As any critically thinking parent knows, schools are a hotbed of state propaganda, from subversive gender ideology to prophecies of doom on climate change. But this has worsened significantly in the past two years, with the official covid-19 narrative pushed in every possible way (whether the schools were open or in online learning). An important strategy is to teach children to avoid contrary viewpoints and controversial assertions on the internet.
Yesterday my 5-year-old brought home a booklet handed out to her class, titled Digital Parenting (sponsored by Vodafone). The contents are in tune with the Online Safety Bill: the focus is not on preventing exposure to violence, terrorism or pornography, but on suppressing inconvenient truths.
Featuring in the pamphlet is Nicky Cox MBE, editor of First News newspaper and producer of FYI on Sky News channel, both presenting current affairs to children. According to Cox, ‘as adults we have the experience to question what we read, but children are not so savvy’. The gullibility of the adult populace, duped by bought mainstream media into fearing a killer virus, fraudulent testing, wearing useless facemasks and taking a series of experimental genetic engineering injections, suggests otherwise.
Cox warns that fake news isn’t always obvious: ‘more confusingly there are stories with a kernel of truth which have biased reporting’. Shouldn’t children be taught to understand and critically appraise bias, rather than pretending it is just a tool of opponents? Shouldn’t they be shown different perspectives, and how the likes of the BBC and Guardian project their own prejudices and political agenda? These outlets become more like Pravda, the mouthpiece of Soviet totalitarianism, by the day. Audaciously, Cox congratulates her news as ‘balanced’: does she allow a smidgen of counter-narrative alongside shilling for covid vaccines or war with Russia?
The moist egregiously censorial part of this guide is ‘5 terms every parent should know’. First is ‘deepfakes’, which apparently means doctored images. However, the Ukraine theatricals have shown that video or photographs do not need to be manipulated; they can simply be taken from another context, whether from a past war in another continent or from a movie.
Second is cancel culture, which you and I may see as a real problem. No, the booklet casts this as a positive, meaning ‘withdrawal of support for public figures or companies we disagree with’. This is teaching children that it is justifiable to ‘unperson’ someone who thinks differently to them; it is an affront to a free, democratic society. Children should be encouraged to tolerate and listen to other opinions, not to silence them. And resilience should be nurtured, not vulnerability.
Next are misinformation and disinformation. The former is unintentional or careless falsehood, while the latter is deliberate untruth. An example of a misleading message is ‘sharing a covid-19 “miracle cure” without knowing if it’s genuinely effective’. Well, that would be enough to put a health warning on all covid vaccine promotion. But of course the booklet authors are thinking of ivermectin, typically misrepresented by compliant broadcasters as ‘horse dewormer’.
Read more: Teach your child censorship!