The first course I ever took at the University of Texas was logic.
It wasn’t by design that I signed up for “Logic 101.” It was by accident, really. Logic sounded like an interesting subject and besides, the classtime fit perfectly into my schedule. Thankfully, that unintended course taught me more about how to think than any other endeavor. Being exposed to the rigorous practice, that’s to say the trial and error of how to properly test and discuss an idea set the tone for the remainder of my college years, and for my personal and professional life.
Taking Logic 101 also provided me with a clearer understanding of how and why science isn’t merely one subject of many, to be segregated into a separate classroom on its own aside math or literature. Science was actually was the nitty-gritty all-inclusive machinery, of both means and methods, the gateway to every question in the entire universe — including what we (think we) know and what we’ve yet to discover. Science is the handy toolbox allowing us to unlock all human curiosities.
All students everywhere should be required to take logic as a prerequisite for graduation. If someone isn’t able to think critically, what’s the point of getting an education? Without logic, whatever else follows is like constructing a skyscraper on top of quicksand. The foundation collapses. No amount of subject knowledge later on can compensate for a lack of understanding of how logic works, in other words — thinking logically.
When one speaks of logic, what this really means is thinking critically. One must always be open to new ideas, even ideas which might initially seem strange or be objectionable, even repulsive. Otherwise, there’s no opportunity to learn and evolve. I’m terribly troubled where I hear someone say their mind can’t be changed on any given subject. That’s not just close-minded. It’s inherently self-destructive to the betterment of the body, mind, and soul. Virtually all of us, anyone who is human, has changed an opinion on one subject or other — based either on personal experiences or when confronted with a preponderance of evidence. That’s critical thinking. That’s logic in practice, or at least the ideal reaction to logic.
Sadly, logic has become decreasingly relevant in modern society, particularly on social media, and even more so in today’s toxic political environment. Logic is almost to the point of extinction. Compelling evidence suggests that logic no longer matters, at all. Hence, to be thoroughly logical (and trustworthy) with my readers, what I wrote in the previous paragraph isn’t quite true. Yes, the sad fact is — you can build a house on quicksand. Indeed, someone can be both successful, very successful, and illogical. The new President of the United States is the perfect example.
President Trump and many of his most outspoken supporters often engage in illogical tactics. A certain level of rhetoric is to be expected, of course. But this is something quite different, something historically unprecedented. The Trump Campaign, which has now morphed into the Trump Administration clearly intends to continue the same tactics used over the past two years, which is to deflect, to confuse, to frustrate, and ultimately to wipe out far more logical counterarguments. This is entirely willful and premeditated. The Trump camp knows precisely what they’re doing. Unfortunately, it works. Dark is the new light.
On what is the first full day of the new Trump Administration, today’s poisonous basket of outrageous, demonstrably false statements — made repeatedly by both President Trump (at CIA Headquarters) and a scumbag named Sean Spicer (at the White House Press Briefing) — prove beyond a shadow of any doubt that the new Administration intends to invent its own data, squash any conflicting facts, and then go on the attack all those who’s job it is to actually seek information and tell the truth in the public interest. This isn’t just annoying, it’s absolutely terrifying. Even Trump supporters should be alarmed when on the second day of the job, both the President and the Press Secretary tell bold face lies to cameras, particularly on an issue with most would consider to be trivial.
A minor issue which should have been yesterday’s news and largely forgotten was reignited by President Trump himself (not the media), who on the solemn occasion of supposedly honoring the hard-working professionals within the intelligence community, instead launched into a petty Dr. Strangelove-like tirade on one of the most irrelevant topics of any Day One presidency in the history of the United States. Upright in front of the wall of honor, a marble memorial which pays tribute to the men and women of the CIA who gave the ultimate sacrifice (their lives), President Trump mocked the occasion and flipped into another campaign speech and then, much to the astonishment of the former CIA Director who was watching, used the awkward occasion to behave like a bratty thin-skinned kindergartner, bickering with his fellow schoolboys over who gets to play with the ball. Several minutes were wasted arguing over the most trivial subject (the number of attendees at Trump’s inauguration), which had been settled already with proven facts by just about every media outlet in the world, with ample photographic and statistical evidence.
Yet, this behavior wasn’t anything unusual for a man and the movement which scares the hell out of many sane people who are more used to a Commander in Chief with which we have a common baseline for decision-making, despite past partisan differences. Even those who hated LBJ or Ford or Carter or Bush knew there would be basic agreement on a set of easily verifiable facts. If The Trump Administration can’t even accept basic factual evidence on something as meaningless as mall attendance at his inauguration, what happens at 2 am in the Oval Office when some kind of real executive decision needs to be made about North Korea firing a nuke or ISIS launching another terrorist attack? What will the new President do in the not so distant future when bad inevitably things happen and we need strong and steady leadership which takes facts and evidence into account?
Well, it appears that the zebra never changes its stripes. Self-delusion has been the modus operandi of Donald Trump his supporters, not just from the moment Dear Leader first announced his reality television show-brand driven candidacy, but from the very foundation of the ultra-reactionary Tea Party movement, which took fertile root in the rich dung of division and hate, then sterioded by a frantic obsession to destroy absolutely everything associated with the Black guy living in the White House with the Muslim-sounding name. Logic be damned, even when the Obama Administration unquestionably saved the nation from plunging into a Great Depression, cut unemployment by 40 percent, saved the auto industry from total collapse, withdrew troops from two unwinnable foreign wars, or even tripled the grotesque profits of greedy Wall Street, which is something conservatives should have been rejoicing. Had Republican posted President Obama’s identical record, conservatives would be lobbying for another face carved into Mount Rushmore. The trouble was — the Republican hardliners couldn’t take any credit for all the good stuff this time. So, when the facts weren’t political convenient, they made up their own. And that’s exactly what President Trump and his supporters have done, and continue to do. Nothing, it seems, will change.
Writer/pollster Nate Silver coined the term “the Spread,” which best describes the popular tactic used by Trump and his supporters, particularly on social media. I’m told this term stems from his days as a high school debater. The dubious tactic goes like this: When losing an argument, respond aggressively by slinging lots of outrageous charges and counter-arguments, really fast. Being bombarded with an abundance of nonsense often succeeds because it buries the more logical argument with confusion. The solid fact-based argument eventually gets forgotten. The more thoughtful fact-based debater is snowed under by an avalanche of misinformation.
From pivoting to different topics, to ad hominem attacks, to constructing false straw men, the Trump Administration has mastered one thing, at least, and it’s both dubious and destructive. Telling a bold lie over and over and over again until it’s finally believed is an old tactic that was once used so effectively that it eventually led to one of the worst periods of human history. Indeed, that’s all it took. A few lies were repeated often enough and were by a charismatic leader that enough people believed them, and then they shut off their brains and abandoned logic.
If history repeats itself as some have suggested, we are living in dangerous times.