This should go without saying, but a reminder can’t hurt: Don’t take “news” stories on their face. Examine critically. It’s a good brain exercise, as well as a needed and healthy self-defense mechanism for the mind. Consider sourcing, context, possible agendas, motivations, angles, and as appropriate, what’s not said about a story. This includes unstated aspects regarding the subject(s) of a story, in context of who they are, how they live, and past statements and actions. It’s easier to do for stories promoting themes you don’t like, but should be done for those with which you agree as well.
I’ll offer one recent example among countless many possibilities. A few critical thoughts on Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s criticism of European response to Koran burning…
* As for the subject of Maduro’s ire: I personally don’t approve of Koran burning and won’t be doing so — not because I’m afraid of anyone or anything, but because I see no productive point in it. The thought of doing so really hasn’t occurred to me, much as I have condemned many aspects of radical Islamism taken straight from the Koran’s most hideous teachings and violent verses.
* Freedom of expression and religion are duly and rightly codified in the very first amendment to my nation’s Constitution. As a staunch proponent of liberty, I ardently support and agree with the First Amendment in its literal, black and white words. That includes the freedom to write everything I write here today. I personally don’t approve Koran burning, but I support the freedom of others to do so as a means of expression. Same goes for Bible burning (my own good book!), which I intensely oppose morally, but which is a protected means of expression for some. I personally don’t approve of much of the Koran itself, but I support the freedom of others to express and worship from it peacefully, whenever and wherever they wish. I personally don’t approve of much of what the Left endorses, nor statements of truly racist people on either end of the sociopolitical spectrum, but I support all their freedom to make awful statements. [As I often write: The First Amendment doesn’t say “except” or “unless”! Expressions of leftism or racism, much as I detest both, are, and should be, Constitutionally protected.] I also expect to exercise my freedom of expression without governmental restraint: to approve or disapprove of anything…to oppose parts of the Koran, to attack leftism and collectivism as I often do, and to discuss freely anyone’s statements or other behavior regarding any topic. Maduro’s endorsement of governmental restrictions on expression fly in the face of the ideals of liberty, so I oppose them. Were he a U.S. citizen, Maduro would be fully, legally entitled to his expressions, as I would be equally to rebuke them.
* This specific story is common in headlines from sources such as Sputnik, Tass, RT, and others known to be sympathetic to socialist and communist regimes. I won’t click on a TASS, RT or Sputnik link, or any other state-controlled media like Xinhua or People’s Daily, nor offer one to you, in case it delivers malware or trackers. I recommend you avoid them too if digging further into this specific story. But I have read of Maduro’s quotes elsewhere.
* Critical thought is…critical! It starts not with the story, but the source. One question I often ask is, “Why is this medium pushing this story?” From the outside looking in, it’s pretty easy to see (for example) TASS or Al Jazeera selectively publicizing this for propagandistic manipulation. Those or Xinhua aren’t alone, mind you; most modern media, including right here in the USA, have descended into this practice. I grew up in the inner city and learned to watch or shield my back habitually. Unfortunately, we now have to do so mentally with media stories.
* On the face, and taken alone in a rigidly impermeable silo with no context at all, he makes a compelling point. After all, what good comes from burning another religion’s good book, even if you don’t agree with it? However, as I often say, “Consider the source.” Maduro, like many famous populist leaders selectively wielding their stated faith for rhetorical leverage, acts purer than he is, in terms of living it out. [This reminds me of bible-holding Trump for one evening with his military accompaniment to the DC church, or Biden and Pelosi supporting mass abortion while claiming the mantle of Catholicism for the sake of public show. Using their good books as publicity devices without living by them!] The thoroughly devastating results of Maduro’s and his beloved mentor/predecessor’s programs in Venezuela bear it out. He ought to take the plank out of his own eye before dealing with the speck in another’s. That’s Biblical. Live it more than talk it.
* He criticized Koran burning by “racist sectors”. What didn’t he say? For one, that the public Koran burning was done by a native Iraqi, Salwan Momika, who immigrated to Sweden. Hardly “racism”! The burner has been labeled Christian but described himself on social media as “atheist and enlightened politician, thinker and author”.
* Maduro allied with Iran for economic reasons. He is pandering to extreme Muslims here. I doubt that’s coincidental. I wonder when Maduro will discuss the modern torture, summary executions and vigilante-style killings of hostages, “apostates” and “heretics” in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, or throwing homosexuals off buildings in Iraq, Syria and Libya, or the gang rape, torture and murder of Christians in parts of North Africa. Considering his regime’s own brutalization of dissidents, I won’t hold my breath waiting.
* Maduro the “Christian”…his being one of the most notorious human-rights abusers around today, with his Helicoide political prison and “The Tomb” torture center, it’s an understatement to say his actions make me skeptical about his alleged “Christianity”. Still, only God can judge for sure. Nobody is perfect. All sin. All will have to answer for themselves at Judgment Day. “All” includes me. And yes, we’re all created different but equal in God’s eye. God loves Nicolas Maduro and wishes to grant him salvation and forgiveness, even as evil as his practices have been. The same can be said for each of us, and anyone engaging in behavior you or I (or even God Himself) don’t approve of. That’s Biblical.
* With those due caveats stated: Still, in a pragmatic sense, the errors and sins of people in positions of high power have greater consequences for society as a whole than those of the average guy waiting on the corner of Commerce and Akard for a bus home. Therefore, the powerful should be held to expectations commensurate with their positions and influence, and yes, that means higher performance standards than you or me. It’s their intrinsic duty to live up to a loftier standard for what they do and say than the downtown bus passenger, by virtue of far vaster consequences. With greater power comes greater responsibility.
* His results at home belie his preaching about yahoos burning Korans somewhere thousands of miles away, an item totally irrelevant to his duties. It strikes me as a purposeful distraction tactic as well as pandering. He’s misguided, but not stupid…kill two birds with one stone (or statement, in this case).
Other critical thoughts certainly are possible, but those are some immediate examples, arising from just one little story that the great majority of Americans will miss completely.