A woman—I don’t know her name—photobombed a Russian newscast with a sign telling the Russian people that they’re being lied to. Detained by police, her whereabouts are unknown. I admire that woman. She may pay with her life in her effort to encourage what is dear to every teacher everywhere: critical thinking. Many of the world’s problems are the result of the dearth of critical thinking. There’s no other way to explain the election of Trump and his main squeeze Vlad. Thick as thieves, the saying goes. I recently gave a talk to a small group about publishing. One of the points I was making is that critical thinking is essential in getting to the truth. Compare sources, use reason, and never trust a snake-oil salesman.
People vote with their feelings rather than with their rational faculties. Trump openly admires Hitler, as Putin does Stalin. These should be signs of warning to those who think critically. The Second World War wasn’t even a century ago and we’ve apparently forgotten all the lessons it should’ve taught us. In high school we were shown examples of propaganda and told how to avoid it. Now we see it and can’t recognize it at all. Critical thinking is often frowned upon in modern society. Being comfortable with the status quo is perhaps valued higher than social justice and the necessary work to get us to where it might happen. It’s easier to hate than to think. It’s easier to follow than to question what you’re following. Education teaches us survival skills, and among them are the ability to think through a situation. Authoritarianism is seldom—I’m tempted to say “never”—the way to a good result.
Perhaps the saddest irony of all is that those who run outlets like Fox News (and its Russian equivalents) are thinking critically of ways to get followers not to. Realizing that critical thinking will lead to a more fair and equitable world, they decide to keep their positions of privilege by discouraging their followers from engaging with the basic comparison of sources and weighing of facts. Instead, promoting “alternative facts” and emotionally outraged rhetoric, they are able to stir up crowds to try to take over the government. Conspiracy theories are easier to believe if you don’t know how to check facts for yourself. And the internet has made us all experts on everything. Russia’s narrative about the war is far from the reality on the ground. Objective observers have seen what is really happening. One heroic woman in Russia said enough is enough. In all likelihood nobody in the world will ever see her again.
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