Be an Independent Thinker
(a case against extremism)

by Bradley Knockel


Why Think Independently

Scientific studies show that US citizens' policy beliefs have little to do with whether they identify as Democrat or Republican, yet they typically vote how they identify (not on their policy beliefs). Voting should not be like choosing a football team! Don't choose a team; choose your mind and the best candidate, and let's do our best to be independent thinkers. Reason is less extreme than the political parties, so let's help reduce extremism.

Scientific studies show that people who strongly identify as Democrat or Republican are far more likely to believe in many conspiracy theories (each party believes somewhat different conspiracies). Don't believe in conspiracies! That is, don't be an extremist who thinks based off of a label! Be an independent thinker instead. Trying to see fact and truth is hard enough without a pre-packaged ideology coloring your thinking.

Interestingly, the most "informed" people are often the most ignorant/extreme. Many people fill their brains with irrelevant political facts. For example, debates are had, but often not a single commentator is concerned about the subtle logic of the arguments or their factual underpinnings, but on the show and the game as if the debate were a sporting event between your hometown and the rival team. Commentators talk and talk, but about such trivial things, yet people think that they are becoming informed by listening to all the spin. The media does this to get your views because substance, logic, and facts are not as sensationally entertaining. The worst thing for the media's views would be for them to explain to both parties how wrong they are and that they need to think independently! Personally, I find deep analysis to be deeply satisfying. The deeper you go, the more interesting things get!

Do I have an ideology? If you call trying not to make decisions based off of ideologies an ideology, than yes I do! I probably have others too, but I especially try to make very general words like Republican and Democrat not be them. Where has this "ideology" taken me? Well, when I talk to typical Republicans, I am regularly shocked at how they value their guts (or "common sense" as they call it) over a more detailed factual analysis, and how they can repeatedly push facts aside. When I talk to typical Democrats, I am regularly surprised at how much they value their bleeding hearts (or "empathy" as they call it) over the bottom line. I choose facts and science, especially in this complex interconnected world that we live in, a world that our brains did not evolve to handle! Our guts and empathy are very important for our small-scale daily interactions, but science and logic are needed to build countries!


How to Think Independently

How do you think independently? Firstly, don't watch any 24-hour news network. Instead, look for facts. Google things like "Is it true that ______", especially if something sounds like a conspiracy theory, then click on as many diverse sources as you can. For an issue, you can often Google what other countries do and the pros and cons. If it's good, think about if/how the US could do it. Then try to figure out why we aren't doing it—it's likely due to the extremism caused by our two-party system, but could also be caused by the US's commitment to certain high-cost freedoms (guns and a poorly-regulated free market). Oh, and never get your news from social media. NEVER. Or TV or radio ads!

Honestly, I don't often follow the news! We need to stay minimally informed so that we know which issues we need to research, but quality is my goal. The human brain is hungry for new information, and it can even get addicted to it (many people are addicted to checking their phones for the latest text or headline). In this age of information, we can get distracted from what really matters. Perhaps the age of information should be called the age of noise!

Next time you plan to vote, fill your brain with facts, then see which politician supports the science and the facts. Never vote for an extremist who cannot compromise or work with people of differing opinions. Compromising is especially important when the majority of Congress is the opposing party! Some politicians would rather keep the world broken to make the other side look bad than get messy and actually fix some things. Keep in mind that, sometimes, a politician doesn't need to be correct on a certain issue due to the specific position they are running for!

In general, try to avoid making decisions based on broad ideology. Instead, look at the details and facts of each issue. Ideologies are the brain's way of being lazy. An ideology I am careful to avoid is using religion to make decisions for a country because the religious founders of the US smartly wanted separation of church and state (look at the Middle East to see why this separation is still so important!). Just because you think your religion is against abortion, is it really against it when the baby's brain hasn't started forming? Just because you think your religion says to reject and hate homosexuals, does it really say to judge and be unkind? Just because you think that your religion says that sex education and birth control are evil, did you know that teaching safe sex reduces the amount of premarital sex? Look into the facts and examine your religion with more detail and care!

