Be a Skeptic

For this I found a website called  They are an organization called the Skeptic Society, and also put out a magazine called Skeptic Magazine.  They are a non-profit organization.  They are an educational organization, who are dedicated to enlist professionals from backgrounds such as pseudoscience, paranormal, and fringe science.  They aim to promote critical thinking and act as a tool for anyone interested in a solid scientific angle.  According to their Skeptical Manifesto, ” Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, that involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena.”   They say something will become factual when confirmed by many, and that there is some form of agreement on its credibility.  Things such as water drowsing, ESP, and creationism have failed the tests, so they are therefore false.  When tests come in inconclusive, more research must be done to proof validity.  They give the example of hypnosis and black holes as research that continues to be inconclusive.  They say the basis of skepticism is to always apply the scientific method “to navigate the treacherous straits between “know nothing” skepticism and “anything goes” credulity.”  Since 1992 they have been putting out Skeptic Magazine.  It is a quarterly journal that looks at social and scientific controversies.  They also sponsor lectures.  They are dedicated to teaching controversial claims to the general public.  Their founding publisher Michael Shermer also is a columnist for Scientific American.  He has quite the resume, from college professor to author.  The Skeptic Society investigate a very large array of topics.  From cryptozoology and supernatural beings, climate change, economics, religion, to gay marriage, to out-of-body experiences, and even birth control.  They firmly believe in the scientific method “which involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena.”  And they use it to confront all the claims they investigate.  While I’m sure that each claim needs to be looked at in its own way because of the variety of material they cover, the basis for their research is firmly rooted in the scientific method, as well as proving causality.  The organization promotes critical thinking through several different mediums.  They put out a quarterly journal, they have their website, they send out and e newsletter called eskeptic, and they attend conferences and lectures.  They even have a telephone referral system open to the public, to access their information.  Dr. Shermer has appeared in over 65 television and radio shows, magazines, and public speaking.  They have appeared on Anderson Cooper, Penn and Teller’s Bullshit!, as well as many others.  They have been on radio programs like NPR.  They have lectured at colleges and highs schools all across the country.  You can purchase most lectures on DVD.  They have podcasts, blogs, and forums.  They even give geology tours.  In their section “Skepticism 101” on their website, you can be directed to resources that teach you how to think critically and to look at things skeptically.  They aim to look at things skeptically, not necessarily to disprove someones beliefs.

Dr. Steve Shermer has this to say about the Skeptic Society – “The primary mission of the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine is the investigation of science and pseudoscience controversies, and the promotion of critical thinking. We investigate claims that are testable or examinable. If someone says she believes in God based on faith, then we do not have much to say about it. If someone says he believes in God and he can prove it through rational arguments or empirical evidence, then, like Harry Truman, we say “show me.” … ”


The Future of Critical Thinking

When looking at pop culture going forward and to look at it in a critical thinking lens I will question the sources and the information.  Sources can not all be reliable.  You need to know who is writing or producing popular culture.  You need to think about why what being produced is being done so.  Where they went to school, where they grew up if possible, and who they are writing for could all influence the validity or credibility of the information portrayed.  You need to look into who is publishing the information and their affiliations.  You should see if there are organizations sponsoring websites or magazines and what their affiliations are.  Whether they be religious or political, will have a major implication in their possible bias.  You need to be open minded that what you thought about something could possibly be wrong or even dangerous to other groups of people.  Don’t believe everything you hear.  Be able to see the other side of the story, and allow others to have their view.  This is critical to critical thinking.  You must be able to see where that person is coming from or why it is that they believe what they believe.  My Facebook newsfeed is constantly being bombarded with information on pop culture and current events that need to be looked at in a critical frame.  Everyone has and opinion on things going on in this world and Facebook has made everyone an “expert.”  This is a medium where critical thinking is of the utmost importance.  There are so many articles that are completely biased, or just someone opinion being passed off as fact.  Even when it comes to watching cartoons you should be viewing them critically.  The Simpsons are a perfect example.  For the past fifteen years or so the Simpsons have been a reflection of the discourse of society.  One should think about the slants coming from the Fox network and their political views.  Since just about everything we see in our day to day lives in pop culture, such as cartoons and social media and advertising, we should be in a constant state of critical thinking.  Know where the information is coming from and from whom, know why who is saying what they are and you should be able to form your own informed opinion.


HAARP or High-frequency Active Aural Research Program.  The theory is that it can change weather patterns and therefore we would be able to control the weather.  These waves also are able to control minds.  This has been called “Microwave Mind Control”.  There are fields of antennas in Alaska, and apparently one in northern California, that are firing Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF) at the atmosphere.  These waves heat the atmosphere.  HAARP can also be used to disrupt enemy communications.  This technology has supposedly been around for nearly 50 years now.  This is a very multidimensional doomsday device that seems like something straight out of a comic book.  They are looking at the supposed patent of HAARP to support their evidence.  According to the patent “… large regions of the atmosphere could be lifted to an unexpectedly high altitude so that missiles encounter unexpected and unplanned drag forces with resultant destruction” (  HAARP is a very real thing, as for what it is that it actually does is somewhat left to the imagination.  I personally am a firm believer in many conspiracy theories, as far as this one is concerned I am not so sure.  There seems to be absolutely no real credible evidence whatsoever as to the validity of any claims.  There has never been any causal proof that the government is controlling the weather or our minds.  While looking into this I found information that I was never aware of, such as the mind control or disrupting communications.  The weather control is somewhat more believable.  With all of the crazy weather and large scale disasters over the past decade or two, it could seem plausible.

