Trayvon Martin And The Demise of Critical Thinking

Is the Trayvon Martin case something that is being discussed in your classrooms, your offices, or in your homes?

I have been paying a lot of attention to this story, for several reasons, including that Sanford, Florida is my hometown. I wasn’t there all that long, I went to high school at Crooms Academy and Seminole High School and lived there for a short time after college. Though my parents lived there until their deaths,  so I went back often.

Sanford has a history of racism, that is a fact. Whether, or not,  there were racial motivations that led to the young man’s shooting by the neighborhood watch captain is opinion.

I learned the difference between fact and opinion in third grade. It seems that very few  people bother to make the distinction anymore.

Like everybody else I have my opinions, about racism, gun laws, and just about everything else. I have no problem discussing these issues with anybody. However, in regards to the questions about the facts of this shooting, I can only say: I don’t know because I was not there.

I didn’t know these people, I am not going to comment on their motivations or actions.

It’s bothersome that people are so quick to cut and paste text/pictures from the Internet and disperse them among their social networks.  No qualifiers such as “alleged” no attributions, no fact-checking. I am disgusted by the people who make up their own facts; or doctor photos to suit their own purposes.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the comments section of news sites. The organization’s political leanings (sorry  “alleged” leanings) are irrelevant. You can go to MSNBC, or Fox; Rush Limbaugh or MotherJones.

You’re likely  to see claims that a security video will show that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense, after Trayvon Martin brutally assaulted him. You’re also likely to also see claims that Zimmerman, hunted down a defenseless Martin and shot him in cold blood.

I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Neither were Sean Hannity, or Al Sharpton. Neither were you.

Discussion about racism, gun control, politics aside, I think something that Trayvon Martin case has made evident is that we (the US, the world)  have a severe critical thinking deficit.

Hard to say if this is an Internet-enabled, deficit, or if the Internet has just made the problem more obvious. Computers allow us to create misinformation, faster than ever; and the Internet  allows us to share mistakes and distortions with more people.

I guess I could write a meme, such as “Think Before You ‘Like’ ” or “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink and Paste” and put it on my Facebook status with “Repost if you agree.” As you probably already know……97% of Facebook users won’t repost it.

I think our likely destiny is that the we are heading toward an endemic of Pierre Salinger Syndrome, where a claim on the Internet is automatically assumed to be true. Because it’s on the Internet.

One thing is clear, people need to quit blaming the media. We are the media now.


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