Prisoners of An Artificial Reality Want Hostages, Americans Want Something Else

by | Oct 8, 2013

When I make time for broadcast news, I am appalled. The product is increasingly unwatchable at a time when the need for insightful and brave analysis is at a premium.

I feel like a lot of people are shrugging their shoulders these days, and asking what the hell is wrong, and what can we do to fix it?

I had an interesting exchange about one thing that is wrong on Twitter today with writer, speaker and social media strategist Tara Hunt. She rightly noted how narcissism is a problem in brand communications.

Clearly, one big brand with a toxic level of narcissism running through its icy veins is the Republican Party. David Frum, writing for The Daily Beast neatly identifies “self-reinforcing media” as one reason why.

Politicians sooner or later arrive at the point where they believe what they say. They have become prisoners of their own artificial reality, with no easy access to the larger truths outside.

Swap the word “politicians” for “brands” and you get the same results. That’s why it’s key to have people with an outside perspective in positions of power both inside and outside your organization. Of course, culturally we don’t want to reward the truth-to-power speaker, do we? We want to banish him and belittle him. But that is wrong. Instead, we need to celebrate and elevate the truth carriers in our midst.

My hero of all artisan heroes, Frank Lloyd Wright, faced banishment and several personal and professional hardships in his day. But do you know what Wright’s personal motto was? Truth against the world. His contentiousness is right there on the surface. Along with his righteousness.

Wright was a difficult man, a complex man. He was also a genius who remade architecture, and he did some of his best work in his 80s. In fact, Wright was 76 when he landed the Guggenheim Museum commission, a project which occupied his next 16 years. Wright died a short time before the museum’s opening in 1959.

Wright was a man of faith and conviction, and you have to be to fight the rising tide of shit. There’s no question we are drowning in bullshit today. The noise is deafening. And our ability to concentrate is weakened. But it’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. Let’s turn to Yeats and his astute poetic observations in 1919, as Europe emerged from WWI.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The worst are full of passionate intensity. Interesting how a century does nothing to dent the fundamental nature of things — fundamentalists are terribly offensive blowhards who lack the substance their own ideas. It’s enough to make “the best lack all conviction.”

The thing is, the best don’t give up easily. Wright did not give up. Ever. He had an abiding faith, in nature, truth and beauty. I think President Obama has this same abiding faith. I have been disappointed by some of his more conciliatory and conservative moves, yet I am continually amazed at his resolve. Obama is more than a good man, he is a good leader. U.S. Citizens may not realize, and may never realize, just how fortunate we are to have a man of his intelligence, grace and patience in the White House today.