Author talk on media literacy at the Rockingham Library

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The Rockingham Free Public Library will host a presentation by Dr. Nolan Higdon, co-author of “United States of Distraction: Media Manipulation in Post-Truth America (And What We Can Do About It),” Saturday, March 21 at 5 p.m.

The role of news media in a free society is to investigate, inform, and provide a crucial check on political power. However, the explosion of social media and targeted analytics means people are increasingly getting their news from a wide swath of sources, some legitimate, many not.

“We have this conundrum where we have more media consumption than ever before in history, but a society that is unable to sift through it,” said Dr. Higdon.

“United States of Distraction,” co-authored by Mickey Huff, focuses on how modern politics successfully exploit media vulnerabilities to campaign and govern. It also explores how the electorate gets their news and the need for media literacy training.

“Because we have access to so much information, we are able to customize the media we consume, which sort of sounds great, except that it also means we customize our reality,” Higdon said. “We can do this overtly where we can cut out anything we don’t want to see or hear, but algorithms are also feeding you things you are more likely to click on. You can create a media environment where you insulate yourself from facts or reason. In addition, we have an education system that doesn’t really teach people how democracy works or values critical thinking – so a lot of things politicians, including Trump, do go unquestioned.”

With the 2020 Election coming, Higdon and Huff remind readers, “Democracy is a full-time job and not a spectator sport.”

Dr. Nolan Higdon is professor of history and communication at California State University, East Bay. His academic work primarily focuses on news media, propaganda, critical media literacy, and social justice pedagogies. He has been a guest commentator for news media outlets such as The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox. He is a board member for the Media Freedom Foundation, frequent contributor to Project Censored’s annual “Censored” books series, a co-founder of the Global Critical Media Literacy Project, a program advisor for Sacred Heart University Media Literacy and Digital Culture Graduate Program, a steering committee member for the Union for Democratic Communications, and co-host of the Project Censored radio show and “Along the Line” podcast.

This presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the library at 802-463-4270,, or online at You can also visit the Library at 65 Westminster St. in Bellows Falls, Vt.

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