The Occasional Perspective - 9/20/22

Opinions and Reflections

 Misinformation Derived From Misdirection Causing Misunderstanding – In the last issue of The Fickenscher Files, I regaled you on the difference between “leadership” and “power”. My premise was – AND, is – that much of what we see in the USA today is all about obtaining “power” rather than providing “leadership” – especially in the political sector although the phenomenon is seemingly present throughout all industries. If you’re into power, you’re into making sure that all those around you are totally supportive of you in every way regardless of outcome. Alternatively, if you’re into leadership, you know that there is a segment of the populace that will always be opposed to – or, at least questioning – your ideas, proposed directions or even philosophy despite the fact that you may be making progress in solving problems.

In today’s issue I want to focus on the issue of misunderstandings within the greater community which seems to be a prevalent cause for the intractability for initiating and supporting needed changes in society across the board. I think that most of you would agree that there seems to be a plethora of misinformation, outright lies, and conspiracy theories that are continuously perpetrated on the public on many different fronts. One small example is the nearly half a billion dollars which has evidently been spent by the Russian government in the USA in an effort to dissuade the American public and others from supporting the Ukrainian opposition to the invasion from Russia. It’s just one example. We could no doubt find examples on other issues both large and small for social and economic reasons.

Ironically, the trend seems to be coming from both sides of the equation although (my perspective – where I know I’ll get feedback 😊) more prominent among far-right advocates or autocrats like Mr. Putin. These pieces of mis-information or distortions are propagated by racists, by misogynists, by people with a subversive agendas, by science deniers, by those seeking change at any cost; and, by people who simply hate or are fearful of any type of change on all sides of any aisle. They are exacerbated by governments like China, Russia, the Saudi autocracy, political action committees (PACs), the dark money managers and others with an overt agenda for controlling the direction of decisions, resource allocation, political responses and the like. The same could no doubt be said for some corporations or industrial sectors (e.g. the oil industry).  In recent years, the misinformation has been accelerated through the use of internet trolls or, websites built specifically to draw people in and feed them spurious information; as well as, the posting of derogatory or misleading comments on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc. In other words, you pick your favorite source of information and too often you head down the rabbit hole… 

The second issue relates to misdirection! One of the lessons I’ve learned from one of my high school friends who is a very good performance magician is that the reason for his success is the effective use of misdirection to captivate, direct, arrest, and control the attention of the audience. He’s a master at sleight-of-hand magic. In fact, now that he’s clued me in – I’m more observant of his performance manipulation. Magicians actually use the term misdirection to describe their approach toward understanding the basic laws of human interest. It’s exemplified by the coin magically appearing from the ear of a child or even an adult. Misdirection is rampant across social media and even among network media. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him?

And, finally – the end result of mis-information coupled with misdirection is misunderstanding! The unsuspecting are pulled down a garden path into an abyss where the cycle of further misinformation and misdirection deepens the well of misunderstanding.

This is what is happening in America on too many fronts. Whether it is the spewing of totally erroneous materials related to immunizations that prevent the spread of Covid amidst the worst pandemic in over a couple of centuries or, the divisive politics (I think on both sides although more prevalent on one – guess which one?) or, the creation of rationales for bringing the world to the precipice of global instability through the unilateral invasion of a sovereign nation – we now face the spreading disease of social instability!!

It’s not clear to me how to stop it but it will require leadership[1] – a capability that I find woefully missing in our current political culture. As a centrist I can find fault on both sides of the aisle but what is coming out of the political right is quite disturbing. Where are the Bob Dole’s, David Durenburger’s, Everett Dirksen’s and the like when we need them? The cauldron seems only to be fed by further mis-information and mis-direction especially by the immediate former President of our country. It’s time for leadership to emerge (aka Rep. Liz Cheney) to help us all move through the evolving morass. And, as we all know, leadership is built on principles. Without clarity on one’s personal set of principles, it’s very difficult to surf the tsunami of misleading tropes and information on all sides of the equation.

I mention all of this because our nation has far larger problems than just those on first base in the political world. We’ve got massive income disparity exemplified by the fact that in 2021, Jeff Bezos earned a stunning $8.56M (yes, that’s a “M”) per hour versus the two parent family with service jobs and two kids barely making ends meet. There are also obvious issues with our nation’s health care system that will NEVER be solved without bi-partisan collaboration. The completion of education after high school is no longer a ticket to success in any nation. I’m not sure that “free” college is the answer but clearly provide a way for “every eligible member of society” to better themselves through college education with low interest support is smart in a global economy. Education is the spark of competitive capability for any nation. In addition, the technology sector is in dire need of better oversight and policy on any number of fronts. Telecom – which has become an essential part of everyone’s life is frequently not available in rural areas and can be out-of-reach for many urban dwellers as well. The investment world needs some retooling according to many advocates although in which direction is up for debate. The list goes on and on…and yet, we dither with mis-information coupled with misdirection and create misunderstanding!

In the upcoming elections, we “the people” need to step up to vote for those who are ardent advocates for the spread of accurate information, for setting a direction that works to bring together the majority of voices so that we can support a foundation of understanding that most of us can get behind to sustain the future of our nation, the global community, the environment and – ultimately – the world. We need to demand a focus on solving problems to create a sustainable future. Now is the time.

We desperately need leadership!! Solving the problems I’ve outlined which is just the beginning of a long list will be and is a tough course to follow. It will require individuals with a set of clearly articulated principles that we can all assess and determine if they meet the needs of society from our perspective. We don’t need mis-information and misdirection. Thanks for letting me ventilate…


[1] See more on this topic in my last Fickenscher Files – sent out on August 23, 2022 – Volume 10, Issue 10.

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