The Oxford dictionary lists disinformation as “false information, which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.” And, disinformation is continually used in the five estates within our society: The First Estate is the Clergy; The Second Estate is the Monarchy; The Third Estate are the Bourgeoisie or Upper Class; the Fourth Estate are the Commoners and The Fifth Estate the Media. The responsibility of media and journalism is to keep citizens informed of local, regional, and national/international news. Meanwhile, keeping all the previously mentioned estates along with ensuring politicians and community leaders are held accountable.
Ethical journalist must gather factual information, conduct interviews with witnesses or law enforcement, search public records, and ask difficult questions. Most importantly, they must follow and understand the laws regarding libel and invasion of privacy. A good journalist strives to present an accurate, well-balanced unbiased story that presents all sides of an issue.
This is where media and journalism failed the people last month when we saw Nathan Phillips drumming in the face of the young man wearing a Make America Great Again, or MAGA for short, hat. Personally the video mortified me. First as human being, second as an involuntary mixed blood person, and third as someone who gratefully works in media. During that weekend of upheaval, located on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial steps, we saw the initial video circulating on the Facebook and Twitter spheres. We witnessed people going berserk and death threats made against the MAGA wearing hat youth.
All the while, not one reputable media outfit picked up the story before social media got the online populace all worked up, and misinformed. No sooner then the death threats were spewed against the youth, more videos surfaced, and this brought the hammer down on Nathan Phillips. The youth was made out to be a young fool, but Nathan Phillips’ life was put under the media microscope.
Where the partisan left-influenced people wanted the youth’s head on a stake, the partisan right-influenced people began looking into the past of Nathan Phillips. He was ridiculed and called a liar for saying that he served in Vietnam, although Mr. Phillips actually said he served in the army during Vietnam wartime. His Eldership was put into question due to a driving under the influence conviction that caused an accident when he was in his 20’s.
It made me think about what an Elder is in today’s society. What an Elder once taught me is that not all Elders are old and not all old people are Elders. It is rare, but some people are born with an old soul, born and brought to this plane as an Elder. I worked for a university sometime ago and I was intrigued to find they had created a pamphlet defining an Elder and the basics were that Elders are old and have grandchildren. In my opinion an Elder is chosen, respected and adorned with that label by their community. They are experienced, and their experience is gained by making mistakes and rectifying those mistakes throughout their life. An Elder will make wise decisions based on deliberation, reasonable and logical thought not biased by the outcome of decision. We should aspire to be Elder’s in training, making sure we learn from mistakes and gaining as much knowledge and wisdom afforded to us.
Due to a mistake, which no one is immune from, the partisan right wanted to strip Nathan Phillips of his Elder’s title. They wanted him to be little, small and dismiss him as a failure all the while ignoring that the youths in that video were being outright disrespectful. The media could not tell us what a true Elder is in the sense of Indigenous culture, because they did not interview any Indigenous people or conduct any ethical research on the subject. The people from Nathan Phillips’ community have proven their respect for their Elder by telling media about the good he has done, his activism for the community and his pure guidance of the people devoid of his own gains.
The truth is, after watching all the videos; Nathan Phillips had put himself in harms way of youth, which another video clearly shows the young students making hand gestures similar to the Tomahawk chop, meanwhile arguing with Hebrew Israelite hecklers. Nathan Phillips was trying to keep the peace by interjecting himself the middle of the hecklers and the youth.
One of the last videos that surfaced showed the Hebrew Israelites insulting the youth as well as calling the Native Americans with Nathan Phillips savages. So in the end, we witnessed a sad portrayal of miscommunication, we saw the dirty side of social media and two people skewered by the court of public opinion. The young boy had to defend his right in life and an Elder portrayed in a dark light for wanting to separate the young students from the hatefully misguided Hebrew Israelites.
We see this daily here within our own communities: miscommunication, disinformation and people being hateful for no other reason than the lack of information and knowledge. We no longer need this behaviour in our lives; no one needs to be treated in such a fashion. It is quite evident municipalities and Nishnawbe communities need a dialogue that expands the limits of today’s society. A dialogue must be organized and the main topic must be decorum and increased level of benevolent behaviour for whatever progress dictates.
This dialogue must take place amongst citizens and not just political and religious leadership; grassroots people from both communities can share in inclusive community events and religious/traditional ceremonies. First Nation communities that share borders with municipalities would be a good start. These events can express the truth to mainstream society of the savagery endured, and that better treatment of the owners and original People of this land would increase the value of all government and church apologies.
The networks at political, community, religious and subsequently denominational churches and their retreats are an opportunity to begin the dialogue. An opportunity for the leaders to speak to their supporters/congregation about behaviour and treatment and create events where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can share time... perhaps even be so civilized as to getting together and breaking bread and not each others spirits.