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):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsL6mKxtOlQ
It’s a little rough, but it gets the job done in a substantive manner.  Enjoy.

-Mary

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: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil’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.

© Mary Strayhorne ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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