Note: I include a very simple and basic logic-course starter in my collection, The Matrix Revealed. I present a long audio section, “Analyzing Information in the Age of Disinformation,” in my collection, Power Outside The Matrix.
Modern propaganda, PR, and advertising use non-logic to sell their ideas and products. They rely on nudging people into making associations between images and ideas and feelings. X=Y. A summer afternoon in a pasture equals a pill for arthritis. Three men in suits shaking hands in a boardroom equals making money in the stock market, if you use broker A. Citizen safety equals men-in-black policemen driving Pentagon armored vehicles down a city street. A brand of SUV packed with giggling kids equals a happy warm family forever.
Associations, equivalences. Join two ideas together that don’t belong together.
This gives rise to the notion: “Information is merely an opportunity to make any associations I want to. There’s no reason to analyze information.”
Read an entire article? Absurd. Much easier to look at the headline and play an aimless riff on it. Stimulate the flow of adrenaline. React. Feel better. Feel deprived. Feel entitled. Whatever floats your boat.
IQ plummets? Who cares?
Who would want to teach logic to students? What a waste of time. The purpose of education these days is injecting values and slogans and attitudes; associating those values with attractive images. For that, you don’t need a mind. You only need mush that can be shaped.
And after what passes for a high school education, the mush is there. It has no clues about processes of thought.
Nevertheless, just suppose a teacher wanted to go where no one has gone for a hundred years or so. How would he start? Where would he start?
At the bottom.
Take a newspaper article about politics. Have the students read it. Then ask them: what does the first paragraph state? What is it saying?
You may be surprised at the variety of opinion.
“It says Martians will be here soon.”
“It says President Obama was born in Hawaii.”
“It says cooking rice is easy.”
“It says I’m triggered and vulnerable.”
Carry on a discussion for as long as it takes, until most of the students know what the first paragraph actually states. This may be a half-hour, a week, a month. Who knows?
Repeat the process with each paragraph of the article. If that takes a year, so be it, because you can’t move further until students understand the text. I know that is a mystical and esoteric notion, but accept it on an experimental basis.
Next step: ask the students whether the author of the article is trying to make an overall point. Ask them what that point is.
“His point is he doesn’t like working-class people.”
“He loves cats.”
“He wants everybody to move to Mars.”
“He’s asking us to give money to Marco Rubio.”
Your work is cut out for you. Keep going until the fog clears. Have the students read the article over and over until most of them see the actual point the author is trying to make.
Then—how did the author try to convince you his point was correct?
Then—did you see a hole in his attempt to convince you? A gap? A wrong move?
This is the general sequence of steps. Basically, you’re sticking the students’ noses in the text. Again and again. You’re focusing them on specifics. You’re showing them the difference between their own opinions and random associations and what the author is saying.
You’re doing the one thing they’ve avoided doing. You’re standing in for every incompetent teacher they’ve ever had. You’re reversing years of desultory derangement in classrooms.
You’re making students more intelligent. That’s a very tall order. It takes commitment. If you don’t have it, get out of the business.
Consider a subject I’ve been writing about lately: the Zika virus.
Here is a progression which, if followed, leads you to interesting places:
Researchers are saying: “the Zika virus causes a birth defect.” What does that statement mean?
How must causation be established? What are the rules?
Have the rules been followed?
That simple group of questions takes you to the conclusion that there is no evidence for Zika as the cause of the birth defect—if you proceed in a straight line, allowing no distractions, such as pronouncements from public-health agencies and governments.
I could teach a four-year logic course using Zika.
During that time, I would introduce a few dozen false and vague generalities, opinions, and diversions that have been deployed to keep people from walking that straight line. These logical flaws are often utilized in arguments, in order to cook the books.
Mainstream news is a wonderful source for non-logic.
And it also leads you to propaganda, when you realize that all nonsense can’t be an accident.
It also leads you to a course on journalism: how it’s usually done; how it can be done. Investigative reporting is an opportunity to be relentless. Following down a major story to its roots is an illuminating experience. You end up building an alternative structure that parallels and supersedes the official structure. Your archeological mission unearths a city that no one knew was there.
In order to accomplish this, you have to be willing to deal with details, one by one. Examine them, see where they came from, determine whether they’re relevant, whether they’re obfuscating the main event, whether they’re false, whether they were placed there to lead you away from the truth.
Logic is one system you can count on. It helps you tell the difference between what you know and what you don’t know.
Logic topples authority when authority is wrong.
It mitigates aimless and random personal attacks and accusations. It offers a perspective through which dubious sources of information can be viewed.
Logic isn’t the ultimate ground of existence. It’s a tool that can be used to assess the validity and probability of a formal argument.
It isn’t an answer. It’s a way of arriving at answer.
It shows you the difference between an assumption based on belief and a purported fact, which is either true or false.
Logic allows you to move inside an overly complex argument that has been promoted to hide the truth. Once inside, you can give the argument a haircut and see its essence.
In a world flooded with information and disinformation, logic isn’t the be-all and end-all. But without it, you’re floundering in the ocean. You’re swimming inside holes and gaps, instead of being able to see the holes and gaps.
The interesting thing is: once people actually know what an author is saying; once they know what conclusion he’s reaching; once they know how he’s getting there; they can see the flaws and the omissions and the insupportable inferences.
They can see the line of reasoning, from beginning to end.
The lights go on.
A heretofore mysterious territory comes into focus.
The differences between fact, lie, assumption, argument, polemic, and propaganda emerge and the mind begins to breathe.
Perhaps for the first time.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.