“The only communications truly without influence are those that one learns to ignore or never hears at all; this is why Jacques Ellul argued that it is only the disconnected—rural dwellers or the urban poor—who are truly immune to propaganda, while intellectuals, who read everything, insist on having opinions, and think themselves immune to propaganda are, in fact, easy to manipulate.”Tim Wu, The Attention Merchants
Those Immune to Propaganda
A Long, Quiet Battle
“… in media-rich human-built environments, my capacity to direct my attention in keeping with my purposes is often at odds with features of the environment that want to command my attention in keeping with purposes that are not my own. It is the difference between feeling challenged to rise to an occasion that ultimately yields an experience of competence and satisfaction, and feeling assaulted by an environment explicitly designed to thwart and exploit me.
Attention and attending are etymologically related to the Latin word attendere, which suggested among other things the idea of “stretching toward” something. I like this way of thinking about attention, not as a possession in limited supply, theoretically quantifiable, and ready to be exploited, but rather as a capacity to actively engage the world—to stretch ourselves toward it, to reach for it, to care for it, indeed, to tend it.
Right now, I’m inclined to put it this way: our dominant technologies excel at exploiting our attention while simultaneously eroding our capacity to attend to the world.”L.M. Sacasas, The Convivial Society, ‘Attending to the World’
In his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hwang Dong-hyuk, creator of the Netflix series Squid Game, clarified an inaccurate story circulating in the media about how he came to write and eventually acquire funding for the series:
“… there seems to be this common misunderstanding emerging that I wasn’t doing anything else and just focusing on Squid Game for about 10 years, and this made us a blockbuster success somehow. But that wasn’t really the case. In 2009, when it didn’t work out for me to get the necessary investment for the initial feature film piece I was envisioning, I put Squid Game aside. And I went on to create three other movies, and all of those were successful. So, I mean, it’s not like I didn’t do anything else in between and then had this sudden blockbuster success. It’s kind of been misconceived that way in some places, so I just wanted to clarify that a bit.”
This made me think of three things:
First, it’s interesting how the media can create false narratives by omitting information, whether intentional or not.
Second, this post by Cal Newport on Galileo. The timescale for Galileo’s scientific accomplishments was longer than we assumed from the history books, and that’s okay.
Third, believe in your work.
The late poet Mary Oliver once said “The idea must drive the words. When the words drive the idea, it’s all floss and gloss, elaboration, air bubbles, dross, pomp, frump, strumpeting.”
When I think of words driving absent ideas, when I think of dishonesty and pretence, politicians come to mind. Not all politicians are dishonest but there are times when those in power conceal information from the media and, by extension, us. Everything a politician says is scrutinised by the media because it’s the media’s job in a free country to hold those who govern us accountable (although no newspaper is without political bias) so politicians take care not to say anything that might jeopardise their careers. Instead we get the party lines we can all see through and any credibility they had goes out the window.
We like people to mean what they say and say what they mean.