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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Critical Thinking and Social Media- Reagan supported the Brady Bill and exploring an "annomemeage"

Just a couple days ago I wrote an entry titled "Thinking critically about critical thinking"

This was a rather verbose entry to try to explain critical thinking.  This included a quote by Richard Dawkins, a quick look at the Wikipedia entry on critical thinking, and an "analysis" of a handful of other material.

The Dawkins quote is elegant and the Wikipedia entry is nice too.  I tried to point out how the Wikipedia entry uses the word "claim" and that a claim may not obviously be recognized as a claim. But on the quote from Dawkins- there is a little problem with this too.  Here is the whole quote again...
Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: 'Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?' And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: 'What kind of evidence is there for that?' And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.
That first part "Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important..." still doesn't completely get it (and I don't think it is supposed to).  This bit about someone telling you something- just as with claims you may not even realize you are being told something.

Now when you see some political... I will call it a "political annomemeage" (coined it right now) in social media... just by seeing it you are often being told something- "somebody is telling you something." The problem is there are multiple messages.  Consider this annomemeage (annotated meme image):

To be clear this was delivered to me on Facebook.  This is not created by me.  This is not modified by me.  I even left the little "credit" in place.
What is the creator or person who shares this saying?  I think these are reasonable:

  1. "Ronald Reagan believed in the Second Amendment"
  2. "Ronald Reagan would not support the gun control people are discussing at this time"
  3. "Ronald Reagan was consistently against gun control"
  4. "I like Ronald Reagan"
  5. "Ronald Reagan took a bullet and is tough for doing so"
  6. "Ronald Reagan was a good president, did not support gun control, and this is a reason to question it"
That should do for now.  This is what "I hear" when I see this.  I am even suggesting that a good portion of others would interpret it similarly, and acknowledge that this is up to interpretation.  If you can agree that this is reasonable let us examine these briefly....

Guess what, number one: "Ronald Reagan believed in the Second Amendment" is a claim.  Same for numbers two, three, five and six.  Number four "I like Ronald Reagan" as with all of these are interpretations.  The annomemeage seems to put Mr. Reagan in pretty nice light, and the wording added to the photo seems to suggest something favorable- regardless it is not a claim.

The important part...

Look at what this image can potentially tell you.  The claims it makes.  Because they are reasonable to believe  they do not meet Dawkins' threshold as messages that require further curiosity as they are not "the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation"  As a consequence this can serve as misinformation.

Let me explain what went through my head when I saw this it was a sequence something like this:

  1. Okay yet one more thing expressing opposition to gun-control
  2. Oh look they are trying to use Reagan who was supposed to be so widely loved to sell a case again... they want people to think "since Reagan held this position it is the right position for the country"
  3. Yes obviously Reagan was outspoken in opposition to gun-control as he was Republican
  4. Hey wait a second... people on "the right"  have a habit of throwing Reagan around even though the party has completely changed... I wonder what I can find about Reagan and gun-control...
This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now -- the Brady bill -- had been law back in 1981.  -Ronald Reagan
In case I seem like some sort of left-wing nut I am not.  This purpose of this is to simply encourage people to exercise more "critical thinking."  If most people heard my views on gun-control they would automatically assume I was a fringe right-winger as I am against it.  Remember- your views and thoughts need not be limited to one of two collections- all or nothing.

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