Featured image by BU Rennes 2. Follow the link for more of this artist’s work.
I remember hearing a joke about the media. It went something like this…
Critical thinking is an important part of our republic. The ability to reason and to think beyond the mere bumper sticker slogans and sound bites played for the masses represents a deeper understanding of not only what is going on in the world, but how people in positions of power and influence attempt to justify or demonize (depending on the case) their actions or the actions of others.
More often than not nowadays in the mainstream media, the sentiment is that the media are the arbiters and gatekeepers of “the truth.” They are staunch defenders of the idea that they know what “the truth” is, and that they need to guard the people from “disinformation” and “misinformation,” to prevent them from being radicalized and “potentially inciting violence.”
The Federal government is restrained against violating our rights by the Constitution, so the theory goes. But the government isn’t the ones calling for media organizations and private citizens to be silenced, and on the occasions that Representatives, Senators, or other government officials do say that, they mean it in a “rhetorical” sense. But social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (just to name a few) aren’t restricted in that way. Private entities like Bank of America don’t need to follow the same Constitutional limits that the government is bound by. Instead, they are justified in their violations of free speech, and our protections from illegal search and seizure.
Unfortunately, most people who tend to ask questions that the tellers of the story don’t like are labeled as “white supremacists,” or “domestic terrorists,” or the tired tropes of racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, islamophobe, transphobe, etcetera, etcetera. Even asking for clarification as to what something means beyond the feeling of a sentence or phrase is looked upon with disdain, if not outright seen as taboo. And, if you ask me, that is by design.
The post-modernist view of the world is deconstructionist. Imagine a brick house, and each brick represents an idea or meaning. The deconstructionist viewpoint, seeing that the brick house represents something that they don’t like, seek to change it, not by destroying the house, but rather by taking it apart, one brick at a time. Meaning and understanding are very important to a functional society. Without common meaning, there is no understanding. Without common understanding, there is no common values. Without common values, there is no unity, and as Abraham Lincoln said, “a house divided cannot stand.”
When I hear about a story from someone, be it online, in person, or on television, I tend to ask myself some questions. Did the thing I am hearing about actually happen? Were there any witnesses? Does the person’s account of events match up to known facts in regards to time? These questions help me determine whether this is a factual account of what happened, or, more often than not these days, an editorial take on events.
On a more philosophical level, or when discussing potential political options, it is important when I speak to someone else that I understand what they mean by certain phrases. For example, what does “white supremacy” mean? What does “extremism” mean? What are the elements of “fascism” that would determine whether someone is, objectively speaking, a racist, sexist, homophobe, etcetera? This is important to do at the beginning of the conversation, because it forces us to forge common ground. Being able to quantify or at the very least put some measurable metric by which we can agree gives us something to work from. It is also important to do at the beginning of the conversation because most of the time it will determine whether the person I am engaging with wants a dialogue or a monologue.
I am not a fan of blind adherence to any political ideology. It is why I didn’t vote for Jo Jorgensen, even though she won the Libertarian party nomination. She campaigned on the anti-racist narratives that were permeating the political discourse of the last campaign cycle, and for a candidate for a party to demand that we force others to do anything while running in a party that doesn’t wish to use government to force anyone to do anything is rich irony.
But that seems to be the problem nowadays, and what, if I understand the modern jargon, lumps me into the “extremist” camp. I dare to question the authority of the government and am skeptical of their motivations. I dare to ask what something means and to be skeptical of the mental gymnastics that are being used to justify certain narratives. If you’d ask me, it’s more of a collectivist mindset, that belonging to the “in” group matters more to people than whether they are doing the ethically or morally correct thing.
I’ve never belonged to the in crowd, so why start now?