The Death of Critical Thinking in the Movement, Part 3

This week I’m talking about just what the title says — the death of critical thinking in the patriot movement.  Today we’re going to look at the third belief, and judging by the reactions of some folks on social media when I even bothered to broach the subject, my take on this topic isn’t going to be popular.

We’ve already talked about how like/dislike tends to color how we process information. The next belief we’ll discuss is another two-fold idea that requires a disregard of reality, and it goes as follows:

If I tell you that the actions I engage in constitute patriot awesomeness, then it is so.

The corollary to this is:

If I cannot see evidence of your patriot awesomeness, it isn’t happening.

In the first statement there’s a certain arrogance, and it shows itself as defiance or being overly defensive. People who ask questions that are uncomfortable — such as “what exactly were you trying to prove while standing on a street corner at a parade looking like you just robbed Frank’s Military Surplus and Tent Shop?” or “Where exactly are all the donations you collected going?” — are instantly branded as bullies. How dare you question my patriotism or my devotion to the cause, is how the defense generally goes.

Unfortunately, just as telling people you’re a unicorn doesn’t make you one, insisting that your actions bring honor and praise to the liberty cause doesn’t make it so. The good news is that whether or not you’re actually doing some good isn’t based upon my opinion, or yours, or the guy you made sure to bring to your shindig to take pics for social media. It can be evaluated objectively and logically. What a concept, right?

Like it or not, there’s a sort of mental checklist that needs to be gone over while planning some kind of ‘patriot action.’ Chances are good that most groups don’t do this. How do I know? Because they still end up out there performing the action.

  • Will this action further the cause? Or will it harm it? — Your action, above all, should reflect positively on the cause.  A few ideas I’ve seen are Adopt-a-Highway efforts, taking a Christmas box to needy kids, or simply spending your free time talking to your neighbors and creating a solid, self-reliant environment. Not everything is about ‘gunz n stuff.’ Malheur, Charlottesville, Minnesota, Alabama — over and over, people step out into incoming traffic and think no car will hit them.  They get in front of microphones and cameras and think they can control the outcome. They keep appealing to people who want all of us unarmed, imprisoned, or even dead and think they’ll be the ones to change their mind. It’s like watching a woman with a ‘bad boy’ she’s in love with; she knows he’s horrible for her, she knows it won’t end well, but she does it anyway because she thinks her love will change him. Same thing in the movement. Remember the definition of insanity?
  • Will the public largely support the action, or will this act undermine public support for the cause? Sadly, Malheur wins again for Best Example. As I’ve said before, if Twitter starts calling you Y’allQaeda, while people who actually believe in liberty are disassociating because they aren’t down with the whole “mission from God” thing, it’s safe to say you aren’t winning the public support battle on either side of the fence.  If your activities result in your own side performing a collective facepalm, you might be on shaky ground.
  • If I am arrested will it be part of the operation, and does it have a plan and support system already in place?  Again, don’t run headlong into some action screaming the camo version of “Banzai!” and expect it to go well. And if you’re going to get arrested, that should have been part of the plan, and you should already have a support team and plan in place.  If your arrest was an “oh crap” moment that suddenly required your family to barely scrape by without your income and beg from strangers, while your group has to go without whatever skills you brought to the table, you failed.

Keep in mind that these are only a few of the many considerations that need to go into performing an action.  The actual list is much longer, but common sense should tell you what needs to be on it. It’s a logical conclusion that if the three questions above don’t have positive answers, the action being considered is actually not going to have the effect you want — or desperately believe it will.

Now that 99% of readers have stomped off in a huff, let’s tackle the corollary. There’s this idea that ‘real’ patriots are loud, they’re in your face, they’re “wearing the lifestyle” on their T-shirts and vehicles and street corners.  There’s such a thing as the “silent professional,” however, and quite a few folks should learn about it. JC Dodge points out how it’s NOT done. People who believe point #1 usually also believe point #2, and the second half of the “you can’t judge me” defense usually includes a reference to how “I didn’t see YOU at X activity,” because as logic will tell you, if you didn’t attend said activity, you don’t get to say anything about it.

…except no, logic will not tell you that.

If you can’t imagine engaging in any kind of action without posting on Facebook that you did it, then your motivation is off.  If you actually start calling people “keyboard commandos” simply because they didn’t stand on the street corner with you, you might want to stop and think about what you’re doing, and what your gut-level reasons are for doing it.  And if you’re so insecure that you need to block anyone on social media who has the balls to ask you questions as opposed to simply kissing your posterior and petting your ego, then you’re a coward. It’s that simple.

