The Escalation of the War on Critical Thought and the Battle For Our Minds

the battle for our minds

 

Today critical thinking has become a lost art to the point where it is nearly entirely absent from the discourse of public debate, and even more so in public debate that is spread far and wide through television, print, and social media. Even the term fake news has been cleverly used with frequency as an ad hominem attack, with the claim often made to either marginalize or completely dismiss an opposition view with the provision of little evidence. And speaking of evidence, even the words “evidence” and “facts” are carelessly thrown around in the absence of evidence and facts, for which the use of such words demands. And quite disturbingly, this is being done not just among the usual suspects that we would expect to engage in the Orwellian doublespeak of Oceania, politicians and bankers, but this is also becoming a commonplace practice among the most popular people that report news and information on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.

Before I continue, let me provide you with a very simple introductory exposition of my thesis. Earlier this week, a couple of people sent me a news clip of a debate between US political commentator and TV host Bill Maher and a US Congressman that for some reason, went viral. It’s irrelevant whether or not you are American, and I know that many of your reading this will not be, as my point requires no understanding of any political event specific to American politics. To summarize the debate, the Congressman supported the actions of the US President in response to the global pandemic as a solid performance of duties while the TV host’s opinion fell on the opposite side of the spectrum. Though there were many points made throughout this debate that were completely wrong, I will just mention one to make my point. The Congressman stated that on 3 March, there were only 102 Americans infected with the virus as of that date and then stated that President Trump’s orders to shut all borders to Chinese nationals at that time was a representation of solid leadership exhibited in his handling of the pandemic. Additionally, the Congressman argued that if the President’s actions were put in their proper “context”, then they would be seen in an even more favorable light as his decision preceded similar decisions made by a number of other State leaders.  He then proceeded to label his statements as a truth and accused the TV host of actually agreeing, instead of disagreeing with him, regarding their stance on Trump’s pandemic response, on the basis that their positions were based upon the same “truths.”

I want to preface my analysis of these false claims by stating that I consider the TV host Bill Maher to be a pseudo-intellectual and do not care for most of his opinions on political matters, but that in the name of critical thought, I never let my opinion about someone color my conclusion about who is telling the truth. So, in the context of truth, it is very easy for me to state that someone whose opinions I find to be distasteful the majority of the time, is still more truthful about a certain point than someone else, if indeed, this is the case. So let’s begin. Number one, it is not a truth that only 102 Americans were infected on 3 March in America. This was the reported number but it is also an unknown and actually it was virtually impossible for that figure to be the truth for the following reasons. To begin, at that time, no one that was asymptomatic was even being tested for the virus, so the 102 cases were relegated to symptomatic cases. We know by now that the number of asymptomatic infected patients is greater than the number of symptomatic infected patients at an exponential rate. Therefore the only thing we can be fairly certain regarding the reported number of 102 cases in America on 3 March was that it was not the truth, and that the true number of infections may have exceed 100,000 or possibly even half a million or more. The only truth is that the number of infected patients in America at the time could be known if all 330+ million Americans had received the test and the results of all the tests had been reported. Without testing every American citizen, it is impossible to state that the number of 102 cases in America on 3 March was the truth. I wouldn’t have had a problem if the Congressman simply stated that at that time 102 cases were reported BUT the real number was unknown at the time. However, all too often, when unknown data supports one’s argument, the presenter of the information falsely frames it as the “truth”.  

Secondly, the Congressman implied that the leadership of the Commander-in-Chief was solid in his response to the pandemic threat in America because, when placed in the proper “context”, it was a fact that he sealed US borders to Chinese nationals before many other Western leaders. However, when the responses of all leaders were inadequate, which they were, this does not mean that the least inadequate of them all translates into strong leadership. And I’m not letting the TV host Bill Maher off the hook as well, because to paraphrase his rebuttal, instead of pointing out the falsehoods of information presented as truths and evidence, which would have allowed him to easily and clearly win the debate, he resorted to over exaggerated exclamations of disbelief while not making the simple counterarguments that would have exposed the Congressman’s “truths” as unknowns. In other words, both parties involved in the debate demonstrated equally horrible critical thinking skills and an inability to point out the inconsistencies and inaccuracies of each other’s arguments.

