The News Continuum

By | Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Leadership, New Posts, Reconciliation, Relationships, Resolution, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Technology

There’s always been news. There’s always been a continuum of what’s considered news by audiences and what’s not.

But what’s been lacking has been information, wisdom, and knowledge.

The continuum of what’s news has been debated for years by those delivering the content, and is now heating up with accusations of biases, “fake” news, propaganda, and “false flags.”

Of course, with the rise of social media, it has become infinitely easier for all manner of actors without the best of intentions, to engage in the process of deciding what’s news and what’s not.

The continuum, though, breaks down like this:

 

“not news” – Seemingly “obvious” information that very few people find relevant, interesting, or factual, but that some find to be a resource. Information that is classified as “not news” usually is dismissed by whatever mainstream reporting outlet seeks to gain power from holding onto it.

“fake news” – What used to be classified as propaganda at the most extreme end and gossip at the least extreme end, “fake news” is a term that’s currently being thrown around with abandon, not because the information is spurious (it might well be) but because the distributor of the information is perceived as being biased.

“false news”—This is information that isn’t “obvious” but also isn’t “non-obvious.” It is the information of a cloistered group of people (or a tribe) who have insider knowledge and seek to use their access to distributors and purveyors of news to sow the information to a broader public that isn’t privy to their knowledge. “false news” exists not only in the gray areas between who’s “in” and who’s “out,” but also it exists as a weapon and a wall to keep people silent—or ignorant—of all the facts of a situation.

“news” – Is exactly that: Information that is new that provides facts to an audience unaware of the facts before. This is in the middle of the spectrum, for two reasons: One, in an information-saturated culture, it’s hard to determine what audiences know and don’t know more now than ever before. Two, as audience choice of what information they have access to, has gone up, audience attention spans have gone down.

“old news” – Is information that seems to have gained traction by audiences coming to a consensus that they are bored of hearing about it. In the modern media landscape, that which is old is determined by how few clicks it gets from the audience.

“new news” –This is the hardest to describe, identify, and attain in an information landscape dominated by Google. No information seems “new” to an audience trained on a diet of irony, sarcasm, and short attention. “new news” should inspire and delight and expose information, wisdom, and knowledge never before considered.

The drivers of all of this are the audience. And the conflict between the audience, and the people with the cameras, the audio equipment, the websites, the networks, and the bandwidth is going to get more and more divisive as audiences drain the lifeblood of attention away from what used to be universally agreed upon as news, and move on to create their own identities, outlets, and perspectives.

And they do so without asking for permission, or forgiveness.

You Were Already Angry Before the Internet Came Along

By | Emotional Intelligence, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Dysfunction, Media, Negotiation, New Posts, Persuasion, Reconciliation, Relationships, Social Communication, Social Media, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy

When people talked with each other across the fences in the backyard, they knew (with some certainty, though certainly not ontological certainty) which of their neighbors were angry and which were pleasant.

The bowling league, the local bar, the country club, and even the grocery store served as locations that allowed people to bump into each other in ways both random and purposeful, and to take each other’s’ temperature about the news of the day.

There were opportunities for thought leaders, opinion makers, and public intellectuals to educate the public about what they believed, and because first the Church, and then the government, and then the corporations acted as gatekeepers, democracy of thought and passion was tamped down successfully enough.

If you were an individual looking to step out from the shadow of conformity and the comfort of the crowd, there were few venues that existed for you to walk out those minority viewpoints, and the gatekeepers of the majority existed primarily to ensure that the minority was never heard from.

Or at least, rarely heard from.

Fighting for a minority belief against a seemingly overwhelming power structure became sauce for the cooking of the goose of ideas, and passions, and sometimes, those ideas broke through the dominant culture, leaped over the gatekeepers and struck a chord with millions of people.

In the 4th great human revolution, the one being driven by a global communication channel known as the Internet, the gatekeepers have little power to police, minority voices and viewpoints can connect with each other and influence like never before, and you know how angry your neighbor is, because she tweeted out a passionate comment last week and it popped up in your feed.

Here’s the thing that we forget, in light of the technological show being put on by the Internet now:

Your neighbor was always angry and disgruntled about the way that the world fundamentally worked.

There were always minority viewpoints in the culture, looking for connection, engagement, and searching for meaning against a dominant culture that was perceived as arrogant, conformist and overbearing.

The bowling league, the local bar, the country club, and even the grocery store have been replaced first by chat rooms, and now by the “impermanent” web, and will be replaced further by whatever comes next.

Since the magnification of a problem is not the same as the problem’s ‘root cause,’ it should come as no surprise to us that people are at the root of our angry, passionate, loud discourse, on an open, democratic and connecting tool.

We all can now say, due to the overwhelming evidence and with almost ontological certainty, that if we fix the people the tool will magically change.

Great People of History

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Culture, Education, Leadership, Media, Negotiation, New Posts, Persuasion, Relationships, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Virtue

There used to be a lot of talk about great people in history.

Books, philosophies, ideas, inventions, and other movements in the past were lionized by being included as part of an overall “canon” of history that people in a present age dutifully memorized, internalized, and regurgitated to the next generation, creating a virtuous circle.

This memorization was designed to educate, inculcate, and to inspire. It was done with the best of intentions and was meant to join people’s current struggles (even if they weren’t great struggles, just mundane ones) to a past perceived to be great.

This “canon” of great people of the past primarily included political, social, and military leaders (and yes, the majority were men, and–in the West at least–white) but this was designed to pass along to future generations the idea that certain people have the ability to “stand astride history” and that conflicts, disagreements, and disputations could be solved by examining successful best practices (and failures) gleaned from large examples.

But now, sixteen years into the 21st century, all of that is over.

The philosophical, political, and cultural movements of the 19th, 20th and 21st century have sought first to expand the “canon” of who can be included as “great” (i.e. women, minorities, etc.) and then to expand the “canon” of what ideas can be considered “great” (i.e. Marxism, religious atheism, feminism, historical determinism, etc.).

With this expansion two things have happened concurrently:

The glorious historical past has become untethered from the inglorious day-to-day present. Along with this, the lessons from the formerly glorious historical past have become untethered from the inglorious problems and concerns of the day-to-day present.

The glorious historical past has become an object to be examined through the lens of current events, and day-to-day struggles, in an ever more frustrating search for pure meaning and linkage.

Both of these expansions underlie our current cultural, political, and moral anxieties, which manifest in conflicts and disagreements between people, institutions, nation-states, and even philosophies and ideas.

But these expansions also form the basis for generating the solutions to conflicts, disagreements, and disputations. And to ending our modern anxieties about seemingly intractable problems.

Because, as the present has become more and more democratic, individuals have the opportunity, the power, and the need to ascend to being great people in, not only our own personal histories but also, in the history of the world.