Today marks the second birthday of My Back Pages: Question the Answers.
Yup, that’s right. My Back Pages: Question the Answers turns two today. It has been a rough adventure of discovery and fun, and I hope that my readers that have followed me from the start concur.
I decided to save this day to address what I consider to be a very important topic for this site as well as my own personal philosophies, and that is subtitle of this site: Question the Answers.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. ~ Aristotle
Put in the simplest terms possible, one should question the answers to whet out the truth. No idea should be accepted as is. It must be evaluated and questioned for veracity. Placing thoughts to such a test would strengthen their reliability. This species of doubt is part of the larger tree of logic, and living by it is critical to living philosophically. One should not adhere to an idea as is, but should establish a rationale for adhering to it. Only by doing so does he know that he knows the truth.
Deceived and Duped
"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality." - Albert Einstein
Few would disagree that grilling thoughts to strengthen, eliminate or revise them is a bad thing. However, its importance must be established.
Questioning the answers is a skill that far too many people today lack. They are easily duped by lies and untrustworthy forces to do frivolous or unethical things. With mass media, television commentators and personalities can almost effortlessly control the opinions and thoughts of the unquestioning masses. Without evaluating these ideas for veracity, people are led to adhere to a sometimes untrustworthy perception of the truth.
Take for example, conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh has been accused multiple times for holding imbalanced views on his show, and to a great extent he does. Media watchdog groups monitor his popular shows for inaccuracies and unsupported claims. Holding a strongly anti-liberal stance, he has been known to use personal attacks when criticizing environmentalism and feminism. Despite his controversial claims, Limbaugh has developed a large and devoted following. However, Republican intellectuals from his own conservative party criticize him sharply for creating a bad reputation of anti-intellectualism. Republican Councilman Charles Brown said “Regardless of political labels, for any radio announcer to wish a riot on a city so his party could win, that's disgraceful and it's absurd.”
Limbaugh’s devoted following is evidence that approaching the media with a curious and questioning mind is intellectually beneficial. Those duped into blindly advocating unverified claims and personal attacks must learn to entertain thoughts without necessarily accepting them. Neither outright accepting or blindly resisting ideas, but evaluating them, is the best intellectual course of action.
Facebook Groups and Why Gullibility is a Crisis
In recent months, Facebook has become a soapbox for scam-marketing, histrionic attention-mongering and attempts at garnering large amounts of fans or members. These attention-mongering Facebook pages present us with evidence of a gullibility crisis and further prove that the skill to intellectually approach claims is urgently needed.
Thus, fan-pages, a system created for independent businesses and artists to market services and connect to fans. Yet, a scourge of arbitrary fan-pages spreads like wildfire. Most of these fan-pages are poorly disguised scams to accrue the most fans possible. Using bait and switch mechanics, page-keepers can lure in tens of thousands of fans. For example, the page titled “OMG I LOL’D SO HARD AT THIS GIRL WHO TEXTED HER DAD INSTEAD OF HER BFF!!!” has, as of this writing, 1,731,841 fans. In order to see the image of the girl texting her dad, one must become a fan. The page itself contains several links on it that indicate it is a marketing sham. These links are titled “DOWNLOAD THE LATEST MOVIES FOR FREE”, "CUSTOMIZE YOUR FACEBOOK LAYOUT” and “NAUGHTY EMO TEENS”. The presence of these links are an obvious indicator that the page was created to market links using bait-and-switch tactics. The fact that 1,731,841 people fell for that ploy, amid obvious evidence that it was a marketing sham, is a shocking indication that the vast majority of people today accept things without prying to comprehend them.
Even more shocking is the page titled “We Will Not Pay To Use Facebook. We Are Gone If This Happens ►► INVITE ALL!”. At an appalling 43,285 members, this group is testimony to the gullibility of people today. Like the previous example, the page shows obvious signs of being an attempt to accrue members by asking members to invite all their friends. Even more shocking is the fact that, despite overwhelming evidence that Facebook will never charge a fee, the group grows exponentially daily. Although it is a well-known fact that Facebook makes millions daily from advertisement revenue, that the company will likely lose the overwhelming majority of its users and that the paysite-model is exceedingly rare outside of pornography, members are constantly being brought in by hysterical and outrageous claims. Such claims, can be easily refuted by even the slightest questioning of their veracity. Despite a Snopes article definitively proving these rumors false a week ago, the group’s wall is constantly updated with writings such as “Not paying! Why would I when I can talk to my friends in other ways” and “If you start charging to use facebook I also will leave”.
It is self-evident from these two Facebook groups that a large number of people can be duped into performing actions through outrageous claims and deceitful marketing ploys. People are not questioning the ideas and thoughts that they come across, and unfortunately, they can be dragged into unwittingly believing untrue things (i.e. the Facebook charge).
Maintaining an Open Mind
“A wise man changes his mind, a fool never” ~ Spanish Proverbw
At the same time, questioning everything one comes across leads to the inevitable danger of creating closed-mindedness. Indeed, the problem of closed-mindedness is one that I struggled with a few years ago. Thinking I was being unique and individualistic, I fought against cogent arguments and basic truths. In writing this post, I fear that some of my readers might misinterpret this as encouragement to resist the ideas and thoughts of others. By all means I am against this misinterpretation and will not let my readers fall down the same path I did years ago.
I stated earlier that one should question things to search for truth and meaning in the world around them. This search for truth and meaning entails developing the willingness to question any thought, including one’s own. At the same time, no thought should be rejected outright in the same way that no thought should be accepted outright. In being open to outside influence, we find truths more cogent and logical than our own. The positivity of being open to the influence of others should go without saying. By questioning ideas that influence us, we can make ourselves stronger and more cogent.
For over a year now, this blog has went by the motto of “Question the Answers”. My goal in writing most blog posts was to analyze and question commonly held beliefs and dispel their verisimilitude and reveal objective truths. In doing so, I developed myself to become a more honest, kind and open person. I hope that I was able to share a bit of that development with my own readers.