The Importance of Critical Thinking in the Age of Trump

It goes without saying that we are living in a crazy, unprecedented time in America right now. Trump’s surrogates, either as a result of internal Administration chaos and confusion, or as a deliberate strategy to test ideas and keep everyone off balance, have regularly conveyed positions of Trump’s that he later denies are his actual positions. Trump himself expresses positions or versions of reality and later denies having said them. And federal employees, likely to experience dramatic changes in their duties, missions, salaries or employment, are reasonably assuming the worst and reacting accordingly –at times contacting the press to spread the word. Everyone in the country (who is paying any attention) is on pins and needles.

In such an atmosphere, it is profoundly difficult for the news media to be completely certain that they are always getting the story right. They are expected to be first with a story, and bear the weight of being the first line of defense in guarding our democracy. We all need to be very critical, now more than ever, as we take in information – through social media, in conversations with friends and family, and even when we look to long-established reputable news sources. We need to thoroughly evaluate the legitimacy of any “facts” before we take them in as actionable, and we need to be prepared to continually watch for updates or changes to those facts based on better information.

This is the America in which we live today – a country where a DC pizza joint can find itself the center of a bizarre YouTube-fueled horror story about a Hillary Clinton-run pedophile ring, where a gunman ultimately shows up on the doorstep demanding to see the underground tunnels where the children are being imprisoned.

Fake news is not just the realm of the right wing. The left will begin to see more and more of it as well, and we must be wary of what we take in. Trump is erratic and seems emotionally unstable, and the craziest news about him can seem thoroughly believable. Many of us are deeply worried about what his Administration will mean for us, those we love,our country and the world, and are ready to believe the worst.

But running with misinformation is not what we need right now. We need vigilance and a deep passion for justice paired with strong critical-mindedness and clear-eyed sobriety. I am doing my best to double- and triple-check everything that I post and run it through the best filters of logic and reason that I can, but I will be guilty of posting incorrect information from time to time too. My apologies in advance for any times that I may get the story wrong.

At the very least, Snopes can be a good (though also imperfect) preliminary resource for fact-checking some of the most outrageous online information that you may come across.

– rob rünt

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