An Exercise in Critical Thinking Inspired by George Carlin:  What Likely Happened in Benghazi, Sept. 11-12, 2012

By Mary Strayhorne 

Published July 14, 2017

This is a response to an email with a George Carlin clip I received from my brother back in July of 2013.  I had invoked a personal moratorium on all things television media-related to take a break from the bombardment of torture footage.  It lef me to be more selective and reflective of my information gathering on current events.  Boundaries are good, my friends.

For your reference, the clip is available following this line and was posted courtesy of Dan K. Schroeder via YouTube (published August 1, 2010):
It’s a little rough, but it gets the job done in a substantive manner.  Enjoy.


On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 9:52 AM, Mary Strayhorne <> wrote:

Hey, I’ve been saying it all along. And with an ungodly amount of time [o]n my hands, I now reflect on a few items in that regard and provide with a short study on critical thinking. (Yes, I’m this bored…)

Using a Critical [Lense]. Last time it paid off for me? Take another look at the whole Ambassador Stevens misinformation campaign online. I talked to mom about this. I was first shocked by torture photos I saw on Facebook that a poster claimed was Steven. But, I was more shocked by my instinctual and powerful […] response and belief that this was him. I instantly agreed, ‘death to the infidel’ (wait, I mean Libyan terrorists…). Critical brain was triggered and I instantly stopped and said to myself, wait…why would they do this? I sought out the answer to that question that would satisfy my knowledge of the facts, but first, I had to gather ‘facts’. (Incidentally, in a side note, unemployed lawyers have waaaay too much time in their hands, clearly!! ;))

Fact Gathering and Analysis. I had to think through that one to figure it out. Like most lazy people, I went straight to Wikipedia (a [great] place to start on a subject you know nothing about, but never accept Wikipedia as truth and, by all means, do not ever quote anything from Wikipedia as fact). I read up on Stevens and realized how barren and uncommitted the account of Stevens death was, which then led me to take a look at the edit history on the page (a great, valuable, underused tool on Wikipedia). For months, the ‘death’ of Stevens was debated in lines of code. Critical brain says, ok, the death is unclear. Solve this problem my mind nagged and time permitted. 

Hesitantly and regrettably, I looked at gruesome photos, some of poor Stevens being pulled out (clearly, already deceased) from a burning building, with the marks of soot asphyxiation evident on his face (black stains on his mouth and nose) and others of other poor men tortured and photographed, claimed by terrorist groups and other Internet scholars as Stevens. It was hard to see these images initially, I admit, but thank god for the mercy of a critical mind.  

I began seeing conflicts in the photos. I looked at these photos and realized, Stevens not only had a wardrobe change twice during his alleged torture experience, but even the ‘terrorists’ were turned over twice and had gone retro, with not a single cell phone present in the frame (as was so blatantly present in the clear photos of Stevens removal from the building). Furthermore, Stevens’ body and face showed no signs of consciousness, but his eyes were open. Even the government investigators (yes, the government) made statements that there was no indication whether Stevens was alive in the photos. The undeniable and clear photos of Stevens show a man who clearly died in a fire. What do we learn so far? Truths can come from anywhere. Don’t ever, ever rely on generalizations, like ‘well, once a liar, always a liar’ and vice versa. Truth can come from anywhere, in many forms and in different quantities. It is the job of the individual critical thinker to judge the facts as truth. This is no easy task for even the trained mind. It requires a great deal of thought and dedication to fleshing out truth. Anyway, back to the ‘facts’.

Logic and history tell you that the easiest way to get someone out of a bunker or an animal out of a hole is to drown or smoke them out. Stevens was held up in a safe room bunker within the makeshift compound in Benghazi, fully furnished with plush, highly flammable interiors. The place was set ablaze by an act of terrorism. Arson by any standards is a serious crime and worthy od being labeled ‘an act if terrorism.’ However , setting a fire does not invariably lead to an inevitable conclusion that the arsonists mean to commit to torturing the inhabitants. Critical mind at work, Stevens was arguably more valuable alive than dead. Again, don’t ever rely on generalizations that ‘terrorists’ are fundamentally uncivilized. This generalization assumes an underestimation of their strengths and gives them the power to launch a 9/11. Don’t let them off that easy. Fair enough.  

