WORDS: 1,800 —  Therein is the rub… everyone critically thinks differently, if at all.  Tell me a good lie and I’ll believe it with all my bias!”  With the advent of artificial intelligence and the ever-advancing ability to create deep fakery, the first thing to address regarding critical thinking something is understanding you WILL be fooled at some time or another.  No one will escape being taken by trickery, falsehoods, or lies.  Your default position should never be to surrender to what someone else tells you, but to at least TRY and figure it out for yourself.

This being the first in my series of posts, Avenues of Hope (parts A & B), likely establishes for me the most important element in our preparedness for the uncertain future of the country as it relates to finding truth amidst the soon-to-come barrage of sensory falsehoods.  We need to keep our basic freedoms intact and not simply rely on legislating how our freedoms can be expressed to protect ourselves.  The “Tuckers” and “Hannitys” of present and in the future should be judged by what they say in an open society and not compelled to follow legal guardrails established by government because we are too caught up with our own lives to bother to do it for ourselves.  Given that, let’s proceed.

For Any Variety of Critical Thinking To Have Value CONTEXT Is The Most Important Element

I personally dislike opposing viewpoints that get admonished about that use generalizations and emotional populist rhetoric as some sort of “truth” or facts to the issue.  Context is always lacking.. many times conveniently.  As a practical definition, we define contextual thinking as the cognitive habit of examining behavioral root causes outside of people and within the organizational context.

Just go visit any Conservative blog and you will read things like, “In one year, Joe Biden has destroyed America’s energy independence.”, or,  “Climate Change, the entire Green agenda, is pseudo-scientific lunacy, a scam to enrich the elite.” or “Any new deal with Iran would be treason.”, or, “Liberals hate America.”, or, “The Democrats are coming for your guns.”, or, “Liberals call us deplorables.”  Now, Liberal blogs have made blanket accusations of Conservative policies as well… “Conservatives are racists and want racist policies.”  or, “Conservatives don’t want any gun controls”.  My point here is that these old emotional blatherings for the most part accomplish nothing but feed the populist divide.  More to the point, it promotes a “my side is right” rather than enhance a “let’s compromise” component of a democracy.

How I Do It (For My Own Balance) –

I have considered myself a “professional” manager all my working life.  While that is not a distinct occupation by itself (unfortunately) it still represents a capacity of acquired knowledge to lead others in meeting a goal, accomplishing a mission, performing a function in a collective effort.. as a focus of a team of individuals.  For sure I have the academics to perform such leadership work but I also can call on work experience and life experiences.. and most important, actual accomplishments that might demonstrate my ability… and the not-so-accomplishments that suggest I am always striving to improve and fine tune my abilities to meet the challenge of changing work environments. Those experiential abilities can be a measurement from which others can assign a value to what I can do, and it also serves to provide a personal measurement of self…  a confidence of self-worth in knowing what I can do.. and what I cannot do.  I know my limitations.  Now, this by no means suggests I am God’s gift to leadership in all areas and in all ways.  When a manager can successfully manage it means those following him/her are successful in what they do as well, and that collective measurement is how well goals have been met.  What’s all this have to do with contextual thinking?

The art of delegation is all about establishing a performance context.  If I am the new manager on the job and I am getting “intel” on the capabilities of the people reporting to me and someone suggests that I watch John Doe because he tends to screw up a lot, I will take it under advisement without forming a pre-conceived bias because I am fully aware that people have individual context.  John Doe likely performs as a “screw up” for certain reasons… and it’s my job to filter through that to maximize his effectiveness as a contributing member of the team.  I will want to know/observe his “screwing up” process.. to get the context by which he does screw up.  Threatening to fire Mr. Doe because of performance deficiencies without some verification of his motives and/or capabilities, is a loss to everyone and a failed return in the investment by the company in having hired him or her in the first place.  A successful manager manages with respect for the individual… massaging that person’s individuality to work within a team.. facilitating the team to complete a goal that hopefully affects the company’s bottom line in some way.

I also apply this contextual thinking in most of my political observations and subsequent opinions.   For example, I seldom simply accept generalized statements about the actions or inactions of a politician.  Generalized statements simply hold no water in truth and most certainly don’t tell the entire story with little if any degree of accuracy.  One example…. “Since Biden has taken over the administration he’s thrown open the Southern border to illegals, drug trafficking, and the sex slave trade.”  In order for me to accept that as a valid statement I want to prove it… or not.  At the outset it makes little sense that Biden, or most anyone else actually, gets up each day choosing to screw the country in some way, “shreds the Constitution”, wants power to rule, etc., in some sort of it’s-my-way-or-the-highway bullying.  I do know for myself that we truly don’t have an “open” Southern border given the border and customs agents on duty there are controlling entry… and following established immigration policy.  Also, “thrown open the borders” is entirely emotional rhetoric to inflame rather than to inform.  I’ll go check out government stats, fact-check sites… and determine for myself any accuracy to general claims.  Check for yourself.. nothing has been “thrown open”.  Now, quite obviously if I did that each time some new claim or accusation was made public I’d not have time to eat the wrong foods like I do.  If I don’t need to form an immediate opinion on something I can readily prioritize the need to verify the facts for another time if necessary.  In those cases I tend to fall into the “rule of reasonableness” until I have more information.  I do not engage in blog debates on every single issue unless it’s an issue I care to research and verify to my satisfaction.

