This article is part of the Editor’s Corner and was written by Stacey Glaesmann, MA. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions or attitudes of The Silvercreek Tribune.
I haven’t willingly watched a news program in over 15 years. I say willingly because I am occasionally trapped in a waiting room with CNN blaring. Sometimes I ask the person with the remote to change the channel. Sometimes, I put in my ear buds and listed to music or a TedTalk. And yes, I work for a newspaper. It seems counterintuitive doesn’t it?
Let me explain. I have dealt with depression and anxiety my whole life, and it occurred to be one day that the news was just sad. So I turned it off and haven’t looked back. Yes, I’ll read news articles online for research or to educate myself, but I make sure to read several pieces on the same issue. If that seems weird it’s because critical thinking is often considered strange these days.
Critical thinking is defined as, “Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence,” according to the 2014 edition of the Random House Dictionary. It sounds simple enough; however, many times, the big news channels feed what little information they have to the public to basically shape the masses’ views, which usually stir up fear, doubt and controversy. People are easier to control en masse when they’re scared out of their minds or so busy arguing with each other that they don’t notice the big picture.
For example, have you heard of Ferguson, MO? If you have, it’s most likely because it’s the small town outside of St. Louis where a (white) police officer shot an unarmed (black) teenager in cold blood out in the street for no reason. Well, maybe because the (white) officer doesn’t like the (black) people that live where he patrols. In an astute act of protest, people looted the town. This is all that was broadcast about the actual incident for weeks.
People were mad! They were outraged! And not just people in Ferguson, either. I’m talking people in other states and even other countries! How dare anyone defend this racist guy who killed a kid in cold blood without provocation?
Thanks to the Internet and sites like Facebook and Twitter, people can influence others all around the globe into what psychology calls a “mob [or herd] mentality.” This occurs when a small group influences a person or people to do things that they may not ever do on their own. All social animals are hard-wired this way; thus the term “herd.” And many times, this can work for the greater good. One meerkat sends out the signal, the others run away from a predator. The tribe is saved! A media outlet releases potentially bad news for a company, the stock market tanks! Oh wait…that’s not so good.
What distinguishes humans from meerkats, among other things, are our higher reasoning skills. Sometimes, we forget that we have those skills when something catches our attention and then we see that everyone else is mad (or rioting or panicking or whatever). So, we join in, even though we may not actually know much about the issue at hand.
Anyway, let’s get back to Ferguson. So, the media tells people that some white cop killed a black kid for no good reason. Are you going to be the one who says, “Hey! Wait a second! Maybe there’s more to the story?” If you do, you could be receiving threats on your life from the rest of the herd! So, this is mainly why no one said it (or maybe someone did but took it back because you can do that on Facebook).
It’s now 2 months later and guess what? Forensic evidence and witness testimony has shown that there really was a reason for Officer Darren Wilson to defend himself against Michael Brown! The kid attacked Wilson in his cop car, trying to get his gun, and Wilson fired 2 shots, one striking Brown in the arm. And Brown had just burglarized a local convenience store, giving him a defensive perception even though Wilson was not aware of this at the time. No jury has acquitted Wilson at this time, but had rioters waited for all of the information about the issue, maybe they wouldn’t have been rioting.
Critical thinking requires us to be patient, yes. Investigations and reports are not produced overnight. But it is my opinion that being patient now can help me be a better person, mother, reporter and human being in the long run. I’d rather be silent then post something on Facebook that I’ll regret later (even if I can delete it). I want to be a positive role model to my daughter and to humanity in general because Michael Brown was a person, just like Darren Wilson is. Just like we all are.
For more information on the latest Ferguson information, visit CNN.com.
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