The Bottom Line
With all the news, counter news, fake news and post-truth flying around out there, what can we know for sure? For sure? Very little, we have to rely on educated guesses. But what do you base your guesses on? Where do you start? One thing is certainly true. You have to figure it out for yourself.
I realize that it’s practically impossible to change people’s minds. Our basic values and criteria are etched, if not on our DNA, at least on our brains. We’re all victims of the lies we were told when we were children. Almost nobody escapes, perhaps a few who are lucky enough to be influenced by a great teacher when their minds are still malleable.
The Methodology of Critical Thinking
Before you begin to delve into your search for truth in current affairs and recent history you’ll have to take stock of your own values and convictions. Where did they come from? Do they stand up to common-sense analysis? Who benefits from them in the end, just you or your country or the world at large?
Try to enter into a “scientific thinking” mode. That is, don’t take anything for granted till you’ve evaluated the evidence–or “the evidences” as there will inevitably be various versions. Which are the most credible? Only you can decide that, but in order to do so you must suspend the old commonplaces. You have to create a new critical, credible scheme of things for yourself.
Are you aware that in South Korea people fear Donald Trump more than Kim Jong-un? This is according to the South African teacher and journalist, Brad Dennett, writing in The Independent. Dennett is currently teaching English in South Korea, so he’s in direct contact with young people there. Here’s a link: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/north-korea-kim-jong-un-donald-trump-nuclear-war-threats-south-korea-gangnam-what-its-like-a7934036.html.
Are you aware that an American citizen is more likely to be shot by one of his pistol-packing neighbors than to fall victim to an Islamic terrorist act? Do you know what the American clandestine services are up to around the world, either in direct actions or in “false-flag” operations, that is mounting terrorist attacks in such a way that they can be attributed to another country. Whenever you see a horrendous act of terror on the news, ask yourself, “What do the Americans have to gain from this?” You will frequently surprise yourself.
Start in the Mainstream
Start with the mainstream media, the big boys. They will usually, though not always, alert you to the themes you want to pursue. You read their coverage between and behind the lines as they have an agenda to promote and protect their fellow plutocrats, especially on critical issues. While most of their consumer-oriented content is lightweight and poses them no problem for “objective reporting,” certain controversial questions are protected like the family jewels, e.g. anything to do with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, their nuclear arsenal, the bombing of Syria, etc.
The United States has the most sophisticated system of information and thought control in the world. The all-powerful government, business and “defense” interests usually manage to impose their agenda without resorting to outright censorship. How is this possible? At bottom it’s about using a manipulative propaganda program to create a non-critical-thinking population that includes a majority of American citizens. This professional propaganda campaign has been going on for decades and continues with the wind at its back. For most US Americans this is the only thought framework they will ever know.
Life in the American Fishbowl
In this process the messages used are simplified and tailored for the vast majority of people who are “anesthetized from birth,” that is to say, born, raised, educated in the American fishbowl, swimming in a swamp of patriotism, old-time religion, nationalism, exceptionalism and free-market fundamentalism. And let’s not forget militarism. The American solutions to most spiny issues involve gunfire or, better yet, remote-control drone missiles. Last week (September 18, 2017) President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.” Isn’t he aware that he’s talking about killing 25 million innocent people in that country and inflicting untold harm on the neighboring countries of Japan, South Korea and China? Doesn’t he suspect that such an action might have serious repercussions for his own country, that it might be interpreted as an eloquent declaration of nuclear war?
Where do you go to fill in the niches in your knowledge? Here your greatest ally is the Internet. The Internet is like life itself, full of truths and lies, half-truths and innuendos. There are opinions on everything, for everybody. It’s up to you to review them thoughtfully and make up your own mind. Don’t be in a hurry. It’s a lifetime project.
We Don’t Want to Talk About It
With so many issues that should be objects of urgent discussion in American society, most of them are not even broached. The standard establishment points of view are simply taken for granted. Any deviation from the official playbook is dismissed as “conspiracy theory,” “fake news” or “subversive.” Surprisingly many of the true believers are not semi-literate lowbrows. The official American version of the world is mouthed frequently by college-educated citizens who naively read the papers and watch television news programs.
With such an uncritical public no propaganda campaign could go wrong. Is this to say that everybody in the United States is a blind adherent to the prevailing retrograde Washington agenda? Certainly not. There are brilliant American critical thinkers, some of whom we’ll be discussing here later. But there are not enough of them to counter the massive passive majority. The most cogent explanation of the effectiveness of propaganda that I’m aware of is Noam Chomsky and Eduard S. Herman’s 1988 book, Manufacturing Consent. There they shed a revealing light on the American establishment’s recipes for thought control, with ingredients, procedures and oven times.
Best of luck on your quest. Knowledge is the Holy Grail.
I’ll leave you with Bruce Springsteen. He holds some clear truths. Knowledge is not only about your head. It’s about your heart. This land is your land.