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.

Minnesota Three Percent Manages to Dig the Hole Deeper

For some reason, people cannot stay away from the media. It’s like the attention is such a siren song they can’t control themselves. You’ve got Christian Yingling up in PA, who never met a camera he didn’t want to get in front of. You’ve got the vast ocean of stupid that was Malheur, as well as the months of drama, attention-seeking and donation-begging from a few notable folks in the so-called patriot groups. And now you have yet another exhibit in the ongoing Case Against Liberty-Minded Folk with this bunch of twits from Minnesota Three Percent under the “United Patriots” banner.

This article has so much pure idiocy in it that I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll just jump in from the beginning and pull some of the more entertaining/maddening quotes.

Joshua Raider is a commanding officer in the United Patriots of Minnesota 3% and one of the few willing to talk about the movement publicly. He said people told him not to do an interview. His brother video-taped the conversation between Raider and the Fox 9 Investigators.

When asked what the group stands for he replied: “Protecting community, gun rights, the 2nd amendment, that kind of stuff. Pretty straight up stuff.”

Seriously? That’s the best you could come up with? If you’re going to completely ignore the saner heads around you who advised you not to talk to the media at all, one would think you’d at least have something a bit more coherent to say than that. Then again, judging by how you’re sitting in your chair, you’re a lot less James Mattis and a lot more Gomer Pyle.

“I run into nuts here and there who try to join our group. You have to weed them out right off the bat,” he said. “Obviously no one thought to check out Jason Thomas.”

In case you don’t remember who that guy is, check out this story, which details how the former “United Patriots III% Commander” got his home raided by the FBI. How did he manage to get that kind of attention, you may ask? With Facebook posts like this:

I can guaranty (sic) you that I’ll be one of the first to start killing feds…. And am actually trying to build up our capacity to challenge them.

According to a previously sealed search warrant, the FBI considers the Minnesota 3 Percenters a “militia group which believes in the violent resistance to or intended overthrow of the U.S. Government.”

“I don’t know why they’re targeting us, just the ideology we have,” said Thomas.

So, the guy who brags about how he wants to/plans to kill feds doesn’t know why his group was ‘targeted’? Give that man a scholarship to some graduate program in Logical Thinking. He’s ready, and he’s obviously already mastered spelling and written communication in his native language of English.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Thomas is a convicted felon, who did time for burglary and criminal mischief.  Wow, definitely commander material right there.

Hey, Minnesota III%, are you thinking to yourselves that just maybe this guy should never have gotten into your group to begin with, let alone being able to run it for a while?

But this, dear readers, is the crown jewel of the article:

Michael German is a former FBI agent who’s gone undercover in several other militia groups.

Notice anything? German has gone undercover in several other militia groups. As in, more than one. The same guy was able to infiltrate a militia group, gather intelligence, flip a person here or there, and maybe even cause an arrest or two, and yet was able to just go down the road and do it all over again in another group. Why is that, pray tell? It’s because groups don’t learn.

In the FBI’s investigation into the Minnesota 3 Percenters, agents flipped one of their members, who became a paid confidential informant.

Agents, plural, flipped a member, who got paid to snitch on his fellow threepers. So much for the whole ‘these people are my brothers’ crap. But here’s the real kicker. MN III% picked a new state president three days ago. Jason Thomas was raided last spring.

Then we have this special tidbit:

[Members] complained on Facebook that, “the last 4 training events have been drunk fests. Sat morning there was broken beer bottles in my fire pit and puke in my yard. One guy slept in his car with no idea how he even got there,” read one post.

Oh, but they’re ‘ready for civil war.’ Them, drunken parties masquerading as training events, their felon ‘ex-commander,’ and their Slouching Wunderkind.

If you’d like to know why informants and UCs continue to be a problem, and groups keep looking like evil freaks to the American public, here’s what it comes down to:

1)  Stop letting pieces of trash in your group.
2) Stop conducting yourselves like pieces of trash.
3) Stop talking to the media.
4) Stop talking to the freaking media.

Stay classy, Minnesota.