Now, by American tort-established standards of trauma protocol in emergency situations, the random Libyans, of course, not trained in either civilized body removal protocol, nor public relations, dragged Stevens out very crudely and laid him out. Some took pictures on their phones (true reasons for each person unknown) and others had phones out in general (arguably to take photos to document the truth…not being tortured, maybe, or yes, posterity to celebrate they got that Stevens…OR to perhaps call for help….but we dont know for sure. Add to pile for consideration.).  

Autopsy photos (sadly, yes, these were online too…assuming not doctored, though no evidence was clear) showed Stevens with no serious lacerations on his face to evidence the alleged torture in the other photos claimed as Stevens, including the one I saw on Facebook. The guy simply died in a fire, all evidence points to that. Any other claim made by Libyan groups, terrorists, conspiracy theorists and the photos of alleged torture are simply posturing.  

Truth. Who writes the truth? My recent and surprising suspicion of media news outlets led me to do my own research, and I had time. Most media accounts claim Stevens died in a fire, as was also the conclusion made in the autopsy. But, some other network news organizations made sensationalist claims of rape and torture (ah hem, Hannity…) I’ve done a lot of fact finding and digging to weed out and confirm what is the evident truth, though arguabley incomplete. Like many others, I’ve lost faith in news organizations, though the story reported by many was simply he died in a fire. I had to put on a different set of eyes to see that the body was removed in a manner appalling to American standards, not necessarily dragged out for torture.  

Stevens was a member of that community, with many ties to the community and well-liked. He was careful and smart and he knew when the hell to get out of dodge, but even the smartest of people are overcome in fires, even in this country daily, given all the resources we have.  

The people of Libya, though quite different from Americans in culture, still are a somewhat civilized society, or at least trying to be, though currently adrift in a sea of disorganization.  

Answers. Facts gathered, reasonably, and analyzed. Now what? Find an answer, an explanation that makes sense. BUT, before you simply accept my reasoning and fact gathering as truth or even an acceptable/unacceptable explanation, I urge you to do your own fact-finding. Prove me wrong. I implore you to be a Devil’s Advocate.

The Internet, at this point becomes a liability to truth. A distraction, as Ray Bradbury so vehemently warned (before agreeing to a large sum of money to publish Fahrenheit 452 as an eBook).

Again as Ray Bradbury said when they tried to electronify Fahrenheit 451: “there is no future for e-books, because they are not books. Ebooks smell like burned fuel”. Why burn books wen you can simply alter their truths ever so slightly and undetectably. One word could change the entire context of a well-written and concise story. I defer you to the art of comedy as an example of this.

Incidentally, Bradbury finally caved, but he warned online (ironically and to his own admission) that the Internet could be a good tool, but it is a distraction….from the truth. A well-known maxim: the individual is intelligent, people are stupid. As individuals, we will seek to answer the questions that nag our minds and we as individuals decide when that has been accomplished. We seek answers, they just didn’t know they had to work harder to seek the right and true answers. The internet has the power to affectively turn us into a mob. what makes a mob? A collection of manpower with direct lines of communication. The internet is the great virtual forum. Mobs used to form outside city halls, town squares and halls of justice. Now, they form in a virtual world where passions can intensify and claims made with anonymity. People are less likely to temper their passions while screaming hidden behind a veil of anonymity (or even from a hidden bunker, buried under the brick and steel of a nondescript building…titter titter).  

Access to massive amounts of information has not only reduced news to snippets, but also undermine the credibility of facts and news as an effective effective oversight mechanism to government (i.e. Watergate). Have we fleshed out an underlying battle or war being waged under the surface? Maybe.

