“Democracy was dealt a major blow in 2020. Almost 70% of countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index recorded a decline in their overall score, as country after country locked down to protect lives from a novel coronavirus. The global average score fell to its lowest level since the index began in 2006.” (Economist Intelligence Unit, https://www.eiu.com/n/campaigns/democracy-index-2020/)
Discussion questions after watching this film on Netflix:
Say something about (some of) these characters from the movie. How did they strike you? What kind of “stereotypical persons” are some of them portrayed as? In what ways do you think the filmmakers used humor/irony with them?
How did the movie present US politics and the presidential election? Do you think the movie chose a side? Discuss how the movie portrayed this.
How did the movie portray fake news and how they spread?
Was it difficult to separate irony from facts in this mockumentary?Give examples from the film.
Julian Assange is the head of WikiLeaks and faces a harsh prison sentence in the USA if he were to be extradited from Britain. He released over 750,000 documents which showed corruption and human rights abuse at the hands of the American government in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as at the prison camp on Guantánamo. The documents were given to him by private Chelsea Manning, who was arrested in 2010 and served 7 years in prison. Just yesterday, a British court decided against extraditing Assange, on the grounds of his mental health. Edward Snowden is a former contractor for the National Security Agency who in 2013 transmitted to journalists 1.7 million classified documents detailing NSA online surveillance of American citizens. He was charged under the Espionage Act, but gained asylum in Russia.
So, are these people heroes or criminals? How crucial is it for a democracy to have whistleblowers? And where is the line between warning the public and exposing wrongs on the one side and breaking the law and putting your country at risk on the other? What is more important, freedom of speech and the right to privacy, or loyalty to your employer and country? And what costs does this come with for the individual who has to make that choice?
A court sketch of Julian Assange at the Old Bailey in London for the ruling in his extradition case on Monday, January 4, 2021.
(Picture from http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS8FoV_CqN1-EetgwddDzbfaFYsOlAufiupBdzDTGLm6l8ty-F1)
“Spotlight” is a film dealing with real events, and how investigative journalism lead to reveal several crimes committed by members of the Catholic Church.
Investigative journalism is an important part of the media – it takes time and serious effort to do research and to find out the truth about a topic. It can be expensive, and therefore many do not make it a priority. But the work and the findings are important for the freedoms and protection of freedoms in our society. Read more about investigative journalism here.
Choose two of the questions on the film study work sheet (if you have lost it you can find it on It’s Learning under Resources) and write a blog post where you discuss your answer to these questions.
At the end of the post, sum up briefly what you learnt from this film, and how you liked it.
IF YOU DID NOT GET TO WATCH THE WHOLE FILM: write a blog post about the importance of investigative journalism, using what you can read here about Watergate as examples to prove your point.
You have now watched two documentaries about social media and how it can be used to influence people without them even knowing it. Write a blog post where you briefly summarize what they were about and compare the two documentaries in terms of genre and form. Which of the two did you like the best, or did you feel you learned the most from? Give reasons for your answer.
How has president Trump met the Covid-19 pandemic? Fox reports that his vice president could not have been more proud, Alternet repeats allegations of him being a mass murderer, while the New York Times asks questions. How can the same issue cause so different “truths?” And what is true?
Keeping the five C’s in mind (context, credibility, corroboration, construction and compare) – visit the three links above and read/watch how the different news outlets respond to how Trump has handled the pandemic.
Then, use the post-its you have been given to answer the questions below. One post it per answer, and then put up your post its around the classroom.
how do the different articles portray Trump’s reaction to the pandemic?
What adjectives/loaded words are used in the different articles?
Can you tell which article is more liberal and which is more conservative? How
Which of the articles were easiest to read? Why?
Which of the articles do you find most believable? Why?
Did you know that Ebola is still not eradicated? Nor HIV, despite existing medicines? Nor measles? Nor a number of other diseases? Why, in today’s day and age? Two weeks ago, the New York Times published an article about the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has been five years since the world was scared almost into hysteria during the “last outbreak”, but was it really the last outbreak?
A week ago NRK published a series of pictures released by Doctors Without Borders, listing several forgotten humanitarian crises. I have not been able to find that topic mentioned in other media the last month.
And on a considerably different note, the Saudi Crown Prince was interviewed last night by the CBS show 60 Minutes. He was asked about wide-ranging topics, from the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago, to women’s rights, to the war in Yemen. Did you know there is a war in Yemen?
Tomorrow in class you are going to write for 90 minutes. The tasks will invite you to discuss media in terms of global crises. You might not use any of these topics in your discussion, and media’s focus on Greta Thunberg, or on the Notre Dame fire rather than the fires in Brazil’s rainforest, could be equally interesting starting points. But you do need a starting point, a point of reference, when discussing how media works, or for whom media works, or in which situations we rely on media, or however I plan on phrasing one or two tasks for you. Good luck, and do not hesitate contacting me if you have any questions for tomorrow!