How To Create a Social Fabric Tornado

3 reasons for America’s crazed reality, and Trump isn’t one of them

“The Storm is coming.”

If you’ve heard of QAnon, the mainstream conspiracy theory movement tied to Donald Trump, you’ve probably heard about “the storm”. It’s a supposed sudden wave of arrests and revelations that would prove Trump’s heroic efforts to save the world from a cabal of satanic baby-eating globalists.

That’s obviously all insane. But a storm analogy actually is a great fit to explain what we just witnessed at the United States Capitol, and the general state of America’s social fabric which made it possible.

Destructive Loops

Whether it’s overwhelming wildfires or tornadoes, all destructive natural phenomena require a few factors to perfectly come together. Independently, they might be concerning. It might be too hot. Too dry. Too cloudy. Put them together in the right way, though, and they start amplifying each other, creating a feedback cycle with impressive destructive potential.

The situation in America right now is no different. Through repeated policy failures and soft corruption, The United States has created a social fabric tornado. And it’s worth paying attention to because many other nations aren’t far off.

The Factors

Underemployment

i.e. far too many people with jobs that don’t pay enough and are below their training or education. This makes for a huge slice of the population who are justifiably upset, desperate, negative, and volatile (you have very little to lose), and easy prey to saviours/false idols, especially those that question the entire system that clearly isn’t working for them. For many, it paradoxically also means having excess time and energy, making them receptive to information and groups that would otherwise be dismissed.

“There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom.” -Eric Hoffer

Context: In 2016, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.8%, but the rate for people who would have liked to be working more was 3x that, at 13.7%. So 1 in 7 or so Americans, at least, and that was when the economy was in better shape. Today, research suggests 42.6% of all recent grads in the U.S. are underemployed when it comes to doing work below their education level.

The gig economy taking off these past several years is no coincidence. Do you think most gig workers would be choosing to make this modest extra money on the side if they were engaged and financially comfortable in their day jobs? And for those who do it full time and find it more lucrative than what the regular economy can provide, does that not tell you all you need to know?

An outdated and irrelevant education system

… that does virtually nothing to:

1) help you feel less lost and powerless, by helping you understand today’s highly complex world, from technology to financial markets to supply chains, to geopolitics, and the historical context behind them.

Without a baseline understanding of how it all works, most people feel completely powerless. Once upon a time a person could inherently understand most of the world around them. Today the average person can’t. This fosters a world where people are extremely receptive to theories, no matter how outlandish, that magically make sense of it all and put them in a position of sudden wisdom and power. There are few things more appealing than going from being a lost outsider, to being an insider who sees everything with apparent clarity. And this can apply to anybody of any “education level” (a level which is meaningless in this regard, as outlined).

2) thoroughly prepare you to protect your mind and emotions against all forms of manipulation, and self-awareness around bias, addiction, and human psychology; as well as analysis of world history and present-day media, politics, and products in this context.

In a world that has invested enormously in manipulation for profit, from the products we use to the media we interact with, our education system does almost nothing to prepare students for the barrage, making them extremely easy prey. Millennials went through this, and now, inexcusably, Gen Z have as well, mixed in with Boomers who come from a world where if something was in the media, or if it looked official, it was probably credible. The result is rampant addiction, disassociation and disconnection from the real world, and pervasive belief in misinformation campaigns.

It’s a giant social powder keg in an attention economy that makes money by throwing lit matches.

So, an “A” for teaching you Math and English, and a massive “F” for teaching you to deal with the real world. To use another storm analogy, it’s like being proudly equipped with a little dinghy, and meticulously taught all about how to calculate the size of the boat, and to write about what a great little boat it is… and then thrown into an ocean lightning storm with 30 foot waves.

Which brings us to…

An overall system of influence that is effortlessly manipulated

1) Social media platforms have become synonymous with our information commons, and their advertising-driven business model relies on volume: as much content, and as many reactions as possible, with minimal discretion for how good it is for people. It is effortlessly flooded and defined by manipulators, from political psy-ops to deliberately incendiary influencers.

2) Media organizations who profit off polarization as well, and bear no responsibility or regulatory or financial consequence in maximizing it. So why not fan the flames? It is good business, and business is booming.

3) A political system that is openly for sale, now unabashedly synonymous with corporate interests and wealthy donors, as if it’s normal and healthy. Studies show the average voter in America no longer has any impact on policy, only wealthy interests do. All while allowing for an almost unregulated and limitless approach to political advertising, in terms of both honesty and volume.

This is its own mini feedback cycle that acts as the engine of the larger reinforcing loop.

This reality further creates a sense of powerlessness amongst people, but more importantly it results in a system that exploits the average person’s emotions at every single turn. The population’s collective psyche is fried for profit and power, shaping a population that is in a perpetually incensed daze.

Here is the overall system mapped out:

If even one factor is removed/addressed, the cycle breaks. It would still be bad, but nowhere near this bad. In many ways the factors are interdependent.

Until we do something truly consequential about at least one of them, nothing will change and it will very likely get much worse as the system gorges on itself.

Trump alone is not responsible for any of these factors. Did he take action, as a principled leader should have, to break the cycle? No. He and his team exploited it to its full degree for their own success. This is reprehensible, but it is an expected outcome of a system which has been in plain view for almost a decade. It was only a matter of time.

These factors presented him with a gigantic loophole, and he jumped at the opportunity. To become president of the United States of America, and now to do his very best to use it to retain that power.

As has been said countless times these past few days:

“If you didn’t see this coming, you haven’t been paying attention.”

In upcoming posts I’ll outline

  • This system from Trump’s perspective, in the form of a playbook that I guarantee the next Trump-clone will use to similar success
  • What changes need to be made to each of the 3 root problem areas to break the cycle, with an emphasis on the platforms and media.

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Rethinking the attention economy and wonder wandering.

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