Since this post is part of a series on critical thinking, let’s do some of that. What are some of the logical possibilities behind someone not advertising their particular actions for the liberty cause — besides the accusation that they’re lazy slobs who just like to “bully others?”

– Their support is financial and behind the scenes (although God knows a lot of folks need to shout their donation history too)

– The type of work they do necessitates silence (there’s a whole list of things that could come under this heading).

– They prefer not to be recognized, or understand that if they were, their ability to keep performing that work would end.

– Their motivation is not personal attention.

Granted, there are some folks whose entire function in the movement is to sit on Facebook or various websites and yap. That’s true. But there are plenty who are involved in activities at all levels of the game, and don’t give a rat’s rectum if you know and approve of them.  In fact, I’d argue that the people behind the scenes, as a rule, are getting far more done than the people who think they need to show up at every public gathering looking like they put on every piece of gear they owned.

As the saying goes, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. There is an incredible amount of work to be done, and most of it is done behind the scenes, by people who don’t need your validation.

Do you engage in activities where no one knows you were there? Can you contribute in ways that will never get you recognized or that you can’t ever post about on social media or give interviews about? If not, you might want to take a look at what’s driving you — because it’s not liberty.

Tomorrow in the last installment of this series we’ll look at what critical thinking is, and how to apply it to the movement. That is, if you’re still reading. 😉

The Death of Critical Thinking in the Movement, Part 2

This series looks at the current lack of critical thinking in the patriot movement, evidenced by certain behaviors springing from a set of beliefs. In Part 1, I discussed the belief that if someone we like tells us something, we tend to take it as gospel — even if it’s factually inaccurate — and the inherent bias that we bring to the table if we have an emotional relationship of any kind with the person giving us the information.

Today in Part 2 I’ll go over the flip side of that belief, and its peripheral effects on both sides of the coin.

The other side of the “I like them so I will always believe them” is simply the opposite:

If someone I do not like or respect gives me information, I will immediately discount it, even if it may be factually accurate.

This is just as dangerous as the previous belief, and it might be obvious but it needs an article of its own because it has similar yet separate effects.

In fact, these twin ideas are so prevalent, so ingrained, that any real-life example I could use would immediately result in some readers throwing the whole article out the window because it would hit too close to home.

In every ‘big’ situation in the movement, groups spring up all over social media both in favor of, and opposing, whatever is going on and whoever is doing it. Pick a crisis, and you’ll find a group for it — and you’ll also find groups of detractors.

In the supporter camps, you’ll find a near-constant, three-fold refrain:

The people being supported are heroes.

Nothing that happens to them or their families is a result of their own actions; they are victims in all cases.

Anyone who does not believe the above, is a bad person, and may be a fed or informant.

In detractor camps, you find the opposite:

The people being supported are villains.

Everything that happens to them is their own fault; they are not victims and they should be mocked.

Anyone who does not agree with the above, is a shill, an idiot, and a suck-up.

These black/white paradigms close off any opportunity for additional facts; anything presented that does not fit the above ideas is immediately discarded.

Here’s the problem — both sides can be simultaneously right and wrong. How do you know which is which on any given topic? Critical thinking.

The Bundy situation is a classic example of the ideas above. If you take a stroll through the various Facebook groups, you find large pages dedicated to both vilifying the Bundy family and exalting them as near-deities.  The only thing all sides seem to like as much as their chosen position is denigrating anyone on the other side.  On any given day, you’ll find a plethora of insults flying — some of them not exactly “fit for mixed company,” as you might say.

For those interested in actual truth as opposed to joining one camp or the other, it can become difficult to wade through the vitriol to find what’s real. When Susie Supporter goes live on Facebook, you might be getting an update, or you might be signing on to watch a video in which Susie goes on and on about someone she doesn’t like. When Don Detractor posts in his group, you might get documents that disprove something the supporters think is gospel, or you might be suddenly presented with a rant in which a long list of names are deemed “whores,” attention-seeking and other. It’s quite the crapshoot.

How is anyone supposed to find actual facts? The supporters want people to get on board, but the subculture of cliques and refusal to question the narrative doesn’t appeal to people looking for truth. The detractors want to educate people on what they see as con men masquerading as heroes, but what information they do have gets lost in the chaos.

