The Occasional Perspective - 1/3/23

Opinions and Reflections 

Misinformation Breeding Misdirection Causing Misunderstanding in the Metaverse– In a recent issue of The Fickenscher Files, I regaled my readers 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”. This is especially prominent in the political sector although the phenomenon is seemingly present throughout all industries to varying degrees. If you’re into power, you’re clearly into making sure that everyone around you is totally supportive of you in every way regardless of the outcome. Alternatively, if you’re into leadership, you know that there is a segment of the populace or followers that likely have some degree of opposition – or, at least questioning – of your ideas, proposed directions or, even philosophy despite the fact that you may be making progress in solving problems.

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 across many different fronts. One small example is the nearly half a billion dollars that evidently been spent by the Russian government to dissuade the American public and others from supporting the Ukrainian opposition. It’s just one example. We could no doubt find examples on other issues both large and small for social and economic reasons. To understand misunderstandings, it seems to me that we need to first understand the misinformation that breeds misdirection within the greater community of this new, evolving world now referred to as the “metaverse”. This triad seems to be creating intractable obstacles that prevent the initiation and support of needed changes in society across the board.

Ironically, the trend of media misinformation seems to be coming from both sides of the equation although more prominent among autocratic advocates or autocrats. But, the autocrats are not the only ones! Misinformation or distortions are propagated by racists, by misogynists, by people with a subversive agenda, 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 related to climate change). In recent years, the use of misinformation has accelerated through the use of internet trolls or, websites built specifically to draw people in and feed them spurious information. It also has infected more traditional interactive sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc. In other words, you have the opportunity to pick your favorite source of information which can take you down a rabbit hole if you only rely on that one source…

The second issue relates to misdirection! And, misdirection is interesting. One of the lessons I’ve recently learned from a high school friend who happens to be 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 information on immunizations that prevent the spread of COVID-19 amidst the worst pandemic in over a couple of centuries or, the divisive or, the creation of rationales for bringing the world to the precipice of global instability through the unilateral invasion of a sovereign nation – this triad of misinformation breeding misdirection to cause misunderstanding in the metaverse is spreading the 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 – especially 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 Doles, David Durenburgers, Everett Dirksens 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 past President of our country. It’s time for leadership to emerge (aka Rep. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger) to help us all move through the evolving morass.

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 need our attention. So, what are they?

  • 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. Now, granted – he also lost about $65 billion in stock value which comes to about half a billion per month. But, still his per hour rate seems a bit high.
  • There are also obvious issues facing our nation’s health care system that will NEVER be solved without bi-partisan collaboration. I could go on a rant for several pages on the issues facing health care in our nation that need to be fixed. But, you all know the issue as well as I.
  • Higher education is also challenged! 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 we need to provide a way for “every eligible member of society” to better themselves through college education with low interest support. It’s a smart strategy in a global economy. Education is the spark of competitive capability for any nation.
  • The technology sector is in dire need of better 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 about with mis-information breeding misdirection causing misunderstanding in the new metaverse. As we consider the focus of our nation in the coming year, we “the people” need to step up with ardent support of advocates for the spread of accurate information, for setting a direction the works to bring together the concerned voices seeking understanding that will 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 is only the beginning of a long list and the tough decisions we need to make. It will require individuals step forward as leaders with a clear set of articulated principles that we can all assess. Society and the global community need it. 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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