A Clear and Present Danger

I am referring to what passes for communication today, and especially from leaders and those with access to large audiences.

I started noticing a growing problem with the 2nd Bush Administration (sorry for immediately going political here, but it cannot be helped). I would see spokespersons for the 2nd Bush Administration say something absurd, usually in response to or attempting to defend the Iraq War, and then as the last sound and breath escaped their mouths, they would break into this huge smile. I thought, what is going on here? Are these folks going to some summer camp for politicians and being trained to do this? And how stupid are we to accept this kind of conduct? With each passing day, the level of absurdity and lack of truthfulness grew, and there was no consequence for any of this. By the way, did we ever find Sadam’s weapons of mass destruction?

Now, slide forward to the Trump candidacy and his Pinocchio filled with lies presidency. I am sorry this seems so one-sided, but the Republicans have perfected this art of passing off the absurd and lying. I am speaking here with the voice of an Independent, I am not enamored with the Democrats either, but they do seem more cautious with passing off lies and conspiracy theories and just plain malicious fibs. The malicious fibs is getting to be a category all to itself.

Comedians go on stage and share absurdities for the purpose of making us laugh. We know the bargain ahead of time and are willing to participate in exchange for a laugh. We are not being duped and we understand this right from the get-go. It is all meant to be theater and we understand this.

There lies the difference today with political speak. We are being used as an audience in a farce and we have not agreed to this bargain. There seem to be so few filters out there, and too many of us have shut off our filters or they never worked to begin with.

Where the breakdown in public communication seems most egregious is the lack of consequence for the speaker of pure lies and untruths. I swear today many of these speakers are shouting the most horrible and damning statements just because this is how they get media attention. We do not hold the spreaders of lies and untruth accountable for their deceits. The media is somewhat to blame for covering much of this sewage and giving oxygen to the bad bacteria in the mouths of these nefarious speakers of lies, malicious fibs, and out and out untruths.

There are all kinds of critical thinking skills that should be exercised by us as an audience, and we seem to have lost our moral compasses here. Some of us seem to be unable to reject bad speech, bad thinking, and malicious communication. I keep going back to secondary level education and wondering what is not happening here. I know we are now experiencing a world of reluctant readers and maybe this is the consequence of just that.

We have been faced with a national emergency in the last two years, i.e., the pandemic. And yet, so many of us get our science from folks that probably never passed a high school science class and their one great skill is connecting with the Q Anon team, or who knows, maybe they are self-proclaimed high priests in Q Anon.

Then, we have the other spreaders of toxic speech sewage, the folks with the hate talk shows, the folks that spread it so deep and stinky there is no treatment for the smell of their verbal sewage. I think we all can associate some names here.

And then, we had a president who learned how to do all of this from an attorney that was later disbarred, Roy Cohn. Roy Cohn came to prominence as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel and advisor in the 1950s. Roy Cohn was later hired by Trump’s father during Donald Trump’s younger years to tutor and mentor Donald Trump in all of the bad acting and lack of redeeming qualities that we have come to know with Trump. This has all been pages taken from the Roy Cohn playbook and I think these pages are being passed out at Republican gatherings and used for inspiration.

The only remedy for all of this is to reacquaint ourselves with critical thinking skills, or if you are not familiar with what I am talking about here, there are many good sources available on the internet. Here is a good one:

Click to access Wabisabi_Learning_critical_thinking_cheatsheet.pdf

Ernest Hemingway used to speak about his personal filter as such: “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” Well, we all need one of these, and we need to use it.

Take care and use your filters – demand the truth from those that speak to us. Nothing less is acceptable.

Published by Ed Pirie

I am a Vermonter, been one all my life. That just about tells you all you need to know. I am not much of a follower and like to do my own thinking. I value my family and a quiet existence in a very rural part of Vermont. There is a lot in the world I do not understand. My writing is my attempt to wrap my head around much that is swirling around me. Some time ago gasoline pumps changed to the way they look now. I had stopped to fill my Jeep and I could not get the gas to pump to save my life. I went inside and complained to the attendant. She knew me and said, "Ed, the whole world is changing and if you don't figure out the changes you are going to fall off the earth as it spins around." Well, I am not always successful figuring out the changes, but my writing is my way of working through some of them. I hope you enjoy.

Join the Conversation


  1. Although some may have lost the ability to think critically, in most cases they never learned how to think in this most important way. Learning to think critically must be a part of every person’s education beginning in elementary school. When students see this thinking modeled by adults in the school system and when they are taught how to think this way, it becomes almost natural for students. Critical thinking must be taught at every grade level as the complexity of texts increases. Only then will we have voters who are able to see through the lies and misconceptions that we are faced with every single day.


    1. I used to say to my students when we were tackling ideas and problem solving, “Ok, I am going to give you a window inside my head. I am going to do my thinking out loud to share with you. ” My students, these were high school age young adults and some older, always liked it when I did this. I would invite them to comment while I shared so they became part of the process. We would evaluate ideas and comments together. My thinking was just as open to question as theirs was. We would thrash through problem solving out loud like this and it worked. What was most important was the sharing of the process of critical thinking and my approach to a problem or a challenging idea. It really helped when the problems and challenges were new to me too so I did not have any preformed thinking. It also helped that we had established a level of trust for each other and negative criticism was mutually agreed to be out of bounds in the discussions. These were some of the best times in my classes.


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