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.