Language of Deception

1). “Most Canadian physicians who are themselves in need of surgery, for example, come to America to get it done. They have found, through experience, that state medical care can be expensive, is sometimes slow and inefficient, and, it doesn’t provide adequate care for some people.” (Rush Limbaugh, “See, I Told You So,” p. 153)

Words like scurry carry a negative connotation, and is often associated with things like bugs or rats.  “to get it done right: the American way” is very emotive, it causes a sense of superiority.  As though Canadians are coming here because their own system is insufficient.  The statements too expensive and too slow, sound definitive.  Can be expensive leaves room and so does the word sometimes, it leaves room that there is possibly other options.

2). “The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal rights group, traveled across the country last week during National Fishing Week activities and attempted educate school children.  PETA members stood outside schoolyards and distributed ‘Look, Don’t Hook’ toy binoculars to kids. A 6-foot-tall,  mascot, ‘Gill the Fish,’ stood nearby while activists spread the animal rights’ beliefs.  Kids, you should consider both sides of every story, sometimes groups have an agenda, take time to critically think about the information being presented.” (Michelle Malkin, “PETA, Go Jump in the Lake,” Philadelphia Daily News, June 19, 2000)

Traipse means to travel without apparent plan or purpose.  This is an organized group who clearly have a plan and a purpose.  Indoctrinate means to force your ideals, and deny everyone else’s.  I don’t think PETA is ever trying to force their ideals.  Saying they circumvented parents and teachers makes it seem like they are sneaking around, trying to brainwash children in a stealthy manner.  To be self indulgent is to be without restraint, the language in here, especially calling them terrorists breeds many many negative emotions towards this group.  Without all this language you now have an objective account of what took place.

3). “Many of the issues in schools develop from those who are teaching in them. Throughout the 20th century, there has been a difference of opinion between the public, who want their children taught intellectual skills, and educators who want to do fun things, shape children’s emotions, instill them with political correctness.  Teacher’s want their jobs to be easier, and to have a sense of importance for shaping our youth, who are the future of our society.” (Thomas Sowell, “Why Most Teachers Are Failures at Their Job,” Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 18, 2000)

When you say “the kind of people” you are attaching a label, and that phrase has a negative stigma attached to it.  Like saying, “those kinds of people,” generally comes with some kind of stereotype.  He is trying to provoke an emotion of us vs. them.  A tug of war makes it seem like educators are trying to force their ideals and ignore parents and publics concerns.  Here again we see the word indoctrinate, this is a very strong word, teachers aren’t trying to force ideas on students.  There is nothing wrong with being politically correct.  The language was accusatory, as if teachers were lazy and seeking nothing but gratification.

4). “[Psychology Today is] running an article using the phrase ’politically incorrect’, [sic] which is, Bill Maher aside, a motto for the complacent right wing [sic]. It’s [the content of the Psychology Today article] allegedly 10 truths about human nature that liberals are not interested in.… Most of the article deals with reinforcing assumptions on men and women, also presuming the idea that men’s libidos are temperamental and women seem to have a significantly lower libido. The authors are invested in testing the idea that men are physically incapable of being attracted to a woman over 22, or a woman with dark hair, or women who are not well endowed, etc., and that divorces are caused by women aging.… An evident concern was not the same justification for male transgressions or the same assumptions that women don’t have human-like motivations, but an ill-conceived and bold stereotype about suicide bombers.” (Amanda Marcotte, “Davy Crockett and the Suicide Bombers,”, July 10, 2007)

Phrases like battle cry sound like they are going to war.  Self-satisfied makes them sound arrogant, while complacent has essentially the same meaning, it doesn’t evoke the same emotion.  When you hear or say supposedly it’s implying they don’t really know what they are talking about.  Saying someone is squishy is an attempt at an insult.  Much of the language is derogatory and causes sentiments that this article is solely designed to make men look like animals.  It also uses a lot of first person pronouns, like me, which makes this seem like opinion rather than factual information. 


Subculture Fashion

Skinheads are a subculture that use fashion as a way of identifying other members of their group.  You can identify them by their shaved heads, red suspenders, combat boots, and tattoos.  While today when we see skinheads or hear about them we almost always associate them with racism.  They are affiliated with other groups such as the KKK and the Aryan Brotherhood.  But there are groups of skinheads that exist who are vehemently against racism.  SHARP’s for instance are a group opposed to what the skinhead culture has become.  SHARP stands for skinheads against racial prejudice.  If you look into the history of the skinhead movement it was never intended to be racist.  It wasn’t until a few years after its origin that hate groups begin to target skinhead youth because they were impressionable.  Very closely tied to the working class, the skinhead fashion was born out of necessity.  Steel toed boots because many worked in factories, and shaved heads for the same reason.  It became a uniform of solidarity.  With the competition for jobs and the influx of Indians into England, the group began to take a turn towards the skinheads we see today.  Hate groups used this influx of immigrants and the loss of jobs to breed hate into the group.


