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.