Feel free to vote for one party more than other(s), but do it based on the facts, policies, and leadership skills. If you are viewed as conservative in some countries in the EU, you might be globally moderate! If you are viewed as a bit liberal in the US, you are probably globally moderate!

The remainder of this webpage is examples of how facts differ from the extremism that results without them.


Police

Conservative extremism: The police are amazing! Only a few are racist! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: We should abolish the police! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: Everyone is racist in that we all have implicit biases. There is a huge problem with racism and brutality in the police force. 40% of police beat their wives (they are violent criminals) yet are trusted with carrying guns and handling sensitive racial disputes. Actual police are not the "savior" stereotype shown in movies and TV, though most are good, and some are even heroes. We greatly need a large healthy police force! Without the proper numbers, police must resort to more violent tactics. We must therefore agree that the goal is to fire (or, if you kill an unarmed person, perhaps imprison) the many bad apples in the police force so that good people will apply to give the necessary numbers. Any good cop should want the bad cops fired and have body cameras for all. And any educated person knows that prevention is best, so we must also fund education, social programs, and community programs.

Speculation: Why is the US police much worse than police in other wealthy countries? Is it because of the gun laws in the US attracting a certain type of person to our police force? Is it because other countries train their police much more? Shouldn't police be highly trained in avoidance, cultural sensitivity, and martial arts rather than just guns?


Climate Change

Conservative extremism: Humans do not contribute to climate change. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: We should immediately stop the oil and gas industry. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: There are a lot of small things we can do as a world that can collectively build a safe future while creating new jobs in the process. Scientific research now will allow those countries to rise in power in the future.


Abortion

Conservative extremism: Having unwanted children is better than using birth control. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: Late-term abortions are not highly morally questionable. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: Birth control and sex education reduce unwanted pregnancies and reduce premarital sex (even more than abstinence-only education)! Unwanted children are far more likely to end up in prison. The brain doesn't start developing until 5 weeks, so there is no issue with the morning-after pill or very early-term abortion (though birth control is much nicer and cheaper!). Anti-abortion laws do not greatly reduce the rate of abortions because people end up doing them, just unsafely (often killing the mother too). About 50% of fertilized eggs are naturally "aborted" by the mother's body before reaching birth.


Immigration

Conservative extremism: Build a wall! Ban Muslims! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: We should let everyone into the country who wants to come in! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: Our immigration system desperately needs to be fixed to allow entrance for people that we want to emigrate (educated refugees, skilled workers, and seasonal workers) to do so. We must especially stop educating people on visas then kicking them out so that other countries now benefit from the fruits of our universities. Only then can we fairly criminalize people who break the rules. Border patrol agents are mostly happy with the border fence that we have and would rather get real help rather than an expensive political symbol in the form of a wall.


Voter Fraud?

Conservative extremism: Undetected voter fraud is a thing that happens in a statistically significant way! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: Everyone should be able to vote! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: Very young people and un-rehabilitated felons clearly should not be able to vote, and voter fraud is statistically not significant. Some politicians will resort to gerrymandering to stay in power or will scare people with lies of fraud to make laws that make it much harder for poor people to vote. Everyone needs to do their research then vote to prevent only the extremists voting!


Recreational Drugs

Conservative extremism: We should fill prisons with people who sell and do drugs! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: LSD? This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: The war on drugs doesn't work (Google it!). Just as alcohol prohibition pushed alcohol into the black market leading to violent gangs and poisoning, drug prohibition has created cartels and addicts who are stigmatized from getting the help they need. Like alcohol, drugs at least need to be highly regulated depending on the nature of the drug. Our prisons are full (0.7% of our population is in prison) due to this war on drugs (half of people in federal prisons are there due to drugs), and we cannot afford it!


