You Have NO Excuse for NOT Thinking Critically!
A few years ago I noticed a small growth on my eyelid. Overtime it continued to grow; it developed an odd shape that was dark in color and looked something like a cross between a mole and a wart. I was concerned that it might be skin cancer, so I went to see my dermatologist. After examining it, she told me that it was not cancer.
That was a relief, but then she added that while it was benign it was in a location that she could not treat. She said that it would continue to grow, and that at some point I would need to have an eye surgeon remove it. Ugh!
After a several months of watching it grow, I decided to do an online search for natural methods to remove skin growths. I found a woman who said she was able to remove skin tags and moles from her face by soaking cotton balls in apple cider vinegar, then taping them over the growths, and leaving them in place for several hours. Clearly I couldn’t tape a soggy cotton ball full of vinegar over my eye; so that was out.
After giving it some thought, I decided to try something similar. I dipped a Q-tip cotton swab in apple cider vinegar and then used it to carefully paint the vinegar over the growth on my eyelid. I couldn’t get the swab too wet or the vinegar would get in my eye and burn. I did this twice a day for about a month, then decided nothing was happening, and that I was wasting my time. So I quit.
Then about two weeks later I noticed that the growth had gotten even darker and was now hard and crusty to the touch. My first thought was that it was getting worse, but a few days later, to my surprise, the whole thing fell off; there was nothing but fresh clean skin where the growth had been..
Lesson Learned: there may be alternative solutions to your problem than the one you know.
Useful Knowledge Is at Your Fingertips
One summer, I went to pressure wash my patio, but my pressure washer wasn’t working. I called a repair shop, and the owner quoted me a price to fix it that was nearly the same as the cost of a new one. I then went onto YouTube and looked up small engine repairs. After a few minutes, I found one that resolved my problem, and I was able to fix my pressure washer for $7.
The world is at our fingertips if we only look.
On the Internet, I’ve learned how to tune my bicycle, diagnose problems with my car, and much more. You can even learn how to play the piano! Pretty much anything you want to know, you can begin learning from information online. Including finding out whether or not someone is giving you the truth.
Bad Players Take Advantage of Your Ignorance
We’ve all gotten an email from a Nigerian prince who wants to give us millions of dollars; or heard an extraordinary argument from a flat earther; or gotten a scam phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, Social Security, or Microsoft. It seems that we are being lied to all the time - even from sources we used to trust! These days you need to question a purveyor of information’s motivation to discover their bias or agenda.
We’ve all heard about Fake News, but how do you know if you what you’ve heard is false? One way is to evaluate the story for rhetorical fallacies and propaganda techniques (see my previous articles: Protect Yourself from Verbal Sleight of Hand and Propaganda ‘til You Puke).
Watch Out for These Red Flags
The easiest way to suspect the veracity of a story is if it triggers you emotionally. Does the story make you feel angry, afraid, anxious, depressed, ecstatic, or excited? If so, then you should consider your inflamed emotion to be a red flag for potential fake news. When your emotions are impacted by a story, it probably needs further investigation to determine the truth. If you feel particularly emotional, it could mean that you are being manipulated. This is especially likely if the story treads on any societal taboo topics such as sex, religion, or politics.
Is there a Wow Factor to the story? Does it make you think, “Wow, that’s incredible!” or “That’s unbelievable!”? Then it probably is.
Another red flag is if you feel like you are being pressured or pushed into doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you don’t want to do. What is the motivation behind the person or organization pressuring you? Is there a money trail?
Are you only hearing one side of a story? Is there another side? Do the research and find out. For example: in war, the victors get to write the history books, or at least spin the facts in their favor.
I have a friend, who, in the days before the Internet, used a short wave radio receiver to listen to news from other countries in order to get more balanced information. Today you can get news from all over the world easily on your computer.
Consider it a red flag, if you feel you are not allowed to question something, or that you will be ostracized or penalized for questioning it. Be wary of topics that you are not allowed to question. I had an employer who told me I wasn’t allowed to discuss my salary with other employees. Of course not, I might have found out I was being paid less and ask for a raise.
When subjects are not allowed to be discussed, the truth cannot be discovered... and perhaps that is the point.
Choices and Alternatives Constitute Freedom
Is someone making you believe you do not have a choice? You always have a choice - there are always alternatives - just like I discovered with the treatment for the growth on my eyelid.
The Internet has made the ability to examine and analyze issues available to everyone. We all have access to the same information if we only bother to explore.
Learn to question authority, and challenge the status quo. Ask questions, like: “Why does it have to be this way?” "Is there a substitute?" “Can we try something different?”
Fake News Begets Fake Fact-Checkers
Sadly, because of their political leaning, you can’t trust online fact-checkers to do your critical thinking for you. Fact-checkers don’t operate for free, which means most of them are financially supported by members of partisan factions. Those factions have agendas which influence the fact-checker’s objectivity and destroy their credibility. Research the financial backers of the various fact-checkers, some will be non-profit organizations which means you’ll have to dig and hunt for who is financing those as well. Most of us don’t have time to probe that deep; it’s easier just to assume that all of them are biased.
Seek Alternative Sources for Information Online
Don’t use just one search engine on the Internet. Some of the biggest search engines have been caught suppressing information in an effort to shape public opinion. Use several search engines to do your investigations. If you are getting your news from social media, you need to know that social media sites also suppress stories. Subscribe to several social media sites in order to get a variety of news and opinion.
Ignorance Is NOT Bliss
I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves is a quote attributed (and perhaps incorrectly) to Harriet Tubman. Whether she said it or not, it still serves as an apt aphorism for many people in today’s world: if you don’t know you’re oppressed, then you can’t be liberated.
Today, there is no reason to be uninformed anymore. Become a critical thinking investigator today, and liberate yourself from Fake News, propaganda, indoctrination, and scams. You’ll be happy you did.
About the Author: Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an innovation/change speaker, author, and consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive through innovation and with people who want to think more creatively. Rob is the author of ...and Never Coming Back, a psychological mystery-novel about a motion picture director; the inspirational book: Wisdom in the Weirdest Places; and The Annoying Ghost Kid, a humorous children’s book about dealing with a bully. For more information on Rob, please visit http://www.RobWilsonSpeaker.com.