One of the rewards of ‘dumb down’in post social media age is the rewarding of ignorance, conspiracy theories, armchair experts and lunacy. Amazing what one can learn on the back of a postage stamp. Kakutani calls this the ‘Death of Truth, Hedges The ‘Empire of Illusion’, Carr ‘The shallows’ Nichols ‘The Death of Expertise’ and Keen ‘#digitalvirtigo’. There are many more who despair at this age that lacks discernment in a post-truth reality where critical thinking is in short supply.
In these times of the facebook effect (Kirkpatrick), when people don’t exercise even the fundamentals of critical thinking, spin and propaganda (Jackson and Jamieson – ‘un-spun, finding facts in the world of disinformation’) thrive in a world of disinformation. Disinformation drives people to a form of unhealthy doubt, the doubt of the ‘i don’t know’ and ‘no-one knows’ view that helps keep the status quo of wealth and power. This was clearly demonstrated in Merchants of Doubt (https://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/). How easy it is for vested interests who own the media to cloud judgment by the non-discerning, not by entering debate but by casting doubt on expertise and making everything ‘opinion’.
In this current COVID-19 crisis it is astounding to watch journalists, politicians and commentators with no expertise in virology or epidemiology sprout forth absolute nonsense to their adoring crowds. One of many examples is Alan Jones (https://www.thechronicle.com.au/news/alan-jones-dangerous-coronavirus-theory/3974814/) with a BA in education spruiking dangerous theories about disease. Another is the fish and chip shop owner come politician who exploits a crisis to fuel racism (https://www.standard.net.au/story/6688114/covid-19-shuts-our-doors-in-a-non-pauline-hanson-way/). Or fundamentalist Christians telling congregations the blood of Jesus is going to save them from a virus (https://www.bordermail.com.au/story/6678412/court-says-blood-of-jesus-will-protect-church-from-coronavirus/ ). The list goes on and on of those with absolutely no credibility spruiking forth their own agenda in the guise of altruism and expertise. Please!
In the current climate it is entertaining to watch each day as right-wing commentators and politicians move into the socialist space they were condemning 3 months ago (https://www.sbs.com.au/news/federal-government-advises-against-domestic-travel-warns-of-more-draconian-measures-to-enforce-social-distancing ). How strange that the moment politicians listen to expert advice that everything is being closed down. All that silly doubt and naivety of dumb down doesn’t look so good as the statistics double every three days and our health systems stares collapse in the face. As health and medical systems are at breaking point (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/10/panic-chronic-anxiety-burnout-doctors-breaking-point ) all of a sudden, the Jones and Hansons of the dumb down age look pretty dumb. I wonder how the anti-vaxers (https://theconversation.com/au/topics/anti-vaxxers-75557 ) will go when the COVID-19 vaccine comes out in 12-18 months time?
When we do the Social Politics of Risk Workshop (https://cllr.com.au/product/the-social-politics-of-risk-unit-14/ ) we explore every facet of critical and cultural theory and the skills required to be discerning. We provide some basic tools for critical thinking such as The Critical Political Questions Tool to help get started
Figure 1. Critical Political Questions Tool
Many of the fundamentals in critical and cultural theory are neo-Marxist. This tradition/discipline more than others knows how to deconstruct: history, politics, power, vested interests, manipulation of information, bias and prejudice, historiography skills, tackle evidence and interrogate sources.
These should be all fundamental skills for every safety person. All WHS curriculum should start with modules of study in Ethics, Critical Thinking and Education and Learning. Of course, these are not the foundation of Safety, that is why we end up with such nonsense publications in Safety as the AIHS Bok on ethics (https://safetyrisk.net/the-aihs-bok-and-ethics-check-your-gut/). Blind Freddy can shoot holes through its unquestioned bias, shallow analysis, simplistic assertions and undisclosed agenda
One of the reasons so much silver-bullet snake oil stuff finds a home in the safety industry is because of a lack of critical thinking. Critical thinking is the first base when it comes to being professional. When the most important thing in the industry is compliance, controls, regulations and zero, no wonder critical thinking is so demonized.
Whilst I got off Linkedin 4 years ago, I am still sent stuff from this sewer and wonder why safety people bathe in it. The pooling of ignorance on Linkedin is simply unhealthy for safety people and would be better off leaving it.
Of course the reasons we know DuPont are complete safety frauds (https://safetyrisk.net/dark-waters-the-true-story-of-dupont-and-zero/) is because of critical thinking. For the same reason we know Boeing don’t care about safety (https://www.bbc.com/news/business-50845475 ) along with a host of other zero harm shysters. If you apply just a gram of critical thinking to zero ideology it falls over. Anyone who denies the fallibility of humans is up to something.
Yet, zero remains the most dominant ideology for the safety industry and the global mantra for an industry that is yet to think critically, ethically or professionally. How many injuries do you want today? is the question that defines an industry that still unable to think and discern Real Risk (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/real-risk/).