Column: You can help make Illinois students more media literate

Illinois residents encouraged to submit written support of HB234

Braden Hajer, Copy Editor & Columnist

“If something horrible comes out and Trump comes out and agrees he did it, I will then weigh it, but there’s… I’m never a lesser of two evils person, but with Hillary, there’s not even the same universe. I mean, she is an abject psychopathic demon from hell [and] as soon as she gets into power is gonna try to destroy the planet. I’m sure of that, and people around her say she’s so dark now and so evil and so possessed that they are having nightmares, they’re freaking out. Folks, let me just tell you something. There are dozens of videos and photos of flies landing on Obama indoors at all times of year, and he’ll be next to 100 people and nobody has flies on them. Hillary reportedly… I mean, I was told by people around her that they think she’s a demon possessed. They said they’re scared. This woman is dangerous, ladies and gentleman. Hillary’s into creepy, weird stuff man. Just disgusting, with flies all over here? Imagine how bad she smells. I’m told her and Obama just stink. You can’t wash that evil off. I’m not kidding, people, high-up folks have said Obama and Hillary both smell like sulfur.”  — Alex Jones, 2016


How’s it hangin’, Illinois? I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that I try to only write absurdist, surreal columns unless I’m seriously passionate about something. Well, this may be the most important thing I ever write.

The internet is the most powerful megaphone for misinformation ever created. It is a heaven-sent gift for those seeking to radicalize America’s youth, and I’ve seen some of the calamitous repercussions even among my own friends. Fake news is a fascinating, horrifying and occasionally hilarious topic. For example, QAnon’s goal post for when Trump is going to be inaugurated for his second term is currently at March 20 after the fourth didn’t pan out… after Jan. 20 didn’t pan out.

Last semester, I signed up for Capstone, a humanities course that allows students to pursue research and produce a project on a topic of the student’s choosing. First of all, it’s a fantastic class, and I can’t recommend it enough if you can find a way to make space for it in your senior schedule. It’ll teach you time management skills like no other class. Regardless, my project revolved around the history of fake news, looking at how it evolves and spreads over time. During the project, I had the honor of getting to talk to the founder of Politifact and was even able to use the above Alex Jones quote for academic purposes.

By the end of the project, I began working on reviving a dead media literacy bill and trying to get my own strengthening amendments added in. Somewhat miraculously (to me anyways), it succeeded, and HB234 was born out of the ashes of HB1559. You can read the text for it here, but do note that this is without my proposed amendments. It would teach students about the different types of fake news and what they can do to combat it, along with much more. Ultimately, it will help students navigate an increasingly-complex media landscape.

As much as I’ve done, though, I am but one man. This is where I come to you, the people. Filing witness slips in support of the bill is critical to the whole operation, and if you, my dear reader, would be willing to take a stand for a legitimately better future for Illinois, I’d be grateful.

The bill is having its hearing on Wednesday, March 10. For those reading this after that date, thank you for reading up to this point. If you’re reading this before the 10th and are interested (and live in Illinois, of course), here’s exactly what you need to do:

  1. Click this link
  2. Fill out your information. It’s not rocket science, but here are the specifics:
–          Address & Phone Number: [Your address]
–          Firm/Business or Agency: Put school, college, or company name. If none, put “Self”
–          Title: Up to you—“student”, work title,” teacher” etc.
–          Email/Phone:[Your email and phone]
–          Persons, groups represented in this appearance: [Your name/”Self” in most cases]
–          Position: Select “Proponent” (if you support the bill, of course)
–          Testimony: Select Record of Appearance Only”
–          Check the “I accept the ILGA Terms of Service”
–          Click: “Submit witness slip” button. 


If you do file a slip, thank you so much! I’ve been working on this project since September, and to see this whole thing start to come to fruition as a physical action is… exciting, nerve-wracking and a little strange. I came into this whole process fully expecting to get blown off by everybody in the system, so to be able to, for example, get an email from Illinois House representative Janet Yang-Rohr saying she’s signing on as a chief co-sponsor is a wild experience. 

I hate few things more than to be an optimist, but it turns out making change is easier than you think. You just have to be willing to use the power you have.