Sunday, January 2, 2011
I used to joke that mine was the last generation to actually be "educated" in public school. In California, radical changes in the nature and purpose of public education began in 1967 with the Governorship of Ronald Reagan, the point being to make it impossible for students to rise up ever again.
It seemed fairly clear early on that the objective was to eliminate the teaching of -- and thus knowledge of -- critical thinking. Given the nature of the student uprisings of the '60's, based as they were on the realization that much of what were were being told was lies, a realization driven by the widespread ability to think critically, eliminating that ability understandably became a prime objective.
Today, it seems the very idea of critical thinking is unknown to almost anyone under 60.
Not only that, but there is a nearly universal misperception of the difference between speculation and fact.
There seems to be little or no knowledge of how to evaluate information; it is all a jumble that one sorts through based entirely on principles of Authority: who says the thing determines its factual truth.
During December, for example, an immense amount of "news" -- and hysteria -- was generated over the curious case of Julian Assange and what he might or might not have done to get himself in trouble with the Law. It was widely purported that the accusations against him in Sweden for those "sex crimes" were a set up by the CIA to entrap him so as to make his extradition to the USA for trial on any number of Espionage and other charges possible.
Charlie Savage's December 15 report in the New York Times laid the groundwork for much of the hysteria over what the Department of Justice was doing to build a case against Assange. His reporting was taken as gospel, fact, indisputable, partly because Charlie Savage is a widely trusted Authority, and partly because it was in the New York Times, which -- of course -- is Assange's Media Partner in the United States (except for their spat over the John Burns profile, of course.)
But if you read the article critically, there are no named sources, there is no support for the assertions made by Savage regarding what the Justice Department is or is not doing except for very vague statements and "authorizations" by AG Eric Holder, there is no factual evidence of any grand jury proceeding, and there is extensive speculation about what the DoJ "could be doing."
In other words, the entire piece, which has been taken uncritically as "fact," has very few facts in it, whereas it is filled with speculation, unsupported assertion, quotes from named and unnamed interested parties, and suspected future potentials.
Perhaps it's not an entirely useless story, but it doesn't tell you what is really going on -- because it can't.
All it does is keep a pot stirred -- and likely is a conduit for propaganda. It is the New York Times after all.
But people who don't understand critical thinking cannot look at a story like this that way. They look at who wrote it, they look at where it was published, they look at what is being said. As long as those things fit with their perceptions of "truth", the story is "true" and "factual."
Yes, it's factually speculative. Beyond that? Nothing.
Except that it made the Assange defense go into hyperdrive -- for fear, apparently, that Assange was going to be rounded up and put on trial in the US for Evility -- or something.
That fear and chaos and panic is useful for someone. But who?