

There are, however, real forms of alternative media that encourage critical thinking, and some are run by wealthy people who choose to behave in a socially responsible manner. British comedian Russell Brand, for example, has over 6.5 million followers on YouTube and posts on other platforms as well.

Brand is clearly on a quest to find truth and to promote understanding. He has featured discussions with Cornel West, Gabor Maté, Marianne Williamson, and many others. To their credit, both Owens and Peterson agreed to be interviewed by Brand, who then used reasoned arguments to challenge their views in a clear and benevolent manner.

We really do live in a golden age of media. We have access to information in ways never before imaginable; however, we are being distracted by billionaires who may have nefarious agendas.

Critical thinking begins by asking who is paying for the media we consume and whether listening makes us better and more compassionate as human beings.

Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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