A Short Essay On The Tail That Wags The Dog
This is a post I wrote just after the 2016 US election. But I would propose that time has made it even more relevant.
Anyone who knows me, or at least reads the stuff I write, knows that I can be a bit cynical. The level of cynicism I carry around with me varies in degree from situation to situation depending on how personal it is to me.
It also has its highs and lows. In a recent communique, I was heard to rant, “There are only two kinds of people in the world these days…the idiots and the people shaking their heads and wondering why there are so many of them.”
But the simple fact is that there are not a lot of idiots. There are most certainly some. After all, what would I have to write about if there were none? But I have come to believe that the percentage of the idiot to non-idiot out there is actually relatively small. And that brings me to my point about the tail wagging the dog.
Perceptual Tail…Very Real Dog
While the number of idiots may actually be small, the perception that is created regarding idiots tends to make the idiot population look much larger than it actually is.
This has been especially true over the past decade or so in which social media and the 24 hour on and offline news cycles have focused the majority of their attention on these idiots.
Whether it’s the jackass people who will risk maiming, mutilation and even death to create a video that gets them a million views. The misguided teenagers and exhibitionists who fill up porn sites with all manner of sexual debauchery. The huge uptick in almost totally useless people who have become famous for simply being famous, there are idiots of every stripe out there. The radical right, with their Nazi flags and automatic weapons, falsely claiming to be patriots. Or politicians, of which there are and always have been, abnormally high number of idiots.
A lot of the people we call idiots are those who have embraced the famous Andy Warhol prophecy ‘Everybody gets to be a star for 15 minutes.'
What social and news media have done, simply by reason of their existence and their insatiable need for content, is magnified the perception that the world is populated by an abnormally large number of these clowns and sad creatures.
They have done this consciously because they are driven by their own corporate mandate to put bums in seats in front of TVs and digital displays of all kinds. And they simply can’t do this to the satisfaction of their advertising overlords without displaying extreme content that the jackass idiots, wannabe stars, rebels without a clue, stupid teenagers, depraved adults and politicians are happy to provide for them.
When The Tail Wags The Dog Everybody Gets What They Are Looking For.
But of course, the relentless pursuit of advertising revenue is only half the story. Because, and this is the cynic in me talking, every time you look at or laugh at something stupid, you subconsciously become a little more tolerant of stupidity in the process.
Over time, a lot of good people get worn down by this. And that, it might be argued, is the real objective here – a large hunk of the population that is, from repeated exposure, so tolerant of idiocy that their standards fall and willingness to accept less actually increases.
This Does Not Make You An Idiot. But It Does Make You A Potential Victim.
We have seen a clear example of how this works recently in the US elections. A candidate who pretty much everyone thought was a joke, through repeated exposure, became acceptable and eventually the choice of tens of millions of voters.
If you think about this logically, the only way this could have happened was through massive news media and social media exposure. It couldn’t have been through any sane deductive reasoning process, because about 90% of what he told people is bullshit.
I’m not going to rave on about this. It’s nothing more to me than a current archetypal example of the tail wagging the dog.
So How Do You Combat This?
I hate to say it, but the best way to keep from becoming victimized by all this is to dial up your cynicism a bit.
Question the stuff that people are telling you, especially the media. Avoid becoming a bum in a seat when idiots are performing. Discuss issues with a small group of people you trust. And just plain think things through.
Everybody should have a group like this. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than psychotherapy and it works a lot better. Because the objective truth about anything can usually be found at the centre of a number of different sane opinions.
The tail is always going to be wagging the dog. But the world will be better off if the dog is some sort of miniature poodle as opposed to the giant Siberian Mastiff that it is today.
Jim Murray is a writer, marketer, editorialist. reader, sports fan and TV watcher. He has been actively posting on social media since 1998. Jim is also a former ad agency writer and art director. He lives with his wife Heather in Canada on the Niagara Peninsula and does strategic and creative work for a small group of companies working to make a positive difference in the world.
My Current Blog Streams Include:
The Couch Potato Chronicles (Entertainment Opinion & Reviews (Book, TV, Movies, Sports, Web)
Brand New Day (Environmentally Conscious Products, Services & Processes)
Muritorial (Social Commentary)
Murmarketing (Communications Advice)
I am also a Featured Contributor on BizCatalyst360˚
You can follow me:
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On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-murray-b8a3a4/
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On Bizcatalyst 360˚ https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/author/jimmurray/
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