This is the time for everyone to take a deep breath. It is time to actually think, research, listen, and reason. When I started this blog, I said it wouldn’t be political. And it isn’t. My campaign in this post is for more of what I have worked for all of my life. We need to EDUCATE ourselves. We are bombarded constantly by information. A Google search for “information overload” yields a million and a half hits! I remember reading in multiple places that one daily issue of the New York Times has more information in it than an Englishman in the 17th century was exposed to in his entire life. (While trying to find the original source of that idea, I found a good article about information at http://tinyurl.com/zrlabyv – ah, but I digress, already! It happens so easily.)
So what must we do in order to wade through the tsunami of information and come out on the other side more educated, smarter, wiser, and savvier? Here is what I believe should happen at the very least:
- We need to do some real RESEARCH where we read information offered from a wide variety of sources – not just from where we can have our own prejudices reinforced. If a claim is made that some politician, leader, businessman, etc. has done something, do your due diligence. Is this possible? Does the person have the authority or power to actually do this? Does it make sense? Try to find news sources that are the least biased. Try to read from both sides of an argument or a news story. If you don’t want to take the time to research the sources fully, then look to trusted sources that are known for presenting an even-handed account
- Look at your sources and analyze their reliability. Have you considered the currency of the source, its relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose? Do you know who wrote it? What qualifications does the author have? Does the source have a “dog in the hunt?” (When I was teaching, I utilized the CRAAP test to teach students how to analyze sources. You can find the test at https://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf)
- We need to accept that FACTS and TRUTH are not matters of opinion or up for debate. You don’t have to like it, but every time you add two and two, you will get four. Every time you drop something from a high elevation, it will succumb to gravity and fall. If I continue to eat the way I eat and exercise (or not) the way I do, I will continue to get the results that I have gotten until now. I might not like some facts, but that doesn’t make them less true.
- We need to use REASON and LOGIC. Do some reading on logic and fallacies. It becomes very easy to see the fallacies in so many stories. It is very easy to lead people astray by manipulating the facts. So just knowing them isn’t enough. You have to also be vigilant about how they are being used and misused.
- We need to exercise our BULLSHIT METERS. There are so many ways that people put things out on the internet claiming them as news. From the middle schooler spreading rumors, to someone trying to sell me something, everything out there has an agenda that we need to see. I had an intelligent woman call me. She was upset about a story she had just read and began to read it to me. My BS meter was wailing! I asked what the source of this article was. Well, it had been quoted from The Onion, a very satirical website I knew. (The first story I ever saw from them was about outsourcing child care and came with video of people packing their children in styrofoam peanuts to be shipped to India where childcare was so much cheaper.) Had she seen the original website, she would have quickly known it was satirical. Instead it had been quoted on social media with commentary designed to rile folks up. You don’t have to like his politics, but Jon Stewart left his role on The Daily Show with great advice to everyone. “The best defense against the bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.”
- We need to practice LISTENING without commenting. Listen, contemplate, and then form opinions. Listen to learn instead of listening to reply or refute.
- Learn to WRITE and to SPEAK clearly, logically, and calmly. If you start out by calling those who disagree with you names (no matter how clever you think those names are), you’ve lost before you started. If you start out shouting and cursing, you’ve lost before you started. I had a college professor who claimed that, when you are debating or arguing about a topic with someone, if you could get the other person swearing, you won the argument. If you start off saying, “No offense meant but…”, you’ve not only lost before you started but were offensive too.
I bet you are wondering why I made the claim at the beginning that this was not a political post when there really is no suggestion, so far, that it is about politics. Here it comes. We are in dangerous times that could have very serious consequences. From everything I see from all sorts of sources, that isn’t exactly a radical statement. Most people can agree on that. But then the differences take hold!
People from both sides of the political spectrum are coming at every story, rumor, fact, and event with blinders of bias limiting their vision. I know that as I read something, it is much easier to see the “truth” of it if the writer is smart enough to hold the same opinion as I do! People read only the news media that supports their own biases. People are too quick to call names and hurl insults instead of taking the time to sort through the noise to find the truth. When presented with a fact and the evidence to back it up, people will defend by claiming that the other side did the same thing. To quote mothers everywhere, “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you should! If everyone jumps off a cliff, do you think you should too?”
It seems certain from all of the intelligence so far that there was involvement in the 2016 Presidential election from a foreign government, one that has never been friendly with the United States, with the purpose of having an impact on the result. If you are a true patriot who wants what is absolutely best for the continuation of our democracy and our future, you want to know the full extent of what happened, who was involved, how it happened, and what can be done to secure our way of life. If you are a true patriot who wants what is absolutely best for the continuation of our democracy and our future, you are willing to wait until all of the facts are gathered and presented BEFORE you decide what happened, why it happened, and who did what. If you are a true patriot who wants what is absolutely best for the continuation of our democracy and our future, you want an independent, neutral investigator find the facts and the truth. Then, and only then, will we truly KNOW what happened and what it all means.
We all need to take a lesson from these words from Dan Rather. “We must carefully separate what we know to be true, from what we think to be true, from what we do not yet know. And in the early days of a story like [Russian influence in the election], what we do not know will far outpace the other two….We can all work ourselves into fervers of indignation. But the only antidote to these deep and understandable anxieties is the truth. We are the people of the United States. Our great nation is in a perilous moment, and the world is watching with great unease. We want the truth. We demand the truth. We can handle the truth.”
If you would like to read his full post, go to https://www.facebook.com/theDanRather/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf (post from March 4, 2017)