When you separate yourself from personal feelings, you put yourself in a position to see things as they are, uncolored by your emotions or bias.  That ability is critical if you expect to find truth — which, more often than not, is somewhere in the middle between the two sides. No hero is without flaw, and not every detractor is motivated by evil. Sometimes the hero is a liar — not about everything, but about some things. Sometimes he’s not a liar, but his support leadership is. Sometimes the detractor is a questioner, and sometimes they’re drama queens looking to foment discord. Sometimes what we think is true, simply isn’t. You won’t ever know the difference unless you dig.

Unfortunately, far too many would rather place themselves squarely in one camp or the other — and quite frankly, they’re not interested in truth. They’re simply looking to be part of something, whether that be the ‘rah rah’ cheerleading squad or the ‘screw them all’ detractor camp.

So how is someone supposed to actually find truth in the chaos? That’s what we’ll talk about later in the series. First, we have another belief to attend to. That’s for tomorrow.

 

The Death of Critical Thinking in the Movement, Part 1

The ability to set emotion aside and dispassionately assess information is seemingly long gone.  Instead of a systematic, logical process in which research and critical thinking is used to evaluate information, discarding false or incredible data while assimilating solid, truthful data, a new process has emerged — and it has largely ruined a good portion of the patriot movement.

This new process is based wholly on a set of beliefs used to assess information that are held to like religious dogma. There are a number of beliefs in this ‘religion’ but we’ll only take the first one today.

If the information comes from a source I like, I will assign it total credibility, even if it is later proven false.

There’s a very basic principle at work here. People are more likely to believe, follow, or defend someone they genuinely like. That’s all fine and good — unless the subject of all this liking has credibility issues, or even nefarious motives.

On the internet or in person, when someone manages to foster enough emotional attachment and rapport from his or her listeners, those listeners become followers. Followers become defenders…and donors, and sometimes even doormats.

We’ve all seen large groups of people that refuse to stop supporting a politician, televangelist, or other personality no matter what that person does. It’s blatantly obvious to the rest of us that the target of all this affection is a moron, a con man, or even a sociopath. Their followers, however, continue to send money, quoting their messiah’s BRILLIANT musings and making sure that every time they even mention the word money, a check goes out or a PayPal button gets clicked.

We laugh at these people; we shake our heads at Hillary supporters and chuckle that it’s a good thing breathing is a semi-autonomous function or they’d die. We mock the televangelists who ask for money while they tell people to touch their TV and get cured of cancer.  We do these things because we can see what a crock it is — and yet when it comes to certain issues near and dear to our hearts, we go completely blind at the exact time we need so desperately to see.

We foster relationships with people at the center of this drama or that trial, pushing each other out of the way to get to the inner circle of the faithful. We want to be needed, we want to be important. It’s human nature, and  if you pick any ongoing situation in the movement right now, you’ll see the social media pages and groups filled with supporters who have either managed to worm their way to the top, or pretend they have.  If you read the pages, you usually see people who have relationships, real or perceived, with the players, and you see people who do not — or who did, but got kicked out of/left the fold. The more intense or close the relationship, the more rabid the supporter — because that supporter is emotionally invested.

Relationships are great, and they can offer another emotional dimension to a situation — but emotional dimensions erode our ability to think clearly, as well.  There’s nothing wrong with emotional connection, in and of itself. But it also needs to be considered when performing a critical analysis of the information that comes out of those sources.

Any cause does itself a disservice when it falls into the trap of “everything we/I say and do is correct and right, and everything the other side says and does is wrong and evil.” Humans are complex creatures who can do bad things with the best of intentions, or good things with the worst of motives. In order to stay on the truthful side of things, we have to be able to regard everyone as capable of things we wouldn’t be too happy about — and we have to be willing to consider nothing and no one as beyond questioning.

In short, your personal feelings come last. First come the facts. What do they say? What does the documentation show? Where is the proof? Who are the sources? You might find that the person in question told the whole truth — and that’s an amazing thing. You can press forward knowing you have the whole story and you’re in the clear.

Sometimes, however, people you love dearly can lie, because their deep-seated needs mean more than their integrity. Sometimes they give out information that’s incorrect but did so genuinely, because they wanted so badly to keep believing that they refused to see anything else. And sometimes they aren’t anywhere near the person you thought they were. Unless you can set aside how you feel to do the work necessary in a critical assessment, you will find yourself adrift on the sea of your own emotions — and that is no place to be.