During a recent trip to Australia, which is 16 hours ahead of the U.S. east coast, while trying to keep up with the news via Twitter, I made this observation:
Without the context, most of the sides seem to make a reasonable argument so the key difference is in the frame through which we view an issue. We no longer have a shared frame of reference.— Eric Wilson (@ericwilson) January 30, 2019
By way of example, in one clip it seemed like Nicholas Sandmann, the MAGA hat-wearing high school student from Kentucky attending the March for Life was being obnoxious to Nathan Phillips, the Native American elder attending a separate protest.
In another clip (which ultimately more accurately reflected the truth), it seemed like Nathan Phillips provoked a confrontation with a group of rowdy high school boys and Nicholas Sandmann responded in a way that did not yield the most desirable outcome.
But, observing from afar, it became clear to me that in today’s opinion landscape there’s a clear case of choosing our own adventure.
These were books that let the reader decide which action a character would take and then you flipped to the corresponding page to determine the next outcome.
Some people saw a white male wearing a MAGA hat after a pro-life event and determined he was the aggressor while others determined he was the aggrieved. Once you made that decision – once you applied your pattern recognition to this incident – everything else was based on this frame of reference.
But the problem is our modern day choose your own adventure doesn’t have a single author to tie the story all together and make sure you end up in the right spot.
Anyone on the internet can characterize a series of events all on their own.
It’s like fan fiction for the truth.
So what are the implications for someone like you who is trying to shape public opinion or perception on a specific issue in this morass of confusion?
The traditional approach is to work with influencers in the legacy media and get them to incorporate your interpretation of the facts into their coverage or sound bites or Tweets. The problem is they’re always going to filter and remix your fact pattern.
Your pure, undiluted version of the story isn’t going to make it to the masses because you asked permission from the gatekeepers
But, if you give both the public and the influencers access to your perspective of the facts, they will be free to choose the adventure you have laid out for them.
You’ve realized that the old gates are meaningless because the entire fence has been dismantled by the free for all of information that the internet has initiated.
There’s a real ethical challenge to this approach because one person’s “spin” is another person’s “gaslighting.” And typically only responsible actors would alter their behavior based on the moral quandaries of a situation.
So in a choose your own adventure version of reality, who wins? The person with the version of the truth that attracts the most supporters.