And this is the type of debates I have witnessed proliferate in popularity on the most popular YouTube channels that debate information, as if Google deliberately is trying to dumb us all down by pushing such inane, critically absent debates to the top of their suggested and trending videos. The format has become increasingly the same. One person consistently claims he or she is sticking to facts, evidence, truth and science whereas his or her opponent is not, as the modus operandus to win a debate. And as was the case in the scenario I just explained above, in almost every instance, the person being “shut down”, “owned” or “destroyed” by the person claiming to stick to facts, unfortunately does not possess the critical thinking skill development set to understand how to use simple, rational arguments that could defeat the person whom they are debating. In fact, if you search YouTube and discover the most popular news podcasters, you will find numerous clips of their debates online titled “Person A Owns Person B!”, “Person A Destroys Person C” or “Person A Shuts Down Person D” as a description for many clips in which this simply was not true. Further appalling is the fact that most of us that view these clips don’t even realize why the titles are false, and after watching them, further strengthen our belief that Person A is a great and brilliant critical thinker. Worse yet, such clips posted on YouTube only serve to confirm the delusions and confirmation biases about Person A among Person A’s fanboys and fangirls.

 

The Expansion of the Ad Hominem War

So let’s dive a little deeper now and move from checkers to chess in my analysis. In the past, ad hominem attacks came in the form of racial slurs or unsubstantiated statements of moron and idiot, and instead of exposing the person levying ad hominem attacks as completely incapable of exhibiting critical thought, such ad hominem attacks sometimes were enough for that person to “win” an argument. And even though I believe that societies all around the world, on every nation on planet Earth, are becoming more incapable of critical thought, since ad hominem attacks may no longer be capable of instilling strong beliefs in wrong ideas and information among the larger segments of the global population, ad hominem attacks have evolved to become much more clever, with people resorting to (still sophomoric, in my opinion) claims of “I’m arguing facts, evidence, and science while you’re arguing opinions” to shut down opposition voices to their arguments, even when they are not presenting truths.

And though most of us think of an ad hominem attack as an attack on a person's character or motivations rather than the presentation of an intellectual rebuttal or argument, an ad hominem attack can also be one that appeals to emotions rather than facts and evidence. And here is where the Jedi Mind Tricks come into play. As I illustrated above with the Congressmen, there are literally dozens of very popular information shows on YouTube and other social media platforms today with millions of subscribers that are hosted by individuals that consistently appeal to the “facts over emotions” argument. The caveat however, is that many times, their presentation of information as facts are not facts at all. By presenting their information falsely as facts, such a strategy actually is an emotional appeal to their audience disguised as facts, and quite often, this cleverly executed strategy succeeds in convincing large portions of the listening audience that  the host must be correct, as the host “sticks to facts” while his opponents do not.

The reason this methodology of argument is so effective is that often the host’s arguments levied against his opponent appealing to emotions are correct. Only the host is doing the exact same thing but claiming his or her presented information consists only of facts. In reality, since the host’s presentation of facts are not facts, the argument taking place between the host and his or her guest is not a  “facts versus emotion” one, but an “emotion versus emotion” one, so neither party involved in the debate should have the upper hand. However, because the host’s multi-million person fan base often blindly accepts that the host’s touted facts as facts, even though they are speculation or complete unknowns, the host is able to “win” his or her argument. Have I blown your mind yet? Furthermore, the Jedi Mind Trick of arguing facts that are not facts, science that is not science, truth that is not truth and evidence that is not evidence is not just happening within the realm of politics and banking, it is also happening in debates about religion, wars, the environment, and in nearly every aspect that affects our lives.

 

Moving from Chess to 3D Chess

Let’s keep digging deeper. Another emotional appeal to the presentation of information as facts that often are not facts is the flawed argument of “I’m arguing science and you aren’t. Are you really telling me that science is wrong and you are right?” And often, this massively flawed argument is enough to shut down an opposition voice. When people say that they are arguing science, they most often mean they are parroting some information a scientist or a group of scientists presented. However, not all scientists are correct in the information they present. In fact, many scientists throughout history have presented information that was widely believed to be correct at the time but was later indisputably proven as wrong. In fact, I’ve heard many podcasters, when speaking about the unknowns and knowns of this viral pandemic, blindly defer to the opinions of a doctor. I’ve heard podcasters levy statements similar to, “I’m not a doctor so I’m going to listen to what a doctor is telling me is true about this pandemic,” before they then recite statements issued by a doctor to their listening audience as if it were fact. I would even argue that the spread of unknown information as facts on YouTube podcasts is somewhat responsible for the slow response of citizens to protect themselves against this pandemic in an adequate manner. We’ve already witnessed dozens of statements relayed by doctors about the pandemic that have been proven to be untrue. Consequently, resorting to claims made by scientists and doctors and relaying them as facts is as about an uncritical exhibition of intellectual thought as possible.

