Let’s play a game called Critical Thinking for the American Adult. I promise it will be fun.
First of all, get some popcorn and a coke (in the South, all soft drinks are called “cokes” because we invented the stuff, and we intend to never let you forget it.)
Find your favorite seat on the sofa. Oops, don’t forget to grab the remote, since that’s the most important part of this game. So, turn on the television, and get ready for a fun, learning adventure.
To begin our game, find one of those mainstream news networks. It doesn’t matter which one; it really doesn’t. Just pick one, and let’s begin our game.
Watch and listen to one entire news feature from start to finish. (For example, the story could be as earth-shattering as what the Kardashians accomplished today, or it could be as insignificant as a White House news briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And yes, that is sarcasm.) It really does not matter what the story entails. Simply listen to the presentation of that news story from start to finish.
***Warning/Game Disclaimer: This might be a time-consuming portion of the game because there could be as many as nine commercials in the middle of one news story, especially if it is a hot news topic. After all, advertisers are not stupid; they know what holds our attention. So, bear with the nine separate new prescription drugs they are advertising. And please avoid purchasing them as well. I mean, have you really listened to “the possible side effects?”***
Enough said! Let’s get back to our game.
Once you have watched one news item (and only one) from start to finish, quickly grab the remote, and turn to another mainstream news channel, preferably a competing news source.
Listen and watch until you hear a report on the same news item you just listened to on the other station. Again, it may take a while for this site to cycle back around to your chosen story. But have no fear, it will come back around within 15-20 minutes, because each and every station has cyclical news, running over and over with virtually the same topics.
When you find your particular story and hear it in its entirety, turn off the television. You heard me. Turn it off immediately, because here’s where the real game begins.
Now, stop and take a few minutes to quietly think about both stories. In your mind, compare the two stories by looking for similar facts. Then, contrast the two news stories, and find where the two presentations differed.
Examine the underlying tone of each presentation. Look for possible propaganda techniques, like emotional buzzwords, bandwagon, plain folks, glittering generalities, name-calling, transference, and a myriad of other leading or leaning thoughts – basically anything that is NOT an actual fact. As a reminder, facts cannot be changed or shaped; opinions, on the other hand, can definitely be molded and made, even at a national level.
***Another warning/disclaimer: propaganda comes from the word propagate, and the church was the first to use the term when talking about spreading or propagating the Gospel. So, not all propagation is bad. For example, if a tornado is coming towards me, please propagate that warning loud and clear. And through modern health propaganda, we now all recognize the negative consequences of bad eating habits. We just need to study media marketing propaganda and be aware of any possible manipulative motivations behind a message. We can learn to recognize such tools for what they really are by using some basic common sense.***
Now, back to our game.
Make sure to look at the graphics and stats used in your chosen stories. Were words like most, many, a few, a portion, quite a few, almost all, and similar words used when describing the stats? Were those words used in a negative or positive way? Did they bolster the numbers or diminish the stats?
Who delivered the story? Did the network use quasi-professionals (Did you know that is actually a propaganda tool, as well?) with impressive sounding titles to help push a point across? Did they have a “debate” on the topic?
If so, did the news commentator guide and direct the mini-debate? Did he/she give fair time to each debater? Did either speaker get turned off, shut down, or cut off in mid-thought? Were the questions stilted and opened ended, or merely yes or no questions? Which side or opinion got that last word?
Here’s a kicker! Take a step back, and really think about the actual concept of debating a news story, a supposedly factual news story. Why debate facts? If it were simply a journalistic story that reported facts, then why would there be a need for debate? That is oxymoronic, right?
After all of your critical thinking, go to the internet. Research the topic online. And again, look at different, even opposing opinions. Go back to the original event and the actual individuals involved. Then, go even farther back. Look for precursors to the event, the reasons and motivations behind the story. Find out who, what, when, where, why and how. Gather the facts for yourself.
Finally, repeat the steps of this game over and over and over again. In fact, every time you read or watch the news on television or via the internet, stop and actually think for yourself. Never take any news story, even ones you like or agree with, at face value. Refuse to simply listen and believe.
Most important of all, don’t forget to pray. I mean it. Ask God for His wisdom to see and know the actual facts. Ask Him to teach you how to assimilate today’s news. And go to the Bible for real truth. Use it to filter all the information we are fed and we take in on a daily basis via various media sources.
Knowledge is indeed powerful, so understand that every bit of news and information will either add to or tear down the kingdom of God. What we believe and ultimately do with the news we hear is up to us.
Remember – it’s really not a game. The enemy is determined to steal, kill, and destroy each of us, our families, and our nation. And he will use whatever means he can to accomplish that task, including the means of news communication, both its assimilation and dissimulation.
But we have direct access to God through His Spirit of truth within us, and He is willing to guide us into all Truth. And that is the best news of all.