Back to eBooks. Why burn them when you can electronify them and kill two birds with one stone: (1) change the story in subtle, but fundamentally altering ways (2) to read in favor of the policy of the powers that be (what or whoever they are). Ive already heard claims that people i know have already seen ‘errors’ in his online books. I wager that you will start to see a tend among book collectors emerge that shows a high demand for hard copy texts published prior to September 2001. Just a hunch.

The Devil’s Advocate. You all may instinctually cringe at my inclination to play devil’s advocate….but, I urge you to invite this tool into your minds, for it is truly the only choice you have, the power to question everything. As a critical thinker, you have no choice but to play the devil’s advocate (take a look at this interesting opinion on history:’s_advocate).

To be a free thinker, you must not allow others to convince you that this is a negative quality to be crushed by social acceptable norms. The purpose of this tool and by its very definition negate the argument against playing devils advocate because anyone claiming to be devils advocate is a bad versus a good is in himself playing the devils advocate!!! Don’t be fooled into thinking with the masses.  

My Answer. The point (hopefully not lost to my lack of brevity) is this: we have got to remain a society made up of intelligent individuals to survive and thrive in a free society and the key to individual intelligence is critical thinking. In the end, you must ask, why, but don’t settle for any answer. You must settle for only the truth and, sometimes the truth remains an open-ended suggestion. You will not always find closure, completion, conclusion or peace in the truth, but you will know for certain you’ve remained a critical thinker that keeps a cautious eye on the world around you and you will learn from this to help you maintain your survival, which, in the end, is all we aim to do…survive. Revel in the truth that you are a truthseeker and you will remain awakened from the blue pill version of the American dream.


Nasty Women and How to Deal with their Unfortunate Lack of Class

Why Women Can Be So Mean to Each Other and How to Protect Yourself


“Some women don’t play by the rules. Many times, though, we realize this only in hindsight.

We assume her warm overtures are genuine, so we extend our friendship and trust.  However, instead, she betrays us, often at great personal and professional cost.  We may wonder what happened and why we didn’t see it coming.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. Some women haven’t left behind the childish games they learned on the playground in elementary school.

Little has changed as they’ve gotten older, except they’ve become much better at bullying others, under the radar. They’ve become masters at creating chaos without tipping anyone off, except the unfortunate victim who’s still pinching herself to see if this really happened, and wondering if anyone else would believe what she’s just experienced.

A few social scientists are now beginning to study and publish ground-breaking work on adult female bullies, because, for too long, most people assumed they didn’t exist.”

The Founders Intent with Respect to the Electoral College

A response to Lawrence Lessig’s article, “The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton.” (24 Nov 2016 Washington Post).  Lawrence Lessig is a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of “Republic, Lost: Version 2.0.” In 2015, he was a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary.

Lessig fell short on two major points:

  1. The founders intended the electoral college to be a circuit breaker, yes, but to prevent the mob mentality of a minority of states with greater population concentrations forcing ideology on the majority of states.
  1. Clinton has been subject of many investigations and scandals over the years, including being up for potential indictment during the campaign for her actions holding public office, which, if followed through during her presidency, she’d be impeached, like Nixon….effectively a disqualification.  Trump has not been indicted, nor was their any pending indictable offenses.

“it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.”

Perhaps, there should be an amendment to the constitution that disqualifies a candidate under investigation for alleged indictable crimes carried out while holding public office.  The reason being that even if they do get into office, they may be impeached anyway and, if not, they certainly hold a powerful position to actually curb investigative activities during their term or give the appearance of impropriety.  A long held principle in the law is that a judge must recuse himself to avoid the look of impropriety in the interest of justice.  Why should the executor of the law (or even legislators and administrators also) not be held to the same standard?

From Federalist 68 on the electoral college:

Read More

Post-Trump Victory & Uncertainty: A Note to the Fearful Masses

To anyone who fears a Trump-fueled racist fallout, read this and allow it to guide your wisdom and strength in these uncertain times.

Being American is not about race, it is about nationality and how one identifies themselves.

We are all Americans.

We welcome you and your views. We also welcome the right of people to use the democratic process to choose a leader.