Personal Freedom

Conservative extremism: In many countries, being more traditional means valuing the culture and society over one's own liberties, but, in the US, being more traditional often means pretending you're a cowboy with your open-carry guns, right to hate people who are different, and right to kill people and economies with COVID by not wearing a mask. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: Pure socialism is better than a mix of capitalism and socialism. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: The often-dangerous levels of freedoms in the US allows for more interesting individuals and stories, and the US exports its stories and culture via movies, shows, and music giving it a strong cultural influence in the world that is unifying the culture of the world, allowing for businesses (and scientists) to work together. English is now the most spoken language in the world (though Mandarin Chinese has the most native speakers) allowing for a universal language! We must understand the great cost of our gun laws: more violent crime and deaths per capita.


Military

Conservative extremism: Every soldier is a hero protecting the greatest nation on Earth! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: "Make love not war." This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: The US is a great nation in that we have many freedoms! Foreign terrorism is not a statistically significant issue (unless nukes get involved in the future). Domestic terrorism (bombings and mass shootings) is more likely to kill you than foreign terrorism, and any type of terrorism is far less likely to kill you than a car accident or gun. Interfering in foreign countries by trying to make them more democratic doesn't help them unless they ask for it (Google it!). In fact, it usually just makes things worse, so why did we invade Vietnam and Iraq? We spend more on our military than the next seven countries combined. A military is necessary, but are we overcompensating for something? When we do send our citizens to fight our wars, even if those wars are questionable, we must respect their service by taking care of their physical and mental injuries! As I see it, the main purpose of having a strong military from a unified democratic country is to keep countries like North Korea and China in check.


Free College

Conservative extremism: The unregulated free market must rule all! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: Finally, I can get my fine arts or literature degree using other people's money, then still live in my parents' basement forever! It's okay to use other people's money like this because it makes me happy! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: Politicians will never blame you for the problems in the country for fear of losing your vote (the media won't either because they want your views). Before you vote, think about how you as an independent human being could be helping fix the problems in our country. For example, are you educated enough to participate in our modern economy? What would you need to gain the necessary knowledge and skills? The US greatly needs people in technical trades, nursing, and computers! Think about if a country should help pay people for what it greatly needs such as education in these skills? Can people who major in fine arts or literature often get jobs? Should the government help pay for these degrees? Also, there is a strong correlation, especially in poor countries, between a more educated population and a healthier functioning less-extreme democracy, which is the most essential goal of politics (see Trump section below).


The Economy

Conservative extremism: The free market should have few regulations! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: The government should run everything! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: The US is trading its leadership in science for factory jobs putting our hope to be a future economic leader at great risk (other countries will design the future for the world, and the US will manufacture what they tell us to). The countries that are investing in science today (the EU, China, and India) will lead the world tomorrow! If we don't change things soon, I see China and the EU as being the future world leaders (unless the Chinese people revolt against their authoritarian government and the revolt ends in the chaos that results from a lack of unity). In general, it is well known scientifically that capitalism must be well regulated to allow a country and its people to succeed.

Speculation: If Earth can get its population under control and invest in science, I hope to see a future where the majority of work is done by robots and computers so that we can all follow our passions! Like in Star Trek: The Next Generation! We will likely all have to work part-time at least, but we wouldn't have to do anything tedious. Scientists and engineers could then freely focus on going to Mars! We can finally choose to not live in huge human-infested mega cities. I mention this because the mixture of capitalism and socialism must start leaning towards socialism as this future comes about. Whether or not we fully get to that future, we are already moving towards it! Small steps are all that are needed at the moment: giving weeks of vacation time every year, giving leave when you have a child (up to two or three children maybe), etc.


