The Death of Critical Thinking in the Movement, Part 4

You can read the previous parts here, here, and over here.

For Part 4, let’s talk about how to break that paradigm of black/white thinking and start actually looking for truth. That, of course, assumes you want it. Perhaps you don’t.

What is Critical Thinking?

According to the Critical Thinking Community, the concept is defined like this:

Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior.

Let’s take it in parts.  Critical thinking requires “a set of information…generating and processing skills” so that means you need to know how to dig for information, and what to do with it when you find it.  It’s not unlike the intelligence process, with a few minor tweaks for our purposes.

It stands to reason that before you do any digging or collecting, you need to know what you’re looking for. It’s best if you frame a specific question that can be answered.

Did the hero tell the whole truth about X?
Is the supporter benefiting financially from their association to the hero?
Do the detractor’s documents actually prove what he claims they do?

These questions are more effective than a wide-reaching foray into some broad subject. In other words, you don’t want “How can we end world hunger?” You want “How can we set up a fundraiser to help needy children this winter in the neighborhood that runs from 23rd St to 42nd St?”

Pick a specific question, and keep it in your mind as you dig, because it’s going to be very easy to get sidetracked.

Now you start amassing the information you’ll analyze later. Remember, the goal is to answer your question on a factual basis, so you want the best sources you can get.  Let’s take one of the questions. Is the supporter benefiting financially from their association to the hero? Where would we look for information to confirm or discount this?

– Facebook posts showing a higher standard of living or talking about new possessions, etc. Contrast with posts or photos from the time before they forged their association. Look at the background of their videos. Where are they? Are they in their newly remodeled kitchen? Sitting in a brand new car?

– Public records. The county clerk can verify new buildings or structures in most counties. Sometimes there is also proof of a past breach of trust or poor money management — a conviction for fraud, writing bad checks, a bankruptcy, liens, high credit card debt, etc. One prominent ‘patriot’ couple got nailed for a fraudulent ATM deposit of nearly half a million dollars several years prior. That should have really tipped off a lot of people — and yet they enjoyed a leadership position in several groups for a few years. It wasn’t even hidden information — a simple search turned up details upon details in a few seconds.

– Sometimes the detractor will have documents or ‘proof’ that they claim shows the allegation to be true. Don’t discount that information because of the source — simply note what the information is and where it comes from.

– Other social media; websites, web searches, contextual engines, forums, etc.

– Depending on the situation, official sources may net information you need.

– Listen to their words. What’s their focus? At first glance you might think they’re all about the cause, but if you really listen and pay attention, you’ll hear other things. You’ll hear the narcissism, the evading of direct questions, the massaging of data. You’ll hear the defensiveness — and in a lot of cases, you’ll hear the drone of constant drama.

You might not like the information you find, but here’s where you start ditching your feelings.  Simply keep track of the information for the next step.

Now it’s time to start analyzing.  Here’s where the real work begins. As ben Shapiro likes to say, facts don’t care about your feelings. Everything needs to be rated for credibility and relevance. Whether you like the person or they are ‘on your side’ should not factor into the analysis.

You should be able to independently verify the information. If someone puts up a court document, see if you can find that document yourself from a different or even official source. If someone claims something happened, try to talk to another party who was there.

Entire books have been written about how to verify information and do research, so I won’t belabor the point except to say that you should never trust information that comes from just one source — I don’t care if you’ve given them your entire savings, named your kids after them, or vowed on Facebook to give your very life for them if necessary. I should also point out that it doesn’t count as multiple sources if they all got it from the same place.

If you have a personal relationship with your source, you should include recognition of that bias in your thinking and verification process. The bottom line is this:

Just because it’s posted in a group you frequent doesn’t make it true.

Just because someone you like and support said it doesn’t mean it’s correct.

Just because someone you DON’T like offered the information doesn’t make it wrong.

Just because you trust someone doesn’t mean they’re worth trusting.

Once you’ve determined your conclusion, your behavior needs to fall in line with the facts. You can be honest and ignorant, but once you’re staring truth in the face, you have to pick one. You can either stop being ignorant, or you stop being honest.

Like it or not, the movement has a few pretty shady characters in it. Some of them are managing to fleece a lot of people out of their hard-earned money. Others are claiming to be things they’re not. Some are hiding criminal records for things you probably wouldn’t want to associate with if you knew. Some are hiding involvement with authorities. Some of them ARE the ‘authorities.’ In a landscape where a false move could actually land you in jail, get you accused of things you didn’t do, or a number of other Bad Things(tm), you might want to pay more attention to who you believe, who you support, and where your money is going.

Do the work, take the time. Get facts, and change your beliefs/actions as appropriate. It sounds like a lot of work, and it can be at first. After a while, however, it becomes second nature. You’ll find yourself automatically looking at things with that critical eye, seeing the holes, questioning the claimers. When you see a link or statement, you’ll just automatically go attempt to verify it.

The hardest part of all of this is being willing to be proven wrong. My own journey and belief system has had to grow many times, as I found information that forced a paradigm change — and it can be really hard. Don’t seek to be “right,” seek to be correct. Go where the truth is.

It should be noted that if you have a deep-seated need to be popular, this will put a big pin in your goals. Asking questions or pointing out errors can get you banned, blocked, yelled at, accused of being a fed, and a host of other things by people who are more interested in being part of the ‘cool kids club’ than being factually correct. If your goal is to find truth, however, press on. If you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll be rewarded.

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.