Though Trumps words were poorly chosen, we still have an opportunity to communicate to this leader that we will not stand for the mistreatment of any citizen or visitor to our country. Period. Read More

Censoring the Internet

China’s scary lesson to the world: Censoring the Internet works

By Simon Denyer, Washington Post

May 23, 2016

BEHIND THE FIREWALL: How China tamed the Internet | This is part of a series examining the impact of China’s Great Firewall, a mechanism of Internet censorship and surveillance that affects nearly 700 million users.

Also, take a look at our previous post on censorship and surveillance:

Our Inevitable Descent into Censorship: A story that begins with surveillance

Political Stalemate or a Sign of Things to Come

Do both primary popular GOP and Democrat candidates think they are above the law, what is next?

If popular GOP candidate Donald Trump’s comments about forcing the U.S. Military to act on illegal orders to torture insurgents (on the battlefield?) and Hillary Clinton gets indicted for yet another Clinton ‘Emailgate’ scandal for breaching national security, what happens next?

At this point the top two candidates are appearing unfit to lead the nation.  This may be the first accurate result of how the media plays an integral and dangerous role in the American political system.

Hillary Clinton’s litany of scandal

Last Night, Donald Trump Disqualified Himself

E|S|P Daily Dose of Founding Perspective

Today’s founding perspective is from Thomas Jefferson on the nature of politics and government:

“Let those flatter, who fear; it is not an American art. To give praise which is not due might be well from the venal, but would ill beseem those who are asserting the rights of human nature…Open your breast, sire to liberal and expanded thought. Let not the name of George the third be a blot in the page of history…The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail. No longer persevere in sacrificing the rights of one part of the empire to the inordinate desired of another; but deal out all equal and impartial right…This is the important post in which fortune has placed you, holding the balance of great, if a well poised empire.”

(As quoted in Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power)


Our Inevitable Descent into Censorship: A story that begins with surveillance

“The “spiral of silence” is a well-researched phenomenon in which people suppress unpopular opinions to fit in and avoid social isolation. It has been looked at in the context of social media and the echo-chamber effect, in which we tailor our opinions to fit the online activity of our Facebook and Twitter friends. But this study adds a new layer by explicitly examining how government surveillance affects self-censorship.”

Elizabeth Stoycheff, assistant professor at Wayne State University and the lead researcher of a recent study that “shows that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor their dissenting opinions online” was “disturbed by the findings.”  The study–published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly and reported by the Washington Post–scruitinized “the effects of subtle reminders of mass surveillance on its subjects” where “the majority of participants reacted by suppressing opinions that they perceived to be in the minority.”  Stoycheff said that “participants who shared the “nothing to hide” belief, those who tended to support mass surveillance as necessary for national security, were the most likely to silence their minority opinions.”  Mass surveillance silences minority opinions, according to study (Karen Turner, Washington Post)

She further remarked that “the fact that the ‘nothing to hide’ individuals experience a significant chilling effect speaks to how online privacy is much bigger than the mere lawfulness of one’s actions. It’s about a fundamental human right to have control over one’s self-presentation and image, in private, and now, in search histories and metadata.”

With an almost lethargic sense of irony, I was pretty dispassionate about this tiresome conclusion.  Fear of being judged is hardly a novel revelation.  Think back to high school, someone was always watching or being meticulously judged for dressing funny, acting strange, or generally being out right weird.  Guilty.

I was never very good at censoring myself and still (clearly) have a penchant for being borderline criminally outspoken.  So, censorship.  What does it look like as it evolves in a modern digital age?  How does surveillance play a role in the devolution of the unhindered flow of ideas?  Wait, why was I not in a rage about this?   My critical thinking brain triggered and thus began my barfly research and blogging tendency. Read More

E|S|P Ponderance of the Day:

“We were under [the] conviction of the necessity of arousing our people from the lethargy into which they had fallen as to passing events.”  Thomas Jefferson on the reasoning behind the Day of Fasting and Prayer resolution of Tuesday, May 24, 1774.

Anyone up for a fasting this Tuesday, May 24, 2016?