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There are times I wonder if a significant chunk of Americans have pressed the off button on their critical thinking skills. They’ve chosen to throw common sense, logic, and reasoning ability out the window in favor of distortion, invention and wild speculation in order to preserve their personal biases. If facts get in the way of confirming enshrined biases, some folks simply abandon the facts.

Most of the time, I prefer to believe it’s only a minority of the public that prefers to discard facts in order to justify their biases, but sometimes that’s a questionable assumption.

Politicians spin hype and falsehoods routinely, and knowingly, because it serves their agenda — partisan advantage, rewarding or placating campaign donors, and winning support from that portion of the public who have turned off their thinking button. (Remember Arizona Senator Jon Kyl’s explanation that his previous day’s speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, peppered with egregiously incorrect facts, “was not intended to be a factual statement.” So why say it?)

As the U.S. Supreme Court justices take up the issue of the constitutionality of the mandate provision of the healthcare reform act, it’s worth remembering that the mandate was added only after the mindless mantra of “socialized medicine” killed the original proposal to allow uninsured Americans to buy into one of the health plans offered to federal employees and to Congress.

Many folks who railed against the “public option” as socialized medicine simultaneously suggested the public should be offered the same health plans as Congress, and with their thinking button turned off, they failed to realize the public option was precisely what they said they wanted.

And when Republican politician after politician screamed “socialized medicine,” the non-thinkers couldn’t connect the dots — if it’s socialized medicine, why does Congress have it, but the public can’t? In fact, Congress loves their health plans so much that they’ve written rules to allow all past, present and future members of Congress to remain in the plan for the rest of their lives. Yes, indeed, anyone who serves a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives — two years — is entitled to remain in the federal health plan forever — a nice little perk for the politicos who denied the public the right to purchase their beloved plan because it was evil.

I mean, really, one doesn’t have to even think hard to see the illogic of the socialized medicine accusation — one just has to think, period.

Now, I’m seeing the same evidence of disconnected thinking buttons in the pursuit of preserving biases in the circus surrounding the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida one month ago. A stroll through the blogosphere convinced me many folks are operating with their thinking button turned off.

Instead of having an honest dialogue about questions of racial profiling or the merits of the Florida law itself, we’ve veered into discussions about whether “hoodies” makes one more likely to be killed for no justifiable reason. The bias promoters and the non-thinkers are taking the public discourse into some strange tangents, in part to avoid legitimate discussions that might threaten their biases.

Commenters on news Web sites have shouted “TRAYVON MARTIN WAS SIX FEET TALL,” as if his height alone made him menacing, and thus George Zimmerman more justified in using deadly force in whatever physical interaction actually took place. That ignores, of course, that Zimmerman had more than a 50-pound advantage over Martin’s slight, but tall, frame.

Some commenters defended Zimmerman by pointing out the gated community had experienced a recent crime wave; therefore, they reason Zimmerman had good cause to be suspicious of anyone walking on the sidewalk talking on a cell phone. Turn the thinking button on and imagine, then, how Martin might feel when he realized he was being followed by a stranger in a pickup truck in the same community, armed only with a bag of Skittles, an iced tea and a cell phone.

And “hoodies?” C’mon, it was raining that evening! Isn’t that what the hoods on sweatshirts are designed for, to protect the head from the weather?

The broadcast news coverage of the tragedy of Martin’s death has zigzagged into inanity and ridiculousness, but I’ve come to expect that from our fact-free broadcast news medium.

I’m still hoping the majority of Americans will out-think the news performers by switching their critical thinking skills to the “on” position.

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