In every profession, there are horribly unintelligent people, brilliantly intelligent people and a whole bunch of average thinkers. There are engineers that you would never want to build the specs for even the simplest of bridges while there are engineers with whom you would feel supremely comfortable building the most complex and ambitious of suspension bridges. If you had to undergo heart surgery, every single person would be much more comfortable having a heart surgeon that graduated in the top 10% of his or her class versus the bottom 10% in his or her class. Yet even the heart surgeon that graduated dead last in the class still gets to practice as a heart surgeon.

 

Why the Boy That Cried Wolf is Still Universally Trusted

So am I declaring that everyone that states they are stating facts, science, evidence and truth are continuously spouting misinformation?  Of course not, and here is where the Jedi Mind Trick is elevated to another level. Occasionally those that appeal to their audience’s emotions, not intellect, by using the fact versus emotion argument and that pretend to be on the side of facts when they appeal to emotion the majority of the time, do recite facts. If they never cited provable known facts, but always referred to unknowns and speculations as facts, they would be enormously easy to expose. Consequently, to retain their level of credibility among their listening audience, they have to mix in facts with the unprovable unknowns they falsely also cite as facts. If there was never a wolf whenever the boy that cried wolf shouted his warnings, at some point, he will lose all credibility with the villagers, or in podcaster terms, his or her audience, whom he proclaims to inform and safeguard. However, if a wolf actually approaches the village once out of every seven or eight times the boy cries wolf, the next time he cries wolf and the villagers want to dismiss him, another villager will remind the skeptical villager of the time two weeks ago when a massive hungry wolf really appeared at the outskirts of their village. So the best propaganda tactic is never to go “full propaganda”, but always to mix in occasional truths with propaganda in order to achieve the highest success rate in convincing the greatest amount of people to believe you.

 

 

The Popularity, Academic/Articulate and Charming Fallacies

In addition to the numerous widely overlooked fallacies in thought I’ve already illustrated, let me quickly cover the popularity, academic and charming fallacies. Most assume that the more popular the information medium, whether a podcast, TV show, or magazine, the more reliable the information will be, but there is actually very little correlation between popularity and truth. For example, before my old YouTube channel was shadowbanned into obscurity, it had 30,000 subscribers at a growth rate that would have easily reached more than 100,000 subscribers in a year to two more years.  And of course, simply for the reason that my old defunct channel had 30,000 subscribers, though I firmly believe that the content on my new YouTube channel that only has slightly north of 800 subscribers is superior, I have not yet received anywhere near the number of views on any singular upload on my new channel received by content uploads posted on my old channel.

Thus, this suggests that people do not seek content based upon accuracy or value, but that their first screen in seeking content to consume is likely popularity. Secondly, the fallacy of academic degree is still one used by many to promote questionable information and speculation as truth, achieved simply by labeling a news report with the title “Harvard doctor states…” or “Princeton economist says…”, which in it of itself is often enough to spark the consumption of that information by millions. When I worked for a Wall Street firm many moons ago, I used to overhear a co-worker, when he was cold calling prospective clients nearly always lead with the statement, “I went to Harvard. I’m very smart,” a statement that used to make me laugh, because correlating academic degree as proof of intellect is one of the most widespread fallacies promoted in the world today. To begin, he could have been a legacy case, a student admittedly non-too-bright that the admission board was forced to admit due to millions of dollars donated to the school by the student’s alumni parents. All Ivy Leagues have a certain number of slots reserved every year for legacy cases. Secondly, children of rich and famous people are admitted into Ivy League schools all the time not for their brilliant minds but for the benefits of marketing the university to prospective future students. Thirdly, the attainment of a diploma from an academic institution with a stellar reputation does not guarantee the graduation of a person with superior critical thinking skills but only the graduation of a good test taker, and a high correlation between intellect and high exam grades has never been proven. I graduated from an Ivy League, and literally met dozens of students while there whose critical thinking skills were not marginally inferior, but far inferior to a handful of home schooled children whom I’ve met over the years that were the children of parents I knew.

