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Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

America Strikes Back?
Critical Media Literacy in Times of War

This site is especially recommended for those teaching or studying communications, language arts, media, political science, sociology, and history. The two primary modules examine: The “War on Terror,” Afghanistan; U.S. attacks in Iraq in 1991 and 2002.

The site can be accessed as a Flash 6 site or as HTML. You will find visually-engaging, extensively researched primary document news material demonstrating contradictory stories told by domestic and international media reporting on: civilian casualties, effects on sanctions on Iraq, anti-war protests

You will find analyses of word choice, tone, headlines, sources.
Test how YOU read the media, what you have been told and not told!


Quantitative Data (University of Toronto)

Recently, surveys were administered to University of Toronto teacher education students. Though data is still coming in, some of the responses received from 38 participants are summarized below.

Qualitative Responses (University of Southern Maine, Sociology class assigned to read Critical Media Literacy in Times of War and to write a 6 pg reflection paper)


Representative Quotes from Student Essays on Four Key Themes

What students liked about the architecture of web site

“I thought that the Web site did a great job at showing different reports and representing the facts of both sides in order to show how different the same events can be covered by different sources.”

Students consistently use emotional language to express “shock” and “disturbance” and “anger”

“I am severely shocked by the distortion of the news regarding this war. The Bush Administration, top White House officials, and the US news media, engage in propaganda by uncritically using misinformation and repetition to create false accounts and impressions to gain support for the war.”

“I have to say when reading the backgrounds on both the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq I felt myself quite angry. Honestly, I have never really kept up on either war, except for the main points. I always found myself asking, ‘why war?’ and constantly found that I was blaming other countries. I never knew the details and I never knew how truly involved America was. It comes to show how truly influential the media is.”

Website develops capacity to inhabit ambiguity

“I have become more familiar with spotting ambiguity and have become more wary when it comes to concluding an opinion based on what the media assembles.”

“Makes me wonder what is the truth and what is the propaganda. Additionally, why does our government feel the need to hide the truth from the very people who are looking to them for guidance and honesty?”

“How does one go about choosing whom to believe? Who do we ask to get the actual number? It’s questions like these that make me hate the media because you never know what information is fact, and what information is based on bias, opinion, and is inaccurate.”

“How do we know who to believe, or should we trust any of these reports? That’s the question I’m beginning to ask myself.”

Website Encourages Students to “Forever See Media Differently”

“I am among the ignorant Americans who take for granted the relatively safe and comfortable world I am accustomed to. After…reviewing the Web site ‘Media Literacy in Times of War,’ I have been forced to question every piece of news I read or hear. The reading and the Web site make it clear that we must be critical thinkers even when we think we are being given the straight facts.”

“I would say that my consciousness has been raised to new heights and I am going strive to become a more critical reader and evaluator of information. I strongly believe that the preponderance of misinformation that is presented to us in most of the media requires careful scrutiny and interpretation.”

“I no longer know what to think when I am watching the news or reading the paper. After reading this Web site, I now tend to second-guess everything I read. I hated watching the news before this because it always contained more bad news than good and now I wonder if what I see is actually what is going on.”

Unsolicited Praise and Acclaim for Critical Media Literacy in Times of War

Media Literacy Link of the Month, Action Coalition for Media Education (February 2002)

Web Site of the Day CounterPunch April 22, 2003

Widely linked on other sites ranging from Znet, Media Literacy Review, Fogler Library, University of Buffalo Library, MediaStudy.com, Middle Eastern Studies Association

“This is a wonderful tool for educators…”
Jan D'Arcy, Executive Director, Media Awareness Network

“As long time media literacy activists we commend you on an excellent site. We are working on an anti war project and were inspired by your efforts”
- Margaret Lazarus, Producer/Director Cambridge Documentary Films

“I’m really excited about your new website on critical media literacy and have already passed the announcement on to some other folks at my school…The work you all do has helped me and like-minded colleagues stay sane in an insane time by keeping us informed in a way mainstream news sources seem increasingly unable (unwilling?) to do.”
-Susan Cumings, Georgia College & State University

"A fabulous website; I will be forwarding it widely."
-Wendy Chapkis, University of Southern Maine

“Thank you for creating the website. It has an inviting look and is very engaging… It serves not only as a site for critical thinking about the media, but also as a repository of history and a call for critical thought and personal action in the face of current events. I like the notion of introducing the site as a place to examine the questions rather than a place to find answers.”
-Richard Goff, Virginia Tech

“I appreciate your work here so much and anticipate being able to cite it and use it for food for thought as I continue to write and work with these issues"
-Debbie Gordon,Wichita State University

"Your web site is wonderful and helpful for a course I am teaching this summer on media and politics."
-Michael Vavrus, Evergreen State College

“A crucial resource for questioning the ways in which the media under-report war news or report it in a slanted way. Today, when many media outlets seem to be turning into Official Government News Agencies, simply recycling government claims and arguments, this kind of critical analysis is more important than ever."
-Nicholas C. Burbules, University of Illinois-Champaign

“I’m an artist and peace activist and I just visited your site. I love your site! I stand with Women in Black in Buffalo, NY and this is a great site to pass on.”
- Roxanne Amico

For further information, contact Megan Boler.

[ Project Website ]