The picture above is how I feel about my “conspiracy theorist” label. I truly try to think critically about subjects that matter and have taught my students and children to do the same thing. But I find that in the JFK Community, this isn’t always the case. In fact, I no longer feel there is a JFK Community.
So what is critical thinking? Here is the definition I agree with in a statement by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul, presented at the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform, Summer 1987:
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference. Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking.
Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior. It is thus to be contrasted with: 1) the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated; 2) the mere possession of a set of skills, because it involves the continual use of them; and 3) the mere use of those skills (“as an exercise”) without acceptance of their results.
Critical thinking varies according to the motivation underlying it. When grounded in selfish motives, it is often manifested in the skillful manipulation of ideas in service of one’s own, or one’s groups’, vested interest. As such it is typically intellectually flawed, however pragmatically successful it might be. When grounded in fairmindedness and intellectual integrity, it is typically of a higher order intellectually, though subject to the charge of “idealism” by those habituated to its selfish use.
Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought. Its quality is therefore typically a matter of degree and dependent on, among other things, the quality and depth of experience in a given domain of thinking or with respect to a particular class of questions. No one is a critical thinker through-and-through, but only to such-and-such a degree, with such-and-such insights and blind spots, subject to such-and-such tendencies towards self-delusion. For this reason, the development of critical thinking skills and dispositions is a life-long endeavor.
For years I have been searching for my grandfather’s film: The Orville Nix film of the assassination. The original is missing. There are copies everywhere but no original film I could have studied. My search, like my critical thinking skills have been life-long endeavors.
This last week, Russ Baker of WhoWhatWhy.org was tipped off by an FOIA expert that he had found a cache of over 3000 files that would be released next year. Baker’s blog said these classified files included information about the Nix film, Autopsy photos, Zapruder film and more media.
Reading this on Facebook no less, I was hit by an emotional Tsunami. My stream of consciousness thoughts went something like this:
EXCITEMENT: Oh my God, there are classified files relating to the Nix film? Maybe they will shed some light on what happened to it. Maybe I should call my lawyer! HURT FEELINGS: Wait a minute, Russ Baker knew this and didn’t call me? Wait a minute, someone wrote it in a mass email and no one called me? ANGER: WHAT THE HECK? I thought these people thought it important to find the film. Finding the Nix film fills in at least one corner of this huge puzzle. Why has no one called me? I’m sure many people know about this and no one had the time to pick up the phone and call me? DISILLUSIONMENT: No, this is how it always is. Someone gets a “scoop” and to hell with sharing it with the family of a witness who was mistreated. Why am I doing this? Why? No one truly cares about the truth anymore. People are just looking for money, power and the need to say, “LOOK AT ME, I FOUND THIS FIRST”. RESOLVE: I need to go look at these files…I need to see if they give me a clue as to what could be so secretive about the Nix film. DOUBT: I need to call my friends to make sure I’m not over-reacting. I need to call the man who found these files (which I did, he’s really very nice) DISAPPOINTMENT: It wasn’t true. Someone made an “editorial error.” There is nothing regarding the Nix film in this find.
So I called Betty. I talked to Trish. Chuck called me. I called Jones. Chris messaged me that he had already perused the FOIA files and found nothing related to the Nix film. (for the record, the only one from Texas was Betty, the rest live in other countries or far from me) These are my true friends who care about finding answers to this 53 year old mystery.
They all said the same thing. “Gayle, there is no such thing as a JFK community. Everyone wants to act like they’re in this together, but they’re really not. Stay the course. Do what you do. People don’t think like you do, they just don’t. They don’t think humanely or critically. They only care about being the one who breaks the case, and quite frankly, finding the Nix film would put a damper on their ability to keep the conspiracy going. If you find it and it shows something, conspiracy is proven. If it doesn’t, you’ve hurt their bread and butter and reinforced the official record. No one cares if its found and those are some of the reasons.
It made sense.
But I refuse to become cynical. I refuse to become jaded. There are people out there who think of community like I do: People sharing information with one another to find answers to this horrid event. We don’t help others by sharing secret information with one another but not the community. We don’t throw unverifiable information out there without the caveat that it is theory or that “it was just written because that’s what I think happened.” Come on people, that’s what the Alphabet groups do. Why are we emulating the very same behavior that we detest? By the same token, those so called researchers who are planting disinformation; fudging interview notes; placing theory before evidence, you are behaving like the powers we detest—you know them, the secretive, nosy, “its better you not know” attitudes and actions of our Intelligence agencies. WE MUST THINK CRITICALLY!
Knowledge is power. Power to the people. People are individuals. Individuals can make a difference. Making a difference is what we should all be striving to do.
So for those of you who call yourself truth seekers, check yourselves and your icons. Heroes don’t self-promote. Leaders don’t step on another’s head to become a little taller. Friends don’t withhold information that could help another friend. There are far too many Elmer Gantry types in this group of people. Bragging that you’re a best-selling author, a living witness or proclaiming you have all the answers is preposterous and pompous. Truthful people don’t change their stories every few years. The truth ALWAYS prevails though not always on our timelines or timeclocks.
So is there a JFK Community? Or are we just a bunch of special interest groups splintered by lies, disinformation and greed powered by our own agendas?
I wonder what the Kennedy, Oswald and all the verifiable witnesses families think of these attitudes? Or do we even care anymore? Using our critical thinking skills means we DO care.
Try it sometime.