Poverty and Homelessness

Conservative extremism: How dare poor people own phones! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: We must give money to all poor people to spend as they wish without needing any capitalism to motivate them! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: The main idea is that people need a way out of poverty. If the way out (renting a home and getting an education) is too expensive, you are trapped. The entire country benefits by not having to support a poor population's healthcare, imprisonment, and food, and the entire country benefits by having more people who can meaningfully contribute to the economy. Free community college (2-year programs after already paying for 13 years of a person's education), free pre-school, smaller class sizes, and free GED programs would therefore greatly help! Curing a problem is often cheaper than paying for treating the symptoms. Family planning is very necessary for being successful, so free birth control would also greatly help. By the way, to help those in poverty, you actually have to help those in poverty—the "trickle down" hypothesis has been thoroughly scientifically discredited! People say, "How will we pay for this?" Even if some of the cures end up being more expensive than treating the symptoms, the US can always go back to the tax rates from before 1980 when the rich were taxed more (much more actually) than the relatively tiny amount in 2020. Taxing the rich also helps fix the problem of income inequality! For solving this complex problem, there needs to me many tactics. Other necessary tactics for helping people out of poverty are food stamps, scattered-site subsidized housing, giving more money to high-need schools (not less!), raising the federal minimum wage to at least $10 an hour (in 2020), etc. Certainly, a great way of helping those in poverty is to pay for their healthcare! With programs like Medicaid, people will get preventative treatment, which is cheaper and safer than the alternative.


Trump

Conservative extremism: It's fine that he says horrible things about people who are handicapped, female, war veterans, Mexican, Muslim, Black, etc. and bullies anyone who disagrees with him by using a barrage of lies and conspiracy theories to confuse the voters knowing that several of his lies will stick. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Liberal extremism: Trump's opponent isn't an extremist Democrat, so Democrats should vote 3rd party instead. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.

Facts and common sense: Most of the things he says are lies, insults, and conspiracy theories (Google it!). He lies for his own benefit even though it tears the country apart and increases the extremism in the country (extremism is the largest enemy to getting anything done). Most psychologists believe Trump is a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps also having paranoid personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. He has made a career of profiting from loopholes, not paying contractors, and his many bankruptcies. He gets away with it because he is skilled at twisting up the legal system with noise until he gets his way most of the time. He strongly needs to learn when to keep his mouth shut for the sake of young people in this country who might want somebody to look up to. Unlike con men and reality TV stars, professional adults cannot just say whatever horrible thing pops into their head, but our president should? Uneducated white males are the main backers of Trump even though Trump doesn't want to give them the education needed to make it fine for immigrants to take the most unpleasant jobs. Trump rarely supported wearing a mask before and during Trump getting and giving COVID from not wearing a mask! He threatens riots if he is not elected. He won't say who he owes $400,000,000 to. He won't publicly denounce white supremacy on stage (only sometimes when he's far from a stage). His current wife is 24 years younger, he has slept with prostitutes, and he has often bragged about all the beautiful women that are nice to him because "he's the king." He is literally a reality TV star. Seriously! He was seriously voted to lead a country that once lead the world by example.

Am I just focusing on the negative Trump facts? Yes, because there are a couple things in the negative list that alone make him unfit for the highest office or even any professional office! So who cares about the positives? I kind of understand why a Republican might vote for Trump over a Democrat, especially if that Democrat has their own problems, but I will never fully understand how Trump won a Republican primary out of many other candidates. It must be because uneducated/inexperienced people truly don't understand how to tell the difference between the truth and a shiny attention-grabbing lie/persona. I have spoken to Trump fans who say "All politicians lie, and Trump isn't a politician", but Trump lies MUCH more than any real politician (Google the fact-check statistics!). I have spoken to Trump fans who say "Trump isn't a dirty politician", but Trump owes more money than anyone else, has more scandals, and tells way more lies than any real politician ever would. Other Trump fans say "The 'fake' news is making Trump look bad", but having prior knowledge or doing fact checking reveals that all of Trump's conspiracy theories are the fake lies! If I believed everything Trump and fake-news conspiracy websites said, I would think he was sent from God to save us from his imagined existential threats to America, but, if you know anything about the topics that Trump talks about, you know that he is conning you with an attention grabbing arsenal of lies and conspiracies.