I’ve spent nearly my entire working hours in the public information arena. I worked for a company called PIER (Public Information and Emergency Response) for about 6 years, and started my own marketing firm, and started my own crisis communication company.
What have we done? I’ve always been an advocate for being the “first and best source” of information. I’ve always advocated for the Internet as a powerful tool for truth and information. I remember the days when people wouldn’t trust anything if “Internet” was used as part of the citation. I argued endlessly about the validity of tools such as Wikipedia. Did I help create this mess?
And yet, there were dark forces a foot. For whatever reason a certain group in our Country decided that Obama was nothing but lies. There was some sort of lying cabal trying to take our freedom. Meanwhile we watched as the news organizations struggled to transition from print to digital. Their revenue models became dependent upon eyes and clicking ads. The headlines because more sensational as each pandered to their audience. More and more news organizations sprouted up because it was as simple as starting a website. More partisan than ever. Why not give the people what they want?
The days of a few news organizations doing the morning and nightly news were gone. News was 24/7 now so the need to fill those hours brought in crazier and crazier stories.
2016. Enter the entertainer. Donald Trump was the Tea Parties dream come to life. The ideal candidate to stick it to the man and drain the swamp. Something new, different, refreshing in a strange sort of way. He just said whatever he wanted. That’s good right? As long as he stuck to the correct policies.. who cares what he tweets.
The perfect storm of misinformation arrived. Up was down, left was right. I discovered terms like “gaslighting”. Lies so blatant they make you question your own reality. “No body is perfect”. The sort of truth that somehow justifies everything. He stole a cookie, I stole the whole jar, we are both crooks, whatever.
Pandemic. Suddenly the need for trust and Government to be high functioning bodies of truth is more important than ever. We need clear guidance so we can all do the right thing. Hard decisions need to be made. But, there is no integrity to be found. How can you make and implement policy when no one believes you? Disaster. Body counts climb. What do we do? Masks no masks? Who can we trust? No one. Everyone is an expert.
Gone are the days of being skeptical of the Internet. Everyone is encouraged to do their own homework. You are the epidemiologist how. You are the Dr. You are the economist. You make the tough decisions not just for your family, but for those in your invisible infection radius. You don’t believe in the virus so you hug your elderly neighbor. They die. Or they don’t die. Maybe they visit a friend, and they die. You’ll never know really. Even if you find out.. they had an underlying condition. They were recovering from cancer. They died alone, in quarantine.
Policy comes from making tough decisions based upon truth. In the words of Herod to Jesus, “What is Truth?”.