The sister fallacy to the “strong academic pedigree equals intellect” fallacy is the “well-spoken equals intellect” fallacy. Learning how to speak well publicly is a skill that can be learned and is not necessarily a sign of intellect. In fact, if one leans NLP, Neuro Linguistic Programming, one can learn to speak in a rhythm or cadence specifically designed to cast a hypnotic spell upon people that will convince people to believe your words even if every word you are speaking is a lie. Adolf Hitler had mastered facets of NLP in his public speeches. A recent politician that also mastered using elements of NLP to hypnotize his audience was former US President Barack Obama. Consequently, the level of articulation by which someone expresses himself or herself is not necessarily related at all to that person’s level of intellect.

And finally, there is the “charm equals trustworthiness” fallacy. Of all fallacies, never fall for this one, as it may be the most dangerous one of all to fall victim, as sociopaths are known to be able to affect a very high level of charm to get what they want from others, often destroying the lives of the people that fall for their affected charm in the process. For example, no one would dispute that US President Obama’s level of charm trumped President Trump’s level of charm by kilometers. And because President Obama possessed a brilliant smile and exhibited a lot of charm, his likeability factor converted into trustworthiness with not only millions of Americans, but with millions of people all over the world. And this false built-in trustworthiness factor has led to millions of people today still remaining ignorant of anything negative Obama did as President of the United States, including his ramping up of the militarized drone program that killed thousands of innocent civilians around the world.

 

Parasitic Vampires Are Real

In conclusion, we have to realize that those that control media platforms, the billionaires - the political leaders and the top bankers in this world -all have studied these Jedi Mind Tricks and have been mastering and refining them for hundreds of years. Consequently, the infamous analogy that Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi once used to describe the corporation of Goldman Sachs as a vampire squid jamming its funnel into anything that remotely smells of money is quite an apropos one, specifically the vampire analogy, as vampires are immortal, but weak parasitic creatures that gain their immortality by feeding off of the blood of those stronger than them. If you were to fight a creature that had been on planet Earth for 5,000 years and were to compete against the creature in any arena, within the Octagon in mixed martial arts, or perhaps within commodity, stock and real estate trading, it would be impossible to compete and win against such a parasite as this parasite would have the benefit of decades or centuries more time spent mastering the craft in which you were competing. Can you imagine being the best jujitsu practitioner in the world, having practiced jujitsu diligently for eight hours a day for twenty years and then trying to defeat someone that only spent a tiny fraction of his life training in jujitsu, but a tiny fraction that amounted to 100 years? You would have no hope. That is why this game cannot be a solo game with us. The only way for us to defeat this global misinformation campaign about everything is for us to unite, and that is why I constantly speak about my desire to build a global skwealthacademy community that will have among us the most brilliant minds in the world. You can join it today on my skwealthacademy podcast channel until I launch the full curriculum of my online academy.

The fact that so many among us fall for so many easy to spot fallacies is very troubling and worrisome, and is the very reason I founded skwealthacademy. My frustration boiled over when I discovered no school in the entire world to perform an adequate job in training young minds to become exceptional thinkers. Not exceptional engineers, exceptional programmers, exceptional immunologists, but exceptional thinkers. There is a massive difference between these two concepts and the global academic system has failed miserably in the endeavor of producing exceptional thinkers. If every teacher merely spent one hour out of every year in academic classrooms with students from the age of six onwards, I believe that this undertaking would be sufficient to produce a few exceptional thinkers out of every hundred students. But even this minimalist effort to produce exceptional thinkers is not happening. That is why I felt compelled to devote one of the twenty courses that comprises the skwealthacademy curriculum to critical thinking in a much more dense exploration of this topic than this roughly half hour podcast. To watch an audio/visual presentation of this article, please click the image below.

 

the escalation of the war on critical thought

 

I believe that the primary contributor to the dissipating intellect of society is the complete lack of critical thinking development that is part of the systemic academic platform combined with the perpetual 24/7 distraction of social media platforms designed to stimulate emotions but not intellect. What do you believe are the primary destroyers of intellect in our society today? Do you agree with me or do you believe that something completely different is responsible? Please comment below and let’s get this conversation started. Thanks to my wonderful and growing Patron community. For those that wish to receive exclusive weekly financial analysis and monthly bonus podcasts, please click this link here to become a skwealthacademy patron. For a sneak peek at skwealthacademy patron only content, click here. Sign up for my free newsletter as well as bookmark my news site for fresh new content weekly here