These are early skinheads from England

The fashion of American skinheads we see today is still pretty similar.  I asked my friend from back home who now resides in Philadelphia, where skinhead culture is alive and well, what it means to him, he is a black skinhead.  “To me it’s the family I didn’t have growing up.  They are my brothers, my sisters, and my parental figures.  When I see the boots and suspenders and hear someone yell Oi! to me, I know they are my brother.  They get me into trouble and keep me out.”  When I asked him about the idea of racism in the movement he had this to say, “F@*K them, they don’t know what it’s really about, and they don’t even know the history of what they are claiming to support.  When I see a swastika tattoo on one of these guys, I call them out.  If they don’t like me and what I am because of my skin, I’ll fight them, haha.”

black skins

Black skinheads were very common in England in the 60’s

Another friend of mine had some similar things to say.  “It’s about family.  Its a bond, a brotherhood.”  I asked him what it represented to those who weren’t part of the group.  “Well, depends on how you look at us I guess.  For most they think I’m a criminal, and that I hate everyone.  The only people I hate are yuppies, I f@*kin hate yuppies.  I hope when they see me they are terrified.”  Yuppies, by the way are white color workers, who are generally upper middle, or upper class.  They are everything blue color skinheads are against.

Know Your Sources

A source I use for information is NPR or National Public Radio.  For news on current events I often consult NPR.  I use it several times a week, if not regularly.  I used to have them set as my default homepage. More than anything I like the fact that they cover such a large range of topics  They are often challenging the discourse and present news from a liberal standpoint.  Having read through their ethics handbook they are a source that I trust.  To ensure accuracy of what they present they emphasize diversity.  They not only consult experts and influential figures, but they seek to hear the voice of everyday people.  They have very high standards for ensuring accuracy.  To ensure fairness they “present facts, not indictments.”  They do not presume guilt for instance when a person or company has been charged with wrong doing.  They say their audience can expect that they will deliver the best information they can.  They aim to show the complexity of stories, by being diverse.  They never use deceptive measures to get a story.  They never pose as something they are not.  They have an open policy to be corrected for any mistakes, if you happen to see one they welcome hearing about it.  Those interview they feel should never be surprised or disturbed by the way they will be portrayed in a story.  NPR has very high standards for the news they present, and for their journalists.  They have over 800 employees.  You can get a full biography on their editors, contributors, and various other staff.  For example editor Tonya Ballard Brown has also been an editor for the Washington Post, and attended N.C. A&T State University.  They list other projects she has been affiliated with.  Their page is easy to navigate and clearly kept up.  They are more than just a website, they have podcasts, radio shows, and a television show.  They offer news outside of the lens of dominant discourse, they have a very diverse staff, and present their news in a diverse manner.  They tell stories from all perspectives.  NPR is very careful about the content they publish.  They have very high standards for the information they present.



Before ever even seeing an advertisement for Zoo York I owned probably a dozen or more t-shirts.  Not to mention shoes, and hats, and hoodies, and backpacks.  I was a walking advertisement for these people.  The designs jumped off of everything and into my brain.  The lettering reminded me of graffiti, and that’s what they are based off.  That’s who they were catering to, representing the alternative lifestyle that came with skateboarding and tagging (graffiti).


Their slogan is “True East” and being from the east coast that also spoke to me.  Zoo York is a skate company and while I myself don’t skateboard, I was very into bmxing.  Bmxing and graffiti were two of my favorite past times as a teenager in a small town wishing I could go to the city, where all the action was.  New York was the closest real city and anytime I went to visit I wore one of my Zoo York shirts.  I love the attitude and image of being from the east coast.  Fast paced, take no bullshit, the accent, no matter where you go in the country when someone hears that east coast accent they know it.

The cockroaches and their accents, cursing out people, reminds me so much of growing up in New Jersey.  Talking to each other in our Sopranos sounding accents, insulting each other, and each others mothers.  Although since moving my accent has almost completely diminished, when ever I see one of these commercials it comes back for a day or two, or when I run into my brother and we get to talking, fuggetaboutit.  These advertisements felt as though they were speaking to me directly.

That’s where I wanted to be, amongst the masses.  I even tried my hand at skateboarding just to try to fit the image of myself I was portraying.  Even now working on this post I want to grab my hoodie, my bandana, my bike, and a can of spray paint and go out and leave my mark all over town.

I also have a deep love for old school hip-hop.  I would always have it blasting out of my headphones as I hopped on my bike and rode it eight or nine miles to the skate park.  All of these things reminded me of where I wasn’t and where I wish I was, but when I see one of the Zoo York logos I feel as though I could be there.