(Now.. what I just said there “..I care to research to my satisfaction.” also suggests a level of context..  I am not saying at all times my researched opinion would be CORRECT, or accurate because of any research I might have done to reach my conclusion.  I am implying that I have given the subject deeper thought, beyond the populist rhetoric, from which I may form a more reasonably valid opinion, that indeed may or may not have holes when compared with the opinions of others.) 

Fact-Checking IS The Art Of Finding Context That Supports A Factful Conclusion…

Ok.. so before you make the subtle mental remark, “Who does this guy think he is, Mr. Perfect?”

Far from it.  Everything I have explained so far about my application of critical thinking with a measure of context is only MY formula that’s comfortable for me to use.  It’s fallible.  It has its nuanced flaws that pop up at times. One has to recognize that many political decisions are not made entirely public so the entire context of an official policy decision my not truly be known or available.   But that’s on me to have enough moral responsibility to offer it as part of my opinion to allow the reader to judge for themselves, rather than risk my opinions affecting the conclusions of others.  My goal is not trying to “sell” others on what I believe, but rather let what I have determined and concluded to incite discussion from which I may learn.  I am not looking for affirmation to bolster my “rightness” over others, but rather “input” from others to fit the pieces I might be missing.

Let’s use the following as a very contemporary example of what I am talking about.

Fact-checking claims that NATO, US broke agreement against alliance expanding eastward 

(Source: HERE)

Two days before Russia invaded Ukraine with an assault that intelligence officials had warned was coming, conservative commentator Candace Owens insisted that the U.S. was “at fault.”

“NATO (under direction from the United States) is violating previous agreements and expanding eastward,” Owens said in a tweet, which directed her more than 3 million followers to remarks from Russian President Vladimir Putin that she said showed “what’s actually going on.”

Owens’ comment echoed a grievance claimed by Putin and other Russian leaders regarding the West’s negotiations with the Soviet Union after the Cold War.

The subject of the grievance is whether the U.S. and its Western allies promised the Soviet Union during negotiations over the reunification of Germany that they would not allow NATO to expand its membership east of the Cold War border.

The question has fueled decades of debate and disagreement over what was said around those negotiations, what was meant by it all, and whether Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and other leaders received certain assurances regarding NATO’s expansion beyond East Germany.

But even historians who argue that the Soviets were led to believe that NATO would not expand farther to the east told PolitiFact Owens’ statement is more wrong than right. No binding, legal agreement ever codified the terms that Putin’s camp — and Owens — now say were violated.

“Such an agreement was never made,” NATO says in a fact page on its website, one of multiple pages that addresses the Russian allegations. “NATO’s door has been open to new members since it was founded in 1949 — and that has never changed.”

We rated Owens’ claim Mostly False >>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X7Ng75e5gQ

I regard the above as having a measure of credibility given I do follow Politifact not because they say what I want to hear, but rather they provide context to statements and policy.  I also find their fact check reporting is seldom challenged by other sources and they do not have to back-step anything they’ve reported.  Especially when other fact checking sources say the same or similar things.  Also, Politifact doesn’t “just” pick on Conservatives or their bent.  Here’s another example…

A recent Washington Post column, “The Fact Checker”, is an example of what I might assign as a fairly credible/objective post regarding something a representative of the current Biden administration has stated that was indeed of marginal fact.

Can Florida’s gay teachers show photos? The White House claimed not.

(Source: HERE)

“Teachers in Florida have already faced the devastating consequences of the existing law. Under threat of having their licenses revoked, gay teachers have been forced to take down pictures of their spouses from their desks and censor their classroom materials.”

— White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, at the daily press briefing, April 20

Many readers contacted The Fact Checker after Jean-Pierre, at the White House lectern, lambasted an expansion of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, popularly known among critics as the “don’t say gay” law. When Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the law last year, it prohibited instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for students up through the third grade. That changed earlier this month, when his administration decided to impose such restrictions on all public school students, including fourth through 12th grades, with certain exceptions.

What’s in dispute is Jean-Pierre’s claim that under the law, gay teachers have been forced to take down pictures of their spouses or loved ones. Many readers believed that to be incorrect.

It’s a complicated issue, so let’s dig in.

We won’t take the space to “dig in” here… but I encourage the reader to check out their fact checking.  As it turns out Ms. Jean_Pierre was not totally accurate.  Now, I dislike DeSantis politics as much as Trump.. but I value indeed when fact checking like this does include OBJECTIVE reporting.  Accuracy matters.  Here’s an interesting observation that can get lost in all this divisive politics… both sides of the argument are human.  So no one side can claim infallibility in everything.

Now, how do I know any fact checking source is a factual final authority.. or.. that they are not operating from the biased political whims of a mogul owner?  Well, I don’t.  That brings us to Part B of this Avenue of Hope post (coming soon), Avenues of Hope #1-B:  How I Determine The Sources I May Use.